MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Representative Joe Cunningham has heard the pleas of members of the Lowcountry fishing community, and is working to get them more federal aid.
Cunningham is among a group of bipartisan lawmakers urging Congressional leaders to appropriate $20 billion of any upcoming COVID-19 response legislation to domestic fisheries.
The group charges that the $300 million included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Support (CARES) Act was “insufficient to the task of supporting this essential, iconic, and sustainable industry.” The fishing industry in the US supports 1.7 million jobs and generates over $64 billion annually, according to the letter.
The additional funding would be used to augment initial funds dedicated to “direct fishery disaster assistance to fishing families and their communities.” Additionally, the lawmakers suggest that the Department of Commerce work with individual states to use the funding to “identify and purchase surplus seafood products for donation purposes” and “fund the development of markets and advertising campaigns to increase seafood consumption in the near-term.”
Specifically, the group suggests funding be put towards the following areas:
- Substantially increasing the monies available for fishery disaster assistance with an emphasis on timeliness and fairness across all regions and States.
- Working with States and fisheries stakeholder groups to identify products currently available for purchase/donation and develop seafood marketing opportunities for domestically produced fisheries commodities in the US.
- Creating regional advertising campaigns to educate consumers on how to cook more seafood at home.
- Expanding the Fisheries Finance Program (FFP) to create more opportunity to finance and refinance existing businesses while protecting the Traditional program uses.
- Modernizing NOAA Fisheries data collection and publication system.
- Where appropriate, increasing funding for electronic monitoring to reduce reliance upon on-board, at-sea observers, to protect human health while still adequately monitoring fisheries. As well as funding or subsidizing human observer programs in fisheries which would be otherwise unviable.
- Reinvigorating NOAA fisheries stock assessment systems, particularly in areas where traditional surveys will be disrupted by the development of offshore wind.
- Updating the physical infrastructure of the NOAA Fisheries Service, by rebuilding NOAA’s Science Centers and Regional Fisheries offices.
- Ensuring tribal and subsistence fisheries are fully are fully supported.
- Expanding the Sea Grant College Program.