The situation has caused intense frustration and calls for improved science. Fishing advocates and some lawmakers have also said it justifies federal assistance, since fishermen are following the rules but still getting killed by regulations.
In the draft letter obtained by the AP, Kerry asks for $67.5 million in aid to fishermen and fishing communities. Some of the money would, for instance, go to retrain fishermen for different jobs, while other funds would train industry holdouts to “improve their efficiency” so they can better handle the coming cuts.
Other tentative requests include: $15 million to cover the costs of the independent observers that monitor the fishing catch. The government has covered this cost, but the industry must pay it, starting next year. $10 million to cover the anticipated costs of the loans that would go into default if an industry buyout program is created. Such a program, which would have to be approved in an industry referendum, would provide federal loans to fishermen who wish buy boats or permits from fishermen who want to leave the industry. $7.5 million to fund cooperative fishery science research between regulators and fishermen.
The Northeast Seafood Coalition, an industry group, said that its board voted to support the draft proposal this week.
“For any mitigation plan to be effective everything has to be on the table — including science, management, the law and financial assistance,” the coalition said in a statement.
Members of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association also supported the draft proposal.
“As much as anything, I’m happy to see that our delegation understands that we need to support better science, necessary monitoring and some sort of way to help the guys who simply can’t make it,” said Chatham fisherman John Tuttle.