Photography by Michael Heller
On Thursday, the United States Department of Commerce declared a federal groundfish fishery disaster for New York’s fishing community after lawmakers called for action in the wake of a preliminary report that projects up to 70-percent cuts in catch limits for New England in 2013.
The cuts, to multispecies fishery such as cod and yellowtail flounder, will hard both Long Island businesses and fishermen, said lawmakers, the latter being an industry already squeezed by the catch limits and tighter regulations. Declaring a disaster allows Congress the right to appropriate funding to ease the hardships faced by New York fishermen.
The action comes after an August letter by New York Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tim Bishop urging Department of Commerce Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank to take action.
“It is vitally important that New York is included in any disaster declaration and that our fishing communities are provided with sufficient disaster assistance to stem the adverse economic effects of potentially devastating cuts to already reduced catch limits and years of restrictive management measures,” the lawmakers wrote. “While recent reports have focused on New England states, we must emphasize the harmful impact these potential reductions will have on New York.”
“Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop have fought to keep New York’s groundfishermen viable in this disaster declaration process, and have not allowed our lack of fishery council representation to silence the needs of our fishing communities,” said Bonnie Brady, Executive Director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. “We are grateful for their voices as the bridge to disaster relief for all ground fishermen.”
The lawmakers pushed to include New York in a federal fishery disaster declaration, noting that New York’s fishing interests in New England stocks are often ignored due to its underrepresentation on the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC). Many of New York’s fish stocks are regulated by this council, which will weigh in later this year on catch limits for 2013.