Program contacts: Melanie Griffin , Samantha Andrews

On May 28, 2014 the state fishery directors from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, in partnership with NOAA, announced a framework for the distribution of $32.8 in federal disaster aid monies to the New England groundfish industry (joint press release). In the consensus framework, the six states will apportion available monies between three themes (roughly $11 million in each): one-third to be used for direct assistance, one-third to be split among the states and used at their discretion, and one-third to be used in developing a federally funded buyout or industry-funded buyback.

Federal disaster aid stems from a September 13, 2012 disaster declaration in the Northeast multispecies (groundfish) fishery by the Acting Secretary of Commerce. The disaster designation was requested by Governor Deval Patrick and other elected officials recognizing the severe hardships being faced by commercial fishermen – hardships being felt well before the official May 1, 2013 federal designation (see related reports on break-even analysis and economic impacts).

Although based on severe catch limit reductions that were implemented due to declining stock status, the Secretary of Commerce noted fishermen had adhered to catch limits. NOAA Fisheries’ own data and research have indicated that an environmental regime shift has occurred and is on-going, suggesting additional factors leading to stock declines.

Since the declaration, fisheries managers, scientists and fishermen all continue to struggle to understand the causes of the crises facing groundfish populations, fishing families and our port communities. It’s becoming increasingly clear that multiple factors including, the environment, changing resource conditions, low catch limits, permit/quota market inefficiencies, lack of alternative fishing opportunities, and fleet capacity all contribute to the current state of the New England groundfish industry. The Commonwealth, therefore, has turned to a wide-range of themes in crafting ways to stabilize Massachusetts groundfish businesses thereby safeguarding the state’s communities and local economies built upon this historic fishery.

Planning Process
Excluding the $11-million set-aside for regional consideration of a future vessel buyout/buyback, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will receive $14.5-million: $6.3-million in direct subsidies to pre-identified active commercial groundfishermen and $8.2-million for consideration of additional assistance strategies in a state program. The latter may include assistance to crew, for-hire vessels, shore-side infrastructure, and other uses.

The Commonwealth will be scheduling public meetings to gather input on the substance of a state assistance program. To assist the public in providing comments, the Division of Marine Fisheries is preparing a public information document with assistance from an Industry-based Steering Committee. This document and information on meeting locations and times will be made available as they are finalized.

Meanwhile, NMFS is working on a letter to permit holders notifying them whether or not they were found eligible by NMFS for direct assistance. Those interested in reviewing their permit data may submit a landings history request to NMFS.

Public Meeting Schedule

North Shore
Monday, July 14, 2014 - 6:00 PM
MA DMF Annisquam River Station
30 Emerson Ave.
Gloucester, MA
South Shore
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 – 6:00 PM
Radisson - Plymouth Harbor
180 Water St.
Plymouth, MA
New Bedford
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 – 6:00 PM
Waypoint Event Center
Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites
185 MacArthur Dr.
Cape Cod
Thursday, July 17, 2014 – 6:00 PM
Chatham High School
425 Crowell Rd.
Chatham, MA

Groundfish Disaster Aid Public Information Document pdf format of Groundfish Disaster Aid Public Information Document
- Please submit comments by Monday, August 4th, to Melanie Griffin (

Public Meeting Notice - June 26, 2014 pdf format of Groundfish Disaster Spending Plan Public Meetings

Phase 1
In Phase 1 of the Disaster Aid Program, the Commonwealth received $6.3-million to distribute as direct subsidies to limited access multispecies permit holders pre-qualified by NMFS based on their landing history of at least 5,000-lbs. of groundfish in any one of the past four fishing years (FY2010-FY2013). On August 6, 2014 permit holders pre-qualified by NMFS were sent a letter and vendor forms by the Commonwealth to enable payment processing.

State Vendor Seminars Being Held to Assist First-Wave of Groundfish Federal-Aid Recipients pdf format of Vendor Workshops for Phase 1 Disaster Aid

Phase 1 Groundfish Disaster Relief Assistance Cap on the Amount of Assistance that may be Received by a Single Entity pdf format of Phase 1 Cap Policy.pdf

Phase 2
As part of the greater $32.8-million federal groundfish disaster aid package, NMFS has allocated $8.3-million to the Commonwealth based on a pre-determined homeport formula. These funds will be utilized to mitigate impacts to additional components of the Massachusetts groundfish fishery not previously addressed by Phase 1 aid to qualified federal permit holders.

Phase 2 Disaster Aid Working Group Meeting pdf format of Phase 2 Disaster Aid Working Group Meeting
- September 5, 2014

Press Releases
Patrick Administration Releases First Round of Groundfish Disaster Assistance

Governor Patrick Urges Federal Officials to Ease New Commercial Fishing Rules, Provide Relief for Massachusetts Fishing Industry

Statement of Governor Deval Patrick in Response to Secretary Locke’s Letter on Emergency Fishing Limits Action

Patrick-Murray Administration Renews Request for Disaster Assistance for Massachusetts Fishing Industry

Patrick Administration Announces Financial Aid for New England Fishermen Following Federal Disaster Declaration

DMF News Articles
In Search of Groundfish Fishery Economic Relief

Supporting Studies & Communication
A Report on Economic and Scientific Conditions in the Massachusetts Multispecies Groundfishery

Break-Even Analysis of the New England Groundfish Fishery for FY2009 and FY2010

Comparative Economic Survey and Analysis of Northeast Fishery Sector 10 (South Shore, Massachusetts)

Secretary Bartlett Support Letter - July 15, 2014 pdf format of Secretary Bartlett Support Letter, July 15, 2014

Related Assistance Programs
MA Commercial Fisheries Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)

SBA Loans for Fishermen

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Groundfish Industry Transition Assistance Plan