Sandy package won’t include aid for Massachusetts fishermen

WASHINGTON—The House Rules Committee late Monday rejected an effort by three Massachusetts congressmen who wanted to attach aid for fisheries to a relief package being prepared for victims of the Sandy storm.

Proposals by Representatives Edward Markey of Malden, William Keating of Bourne and John Tierney of Salem would have included between $111 million to $150 million for fisheries across the country in the emergency spending legislation, set to be voted upon in Congress on Tuesday. The legislation did not specify how much money would have gone to Massachusetts.

In September, the Secretary of Commerce declared economic disasters in six northeastern states including Massachusetts, as catch limits and depleted fish stocks combined to ravage regional groundfish fisheries. While that pre-dates the Sandy storm, which occurred in late October, advocates said the Sandy relief measure provided the best vehicle for appropriating funds for fisheries.

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“We wanted to approach this without taking away anything from the resources that would go to Sandy,” Keating said. “[Fishing] is an industry just knitted with so many generational small businesses, fragile businesses just trying to survive.”

But Republicans on the Rules Committee shot down a number of other amendments targeting non-Sandy funding, including relief to those affected by last summer’s wild fires in Colorado.

“We kept the money specific to the immediate Sandy disaster needs at hand,” Representative Hal Rogers, the Kentucky Republican, said before the committee. “This funding addresses the most pressing needs in the effected region.”

Bay State lawmakers, however, are still hopeful fisheries aid could be revived when the Senate and House packages are combined, Keating said. Keating‘s $111 million proposal was to be offset by cuts to funding for weather satellite upgrades, which he said won’t be effective until 2016. A bill already passed by the Senate includes $150 million in fishery aid proposed that would also reach Mississippi and Alaska.

“You don’t turn your back on people who are suffering—you don’t turn your back on Americans,” Keating said. “And you don’t turn your back on Americans in the fishing industry, either.”