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$23 Million Earmarked for Massachusetts Fishing Industry in New Round of Federal Aid

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Sarah Nalven
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The state's fishing industry took a hit during the pandemic.

A second round of federal CARES Act funding is now available to the state’s fishing industry. The $23 million is meant to partially offset losses caused by the pandemic.

Dan Orchard, vice president of the nonprofit Fishing Partnership, said the industry is still bouncing back from a major setback in 2020.

“Last March there were fishermen who were out catching fish and harvesting seafood. By the time they came back to the dock—it might have been during the governor's orders where restaurants were closed—all of a sudden their market dried up,” said Orchard. “So they came in with product and found that they didn't have a market to sell to.”

In Massachusetts, businesses that catch and process seafood lost $180 million last year, according to Dan McKiernan, Director of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. He said the new funding can cover a portion of the shortfall.

“These are owner operated businesses for the most part. These aren't large corporations,” said McKiernan. “It's important for them to try to stay afloat. They don't have other sources of income for the most part. And we're hopeful that this will help.”

The Division of Marine Fisheries will oversee distribution of the $23 million.

Businesses that saw a 35% drop in revenue are eligible to apply for the aid.

But Orchard said calculating revenue alone, which doesn’t account for increased costs, could exclude some in the industry who need assistance. “The majority of fishermen did not qualify in the first round [of CARES Act funding], even though they took a financial hit during the pandemic,” said Orchard. “Those fishermen are not likely to qualify in the second round as well.”

Individual employees—like deck hands who lost work—are not directly eligible to apply for the funding.

The Division of Marine Fisheries will consider funding applications postmarked by August 28.

In the first round of CARES Act funding for fisheries last year, Massachusetts distributed $28 million.

Daniel covers the South Coast for WCAI. He comes to the station from Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on science and the environment. Daniel has produced audio documentaries on a motley mix of topics, from the science of sewage to the history of automobile license plates. He holds a PhD in climate change ecology from the University of Minnesota. Daniel is a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.