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    US Senator Elizabeth Warren files fishery assistance amendment

    Fishermen are struggling to make ends meet during this difficult time, Warren said.
    Cliff Owen/Associated Press
    Fishermen are struggling to make ends meet during this difficult time, Warren said.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed providing disaster ­relief funds to Northeast fishermen in the first amendment she has filed since taking office.

    The amendment introduced by Warren, a first-term Massachusetts Democrat, would ­allow funds in the 2014 budget to be set aside to aid fishermen around the region. No amounts are specified.

    Last year, the US Secretary of Commerce declared economic disasters in several fisheries, including the Northeast. Fishermen who target bottom-dwelling groundfish, such as flounder, haddock, and cod, are facing huge cuts in their 2013 catch allotments that many fear will wipe out the fleet.

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    The cuts come amid poor ­reports on the health of key stocks of cod, and even though the fishing industry has generally fished at or below the levels recommended for the last ­decade.

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    Late last year, the Senate ­approved $150 million in emergency aid to be split between fisheries in the Northeast, Alaska, and the Gulf Coast. The money was included in a disaster relief bill for Superstorm Sandy.

    But the US House never took up the bill, and the Sandy relief package passed this year did not allocate any money to New England fishermen.

    In a statement Friday, ­Warren said hardworking fishing families deserve federal aid.

    “We must support our fishermen in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast who are struggling to make ends meet during this difficult time,” she said.

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    Warren’s bill has seven Democratic cosponsors, including Senator William “Mo” Cowan of Massachusetts, Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both of New York, Senator Jack Reed and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, both of Rhode Island, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Senator Angus King of Maine.

    The Republican version of the bill was filed by Senator ­Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and has seven GOP co-sponsors.

    Both amendments specify that the disaster relief funds from fishermen cannot ­increase the deficit. The Republican amendment differs because it says the aid cannot be funded with new taxes.