New Jersey anglers are upset about getting just $1.5 million for fisheries disaster relief from a $75 million federal appropriations bill.
New Jersey and New York will share $3 million from the bill, which some are calling a pittance when the U.S Department of Commerce estimated Hurricane Sandy caused up to $121 million in losses to the marine industry in New Jersey and $77 million in New York.
"New York and New Jersey were thrown under the bus with the Sandy relief money," said John Mantione, of the New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association.
The recreational and commercial fishing industries in the state previously received $4 million in Sandy relief funds, or $2 million per state. The $7 million total comes up short, said Jim Donofrio, of the New Gretna-based Recreational Fishing Alliance, who sent a letter to Congress asking that relief be increased to at least $50 million for states affected by Sandy. The storm destroyed marinas and boats and had a huge impact on business.
"By working with state officials in New York and New Jersey, and alongside individual stakeholders and industry groups in these affected states, we knew the figure for uninsured and uninsurable loss alone in the recreational industry would eclipse the $150 million mark," Donofrio said.
Fishing groups are also upset that New England states got $33 million of the $75 million handed out when Sandy did not really impact that region. The New England fishing industry is suffering from a decline in ground fish stocks due to overfishing, climate change and other factors.
Tom Fote, of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, has blamed the regional manager for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries for moving most of the money to New England.
Donofrio said New England commercial fishermen have consistently overfished and are now being rewarded for it. He noted the $33 million is not going to the beleaguered charter and for-hire sector in New England.
"Our recreational sector was never looking at handouts to sit at home like the New England commercial sector, but we were just looking for an honest hand so that our folks can keep fishing," Donofrio said.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th, called the funding "insufficient and unrealistic." Pallone introduced an amendment last year to increase the allocation to New Jersey but it was defeated.
"The decision to allocate only $3 million for New York and New Jersey fisheries that were devastated by Sandy out of a total appropriation of $75 million is unfair and diminishes the true extent of the damage caused by the once-in-a-century storm," Pallone said.
NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS) said the $75 million will be allocated to six fisheries that were declared disasters by the Department of Commerce in 2012 and 2013. This includes:
Alaska's salmon fisheries will get close to $21 million
Florida will receive $6.3 million for oyster problems in the Gulf of Mexico
Oyster and blue crab fishermen in Mississippi will receive $10.9 million
The New England states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island will share close to $33 million for depleted groundfish stocks
America Samoa will receive $1 million for damages caused by the 2009 tsunami.
New York and New Jersey will share $3 million to address the impacts from Sandy
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