USA: More disaster relief subsidies for US fishermen.

On 21 September 2009 the State of Massachusetts announced the distribution of USD 1.2 million in federal disaster assistance to 260 Massachusetts commercial shell-fishermen who lost income due to red tide-related shellfish area closures in 2008.

These federal funds were already allocated by NOAA’s Fisheries Service in November of 2008 after the Commerce Secretary determined a "commercial fishery failure" but the effective distribution of the money was could only happen after the National Marine Fisheries Service had the “2009 Massachusetts Red Tide Technical Assistance and Disaster Relief Proposal.”. Such approval took place on 14 May 2009 and on 18 September cheques started to be delivered to the affected fishermen.

In the press release of the Massachusetts' Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs U.S. Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA) was quoted as stating:
“The health of New England’s shellfish industry is vital to the economic health of our coastal communities"
In addition to Massachusetts, two other States, Main (USD 2 million) and New Hampshire (USD 1 million) are eligible for disaster relief.

The above aid seems to be fully in line with what the US has proposed at the WTO in terms of subsidies fully exempted from prohibitions. In its negotiating proposal TN/RL/GEN/145 of 22 March 2007 (p. 5) the US proposed to exempt from the prohibitions "the replacement of fishing capacity following a natural disaster where fleet capacity has been reduced, provided that capacity is not restored beyond its pre-disaster state;"

I do not know the exact details of the “2009 Massachusetts Red Tide Technical Assistance and Disaster Relief Proposal" but I have seen nothing that would prevent fishermen from rebuilding fishing capacity up to the pre-disaster levels.

Another interesting feature of the Massachusetts implementation of the relief programme is that, "[…] remaining funding will be allocated to a health insurance subsidy program to be subcontracted to the Massachusetts Fisherman’s Partnership, as stipulated in the federally-approved disaster relief proposal."

As a final comment on this subsidy announcement I would like to draw the attention of the reader to the importance that U.S. politicians attach to fisheries as being vital to the economic health of coastal communities. (see above statement by Bill Delahunt).

Here is the link to the press release of the Massachusetts' Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs:


Here the 2008 announcement by NOAA of the allocation of federal disaster relief:


And here an article in the online edition of CapeCodToday:

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