Providence, RI - Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today issued a request to the U.S. Department of Commerce, seeking a federal disaster declaration for the New England groundfish fishery. Such a declaration would prompt the Commerce Department to work with Congress to provide financial relief and support to the fishery.
The Governor's request, made pursuant to Section 312 of the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, is based largely upon the significant cuts in catch limits for such species as cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder that are projected for 2013. The projected cuts have been triggered by recently updated stock assessments that show the condition of several key groundfish populations to be surprisingly poor. Given the magnitude of the projected cuts – up to 73 percent – the impacts to the commercial fishing industry are likely to be profound.
Governor Chafee's request complements similar requests made by the Governors of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, reflecting the importance of the New England groundfish fishery to all of the New England states.
There are 108 Rhode Island-based vessels holding federal groundfish permits. Last year, 1.3 million pounds of groundfish, with a dockside value approaching $2 million, were landed in Rhode Island.
Section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce, at his discretion or upon request of a governor of an affected state or a fishing community, to determine whether there is a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster. Upon making such a determination, the Secretary is authorized to make funds available to restore the fishery or prevent a similar failure in the future and to assist affected fishing communities.