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NOAA New England Red Tide Information Center
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act "Commercial Failure" Information

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez announced on Thursday, June 16, 2005 a formal determination that the Massachusetts shellfish fishery is in a commercial failure triggered by a massive red tide bloom in the New England region.

The determination came in response to a June 10 letter from Governor Mitt Romney requesting disaster assistance for the hard hit Massachusetts shellfish industry. The action was made through a provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and covers the molluscan shellfish fishery in state waters and Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahogs in federal waters.

Below are provisions of Section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that apply to actions under this declaration.

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Section 312(a)

  • Allows the Secretary of Commerce, at the Secretary's discretion or when requested by a Governor or affected fishing community, to determine if a commercial fishery failure occurred.

  • The commercial fishery failure must be due to a fishery resource disaster of natural causes, man-made causes beyond the control of fishery managers to mitigate through conservation and management measures, or undetermined causes.

  • If a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster is determined, assistance requires an appropriation.

  • If funds are appropriated, they may be used to assess the economic and social effects of the commercial fishery failure, or for any activity that the Secretary determines is appropriate to restore the fishery or prevent a similar failure in the future and to assist a fishing community affected by such failure.

  • Before providing funds, the Secretary must determine that the proposed activity will not expand the size or scope of the commercial fishery failure in that fishery or into another fishery or geographic area.

  • The Federal share of the cost of any assistance is limited to 75 percent. The State or fishing community must provide a cost share of at least 25 percent.

  • Types of assistance funded under section 312(a) in the past include buybacks of permits or vessels, data collection, cooperative research activities, direct compensation, and training and employment opportunities.



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