By Kitty Merrill
The U.S. Department of Commerce last Thursday declared a federal groundfish fishery disaster for New York's fishing communities. The move allows Congress to appropriate funding to ease the hardships faced by New York's fishermen.
Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tim Bishop requested emergency relief after a recent preliminary report projected significant cuts — up to 70 percent — in catch limits for New England groundfish stocks in 2013.
These cuts to multispecies fishery, such as cod and yellowtail flounder, would harm Long Island's businesses and fishermen, who are already struggling and being squeezed by catch limits and tighter regulations.
Last month Schumer, Gillibrand and Bishop wrote to Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank expressing "strong support" for the declaration, adding that New York's inclusion in any disaster declaration was vitally important.
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. Many of New York's fish stocks are regulated by this council, which will weigh in later this year on catch limits for 2013.
"Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Cong. 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."