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Kerry backs bill to fund fishery research

US Senator John F. Kerry will introduce a fisheries investment bill Friday that would provide millions of dollars to Massachusetts fisheries to conduct research and assessments.

“We can’t fix our fishing problems if we don’t restore trust, and you start rebuilding trust by investing in fishing science that’s credible and comprehensive and comes from the fishing community itself,’’ Kerry said.

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The Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act, a bill sponsored by Kerry and US Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, seeks to ensure that a portion of the money earned from duties on imported fish products is used in a grant program for fishing science and development.

According to the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act of 1954, 30 percent of the duties should go to research for the benefit of the US fishing industry. But, Kerry’s office said, in 2010, of an estimated $376.6 million brought in from import duties, only $8.4 million was used for research grants by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The proposed legislation outlines a process by which 70 percent of the money allocated to the research grant program will be used to implement regional fishery investment plans developed and revised at least every five years by committees of regional fishery management councils.

After NOAA’s administrator, Jane Lubchenco, testified before a commerce committee Wednesday, Kerry released a statement urging federal regulators to work more with research institutions on the proposed catch limit for cod in the Gulf of Maine. Local fishermen have questioned the science behind the proposed limit, which would reduce their cod catch from this year by as much as 4 million pounds.

“The struggle we’re having right now over the cod assessment underscores the need for better scientific resources our fishermen can trust,’’ Kerry said.

Zachary Sampson can be reached at zachary.sampson@globe.com.
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