American Journal of Transportation

NCFC thanks Senate for support of American businesses and employees, and for $300 million in specific fisheries assistance

By: AJOT | Ports & Terminals 

The compromise COVID-19 stimulus package, negotiated by the U.S. Senate Republican and Democratic leadership with the White House and passed tonight by the Senate in a 96-0 vote, includes a number of provisions that will aid small business, and provides $300 million in assistance specifically for U.S. fisheries. This assistance will help fishermen around the country struggling due to shrinking demand and disappearing markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishermen, as well as aquaculture farmers, are all eligible for the disaster assistance.

This assistance is vitally needed. In 2017, more than two-thirds of the $102.2 billion spent on fishery products in the U.S. was spent at food service establishments, with less than one-third sold in retail outlets for home consumption. Thus, domestic commercial fisheries have been hit especially hard by the closures in the nation’s restaurant and hospitality industry.

Yesterday, members of Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities (NCFC) and fishing harvesters and processors from around the country made their needs known in letters to the White House and Congress. These needs include the designation of essential employee status for fishermen and processor staff, the promotion of American seafood, and direct and indirect financial relief, among many other suggestions.

“The speed with which the domestic seafood industry has come together to speak with one voice is unprecedented,” said Bob Vanasse, Saving Seafood’s Executive Director. “There are many differences in our nation’s fisheries – geography, species, gear types and management – but today our fisheries are simultaneously diverse and unified. We look forward to working together across traditional industry lines, and with elected officials and administrators, to ensure the aid the Federal Government is providing will flow fairly and equitably across regions and fisheries.”

The NCFC is especially grateful to Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and their staffs, who previously wrote to Senate leadership calling for urgent support for the U.S. fishing industry. The NCFC would also like to thank Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Murkowski, Sullivan, and Susan Collins (R-ME) for their work on the language included in the bill.

Additionally, the NCFC commends the work of Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and coastal members of the committee, including Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Collins, Murkowski, Jack Reed (D-RI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

As this legislation moves to the House, NCFC members are encouraged to contact their representatives to support this fisheries assistance and thank their Senators who voted for its passage.

The specific language in the Senate bill passed today is:


    SEC. 12005.  (a) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Commerce is authorized to provide assistance to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID–19), which may include direct relief payments.
    (b) FISHERY PARTICIPANTS.—For the purposes of this section, ‘‘fishery participants’’ include Tribes, persons, fishing communities, aquaculture businesses not otherwise eligible for assistance under part 1416 of title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations for losses related to COVID–19, processors, or other fishery-related businesses, who have incurred, as a direct or indirect result of the coronavirus pandemic—
        (1) economic revenue losses greater than 35 percent as compared to the prior 5-year average revenue; or
        (2) any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries.
        (c) ROLLING BASIS.—Funds may be awarded under this section on a rolling basis, and within a fishing season, to ensure rapid delivery of funds during the COVID–19 pandemic.
        (d) APPROPRIATIONS.—In addition to funds that are otherwise made available to assist fishery participants under this Act, there are authorized to be appropriated, and there are appropriated, $300,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2021, to carry out this section, of which up to 2 percent may be used for administration and oversight activities.
        (e) EMERGENCY REQUIREMENT.—The amount provided by this section is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.