Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs confirmed that recreational fishing infrastructure such as marinas, tackle and bait stores and public access points that provide fishing access are eligible for disaster assistance under the fishery disaster declaration.
“I understand that there has been concern that certain aspects of the recreational fishing sector were not included in the fishery disaster declaration. My office has been working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to confirm that shore-side fishery infrastructure including marinas, tackle and bait stores and boat ramps are eligible for assistance with this declaration.”
On November 16, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced that she had made the determination of a fishery resource disaster to help coastal communities in New Jersey and New York. With this determination, under Section 308(d) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (IFA) and Section 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson), federal relief funds can be appropriated and directed at assisting with disaster relief.
According to Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), the problem with this declaration as written into both Magnuson and the IFA is that recreational participants, marina owners and operators, and tackle shop owners and operators are not officially recognized by name as eligible recipients of disaster funding.
“Sometimes it takes a lot of pushing and prodding to get through bureaucratic red tape, and often it even requires an act of Congress,” Donofrio said. “The recreational fishing industry, our tackle shops, marinas, for-hire folks and everyone associated with saltwater angling is thankful to have the support of Congressman Pallone in helping get those critically important answers.”
Congress will now need to appropriate funding for disaster assistance and once appropriated, the National Marine Fisheries Service will begin working with the affected states on developing a spending program to determine allocation of the funds.
“We now need to work to make sure funds are appropriate and directed to those impacted by the storm,” Rep. Pallone said. “That’s why it is important that the state and federal governments identify those fishermen, fishing related business and the shore-side infrastructure in need of assistance and direct funds where necessary.”
RFA is actively working with members of the recreational fishing industry in both New York and New Jersey to help facilitate the gathering of important financial information. Donofrio said he and his staff have been in contact with members of the Marine Trades Association (New York and New Jersey), the New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association, United Boatmen, Folsom Tackle Distributors and numerous tackle shop operators afflicted by storm damage in order to collect the vital financial information required for the final appropriation process.
“We and the entire recreational fishing community appreciate Mr. Pallone reaching out to NOAA and requesting that the agency release their official interpretation of the regional coastal disaster assistance program language in Magnuson as it relates to the recreational fishing industry,” Donofrio said. “NOAA was in and out of our region before most even had a chance to clear the debris from their properties and it was our concern and the concern of Mr. Pallone that many of the affected businesses within the recreational industry might get overlooked.”
Donofrio said that RFA will continue to work from the ground up to ensure that the recreational fishing community is well-represented. “We’ll keep working with Congress, pressing NOAA, while helping coordinate ground efforts in New York and New Jersey alike,” Donofrio said.
“At that point, we can ensure that Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie both have the information required to submit a request for assistance on behalf of our recreational fishing community,” he added. “We will not be overlooked.”
Image courtesy Recreational Fishing Alliance