Delegation announces approval of key designation for RI’s Atlantic Herring Fishery

Designation means federal funds will be made available to aid RI fishermen


In an effort to support Rhode Island’s fishing industry, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline recently announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce has approved a designation of fishery failure for Rhode Island’s Atlantic herring fishery.

In addition to Rhode Island, designations of fishery failure were also granted to Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, which all experienced significant declines in the herring fishery in recent years, according to a press release distributed by Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation.

Herring are a key bait fish for the commercial fishing and lobster industries. After a 2019 scientific assessment showed the herring population in dramatic decline, federal fishing regulators limited the catch quota for 2019 to less than a fifth of the 2014 harvest, which was more than 200 million pounds.

This announcement comes after the Rhode Island Congressional delegation sent a letter to then-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross last September, urging him to begin the process of granting Rhode Island’s formal request to designate a fishery failure in the Atlantic herring fishery under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, according to the press release.

The letter noted that: “Although NOAA Fisheries and regional management councils took several actions to improve the health of the Atlantic herring stock, the most recent stock assessment continues to show low recruitment. Further, the Rhode Island-based fishery’s annual landings decreased by more than fifteen million pounds and annual revenues declined by nearly $2 million since 2014, despite steady participation.”

At the time when the delegation sent the letter to Secretary Ross, Gina M. Raimondo was Governor of Rhode Island and made the request for a disaster determination on behalf of the State.  She is now the Secretary of Commerce.

In October, President Biden signed into law a short-term government funding bill that also included $200 million in emergency funding for fisheries disasters across the U.S.  Today’s designation will make Rhode Island eligible for a share of those funds.

Now that the U.S. Department of Commerce has made the determination announcement, the National Marine Fisheries Service will work to allocate the available funds to address all approved fisheries disasters.  Once allocations are made, the state will prepare a plan to use the funding to assist fishermen affected by the disaster.

Source: Rhode Island Congressional delegation press release


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