NOAA Vice President Announces New England Relief
Contact: White House Press Office 202-456-7035


Boston, MA -- Vice President Al Gore today announced final approval of $5 million in disaster relief to help struggling New England fishermen and their families.

New England fishermen are suffering economic losses due to the continued decline of cod and other groundfish in the Gulf of Maine. Fishermen who participate in the program must agree to participate in fisheries-related research sometime in the next two years.

"For too long we acted as if the ocean's resources were infinite, and we must help those who are now paying the price," Vice President Al Gore said. "Ultimately, our goal must be to rebuild sustainable fisheries so that the working families of the New England coast can again reap the harvest of the sea. Thus we have developed a long-term program, which over the next two years will bring fishermen and scientists together in research collaborations that will improve our understanding of ocean fisheries so we can better manage them in the future."

The Vice President announced the relief funds at the New England Aquarium in Boston, where he also received a report from the Cabinet with recommendations for long-term ocean policy and appointed a high-level task force to oversee its implementation. In addition, the Vice President announced that the United States is strengthening its ability to enforce environmental, customs and immigration laws at sea by expanding a critical enforcement zone to include all waters within 24 nautical miles of the U.S. coast.

The research-for-relief program is designed to help commercial fishermen who fish for cod, flounder, and other groundfish that have declined substantially over the past three decades in the Gulf of Maine. Eligible fishermen will receive up to $1,500 per day for days-at-sea that they fished in 1998 but were unable to fish in February-through-June of 1999 due to fisheries closures aimed at rebuilding depleted cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine.

Participating fishermen will work with federal scientists in conducting research and monitoring the state of fisheries off the New England coast.

The Vice President commended the bipartisan efforts of New England's Congressional delegation and other members of Congress who were instrumental in securing the relief funds.

Eligibility for the relief funds will be calculated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) based on its records of a person's past fishing activity. Commercial groundfishermen will receive a letter within two weeks explaining the program and informing them of the maximum compensation they may request. Eligible fishermen will have 30 days to notify NOAA if they want to participate in the program.

Part of the money will be designated for crewmembers. Permit holders who fish alone can designate themselves as crew and receive the full $1,500 per unused day. Vessel owners and crew who participate in the program will be expected to participate in one day of research for every day for which they were compensated.

NOAA developed the relief plan with extensive input from members of the fishing industry and published a proposed plan on June 11. A summary of the final plan is available on the Web at:

The plan is available in the Federal Register or from Kevin Chu, NOAA Fisheries Northeast Science Center, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.