Markey and Warren Seek $500M in Additional Fisheries Aid
U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren on Friday called on U.S. Senate leadership to include $500 million in additional fisheries assistance in the next coronavirus recovery package.
In their June 5 letter, the senators said $28 million in fisheries assistance already allocated to Massachusetts should be supplemented as the pandemic continues to affect demand through the summer month’s peak harvests.
"Compared to the previous five-year average, in March and April of this year, Massachusetts bivalve shellfish landings lost 60 percent of their value, lobster landings lost 40 percent of their value, recreational head boats have been completely shut down, and seafood processors have lost their usual restaurant market," the letter stated.
In Massachusetts, four sectors – commercial fishing, aquaculture, seafood processing, and for-hire recreational fishing – expect pandemic-related losses of 35 percent, leading to approximately $500 million in lost revenue over the year, the letter said.
"The $28 million in CARES Act fisheries assistance allocated to Massachusetts is not sufficient to help the four fisheries sectors survive revenue losses beyond April, and the pandemic is far from over," the two wrote.
Without additional aid, "we face the real possibility of losing a significant portion of our fishing and seafood industries to economic challenges caused by COVID-19, forever changing the character of our working waterfronts,” the Massachusetts senators wrote to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
In a media release, the two touted their roles in securing a $20 million USDA procurement of Atlantic seafood, in cutting through red tape to help Massachusetts fisheries access their $28 million share of the $300 million from the CARES Act, and in pressuring the Department of Commerce and NOAA to allocate fisheries disaster funding in a fair and transparent manner. Back in March, Markey and Warren joined Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to call on Senate leadership to include support for the fishing industry in coronavirus economic relief packages in the first place.
When the pandemic hit, the bottom fell out of the fresh seafood market domestically and abroad, due in large part to widespread restaurant closures and export difficulties. Scallops in New Bedford are reportedly selling low at auction, with much of the harvest heading for the freezer.