Fisheries Disaster Fundingby Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Posted on 2013-01-28
SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I am here to join my colleagues, Senator
Murkowski from Alaska and Senator Whitehouse from Rhode Island, to
express my disappointment and frustration along with them that the
disaster relief funding for our Nation's fishermen has been stripped
from this emergency relief bill. I agree with all of those who want to
make sure the victims of Hurricane Sandy along the east coast get the
help they need. I think that is something to which we all are
committed. But the fact is that fishermen in New England and Alaska and
other parts of this country are also facing hard times. They are
grappling with onerous regulations that are designed to end
overfishing, and in spite of these restrictions, the amount of codfish
in the Gulf of Maine has declined drastically. It has a huge impact on
New Hampshire, and the problem for fishermen in my State is now one of
Our fishermen have already seen their incomes decrease significantly in recent years. They depend on cod more than fishermen from any other State in New England. Cod accounts for more than 90 percent of the revenues of the fishing industry in New Hampshire. This is because our fishermen use small day boats, they fish close to shore, and most don't have the boats or equipment to catch other deep-sea species to compensate for the lack of cod. Our fishing businesses are small, and they are mostly owned by families who have been fishing for generations.
For 400 years, we have been fishing in New Hampshire. Generations of fishermen in New Hampshire have continued this proud tradition. Yet, under what is happening with the fishing regulations, we are going to lose this industry. Our coastline is short in New Hampshire--it is only 18 miles--but the fishing industry is still a crucial driver of the economy. It generates $106 million in economic activity, it supports 5,000 full-time and part-time jobs in the State, and it provides our stores and our restaurants with a local and fresh supply of fish, just as it does in Alaska and Rhode Island. This historic way of life is going to become extinct if we don't help the fishing industry.
I welcomed the decision of the Secretary of Commerce back in September to declare a Federal disaster for the Northeast fishing industry for the upcoming fishing year, but this declaration, as well as those already provided for Alaska, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and other States, is meaningless if Congress does not provide relief funding to these fishing communities.
As my colleagues have said so eloquently, the Senate voted last month to appropriate $150 million in funding for these disasters, and as Senator Whitehouse said, it was not a large percentage of the emergency relief bill. I am disappointed and, like the fisher men and women in New Hampshire who depend on this industry, frustrated that this funding has been taken out of the bill we voted on today.
It is critical that we provide relief to the fishermen and to the coastal economies in New England--and in New Hampshire as a part of the New England economy--and Mississippi and New Jersey and New York and Alaska and the other States that are affected. We have to work to ensure the long-term sustainability of these vital resources and of this historic way of life. I intend to continue to work with my colleagues from those States that are affected to make sure the fishing industry gets the help it needs to survive.
I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.
[[Page S325]] The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.