- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation are hailing a decision to include $75 million in fisheries disaster aid in the 2014 fiscal year federal spending bill.

Northeast fishermen had become eligible for federal aid in 2012 after a national fishery disaster was declared in the region, due to the unexpectedly slow recovery of stocks of bottom-dwelling groundfish, such as cod and flounder.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the federal disaster assistance will provide that much-needed relief to local fishermen who have been struggling to make ends meet.

“Although this aid won’t ease all the hardships the fishing industry faces, it will provide long-overdue support to fishing communities dealing with devastating catch share cuts,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.

Rep. John Tierney also hailed the decision to halt efforts to close the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’ Gloucester-based Northeast Regional Office.

“Hundreds of jobs as well as a critical link between the industry and NOAA will remain as a result of this decision,” the Salem Democrat said.

The Small Business Administration had also made a series of low-interest loans available to qualifying fishermen affected by the disaster.

State Rep. Bruce Tarr said the next challenge is making sure the $75 million in disaster aid is distributed in a timely manner and then to address the regulatory issues that made the aid necessary.

“Without meaningful regulatory and statutory changes, we will continue to face the extinction of our commercial fishing industry,” said Tarr, R-Gloucester.

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