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Bid to link fishermen’s aid to Sandy bill fails

WASHINGTON — The House Rules Committee late Monday rejected an effort by three Massachusetts congressmen to attach aid for fisheries to a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Proposals by Representatives Edward Markey of Malden, William Keating of Quincy, and John Tierney of Salem would have included between $111 million to $150 million for fisheries across the country in the emergency spending legislation. The proposal did not specify how much money would have gone to Massachusetts.

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In September, the Commerce Department declared economic disasters in six Northeastern states including Massachusetts, as catch limits and depleted fish stocks combined to ravage regional groundfish fisheries. While that predates Sandy, which occurred in late October, advocates said the Sandy relief measure provided the best vehicle for appropriating funds for fisheries.

The Senate included fisheries funds in its version of the Sandy relief bill.

“We wanted to approach this without taking away anything from the resources that would go to Sandy,” Keating said. “[Fishing] is an industry just knitted with so many generational small businesses, fragile businesses just trying to survive.”

But Republicans on the Rules Committee shot down amendments targeting non-Sandy funding, including relief to those affected by last summer’s wildfires in Colorado.

“We kept the money specific to the immediate Sandy disaster needs at hand,” Representative Hal Rogers, the Kentucky Republican, said before the committee. “This funding addresses the most pressing needs in the affected region.”

The House passed the $50.7 billion overall Sandy relief bill Tuesday night.

Bay State lawmakers, however, are still hopeful fisheries aid could be revived when the Senate and House packages are combined in a conference committee, Keating said. Keating‘s $111 million proposal was to be offset by cuts to funding for weather satellite upgrades, which he said won’t be effective until 2016. The Senate bill includes $150 million in fishery aid that would also reach Mississippi and Alaska.

“You don’t turn your back on people who are suffering -- you don’t turn your back on Americans,” Keating said. “And you don’t turn your back on Americans in the fishing industry, either.”

David Uberti can be reached at
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