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Saturday, September 15, 2012

RI fishing industry in a bad way

By News staff

The U.S. Department of Commerce has declared a disaster in the Northeast groundfishing industry for the 2013 fishing year as fish stocks fail to rebuild, a move that opens the door for Congress to appropriate relief funding of up to $100 million for the industry.

Last month, Rhode Island joined other Northeast states in asking the federal government to approve the declaration, which could make Ocean State fishermen eligible for additional loan programs. 

The Rhode Island Congressional delegation wrote to Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank in support of the request made by Gov. Lincoln Chafee. The governors of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York also requested the declaration.

“Today’s announcement by the Department of Commerce is an important step forward in our ongoing efforts to support Rhode Island’s fishing industry,” Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline wrote in a press release. “We recognize the importance of the industry and the challenges facing it right now.”

On Monday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials John Bullard, the new Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, and Bill Karp, the new Northeast Fisheries Science Center Director, joined Reed and Whitehouse and staffers from the offices of Langevin and Cicilline to hear firsthand from Rhode Island fishermen on a number of issues, including the state of the groundfishery. 

The meeting was attended by dozens of fishermen who asked questions and provided comments on how the agency can better interact with and support the industry.

A 2011 Cornell University study estimated that commercial fishing and related industries account for about 6,500 jobs in Rhode Island.