Massachusetts will receive more than $14.5 million in federal disaster funds to address the dramatic downturn in the Northeast’s groundfish industry, Governor Deval Patrick’s office announced Wednesday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration allocated the money after a federal disaster declaration for the region’s groundfishermen. The state will receive the funds as part of $75 million allocated by Congress to help with six declared fishery disasters across the country.
Local groundfish fisheries have “been impacted very negatively,” said Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association. “It’s been tough,” she said.
Changes in fishery regulations, forced by changes in resource conditions, have “consolidated the industry,” said Mary Griffin, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.
The consolidation leaves some larger fisheries more able to survive the downturn, while smaller fishing boats have seen their businesses affected more dramatically, Griffin said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.
NOAA will be distributing $32.8 million in federal disaster funds to the New England groundfish industry, divided between six states that have declared federal fisheries disasters, according to a statement from the Patrick administration and NOAA.
“This funding will help Massachusetts fishermen and businesses who are in desperate need of economic relief . . . and it is vital that the funds get to fishermen and their families as quickly as possible,” US Senator Edward J. Markey said in a prepared statement.
The Massachusetts groundfish industry makes up approximately 90 percent of the New England groundfish fishery, according to the governor’s office.
“We are extremely pleased that this critical funding is getting out the door to our fishermen who have been struggling during these hard times and under catch share regulations and declining groundfish stocks,” Patrick said. “We have worked for years to secure the financial assistance our fishermen need to sustain this historic and important industry.”
Patrick requested federal aid for the Massachusetts groundfish fishery in November 2010 and again in 2011 after the initial request was rejected.
In November 2013, the Small Business Administration approved the governor’s 2011 request for an economic injury disaster declaration.
Those who rely on the groundfish industry have been “waiting to see when and how the money will reach fishermen and fishing communities,” said Sanfilippo.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island will divide the allocation roughly equally into three categories: direct assistance, individual state-determined uses, and a federally funded buyout or industry-funded buyback.
“As a delegation, we fought hard for relief for fishermen throughout the Commonwealth,” said US Representative William Keating. “I am still reviewing NOAA’s recently announced distribution of those funds, but I believe they need to go directly into the pockets of the men and women who work on our boats and bore the brunt of the disaster.”
A division of the Department of Fish and Game hopes to begin disbursing funds in the early fall, after the state receives the money from NOAA.
“$38.2 million sounds like a lot, but it is split between six states,” Griffin said. “. . . We’re grateful for the assistance.”Jennifer Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.