Word to the wise: salmon ain’t pork

The tragically epic proportions of Superstorm Sandy remain fresh in the nation’s memory — and its painful impacts are still being felt by many in the region. Congress is inching towards passing a disaster assistance package that can provide some measure of relief. That’s welcome news for all those who suffered in Sandy’s path — including the region’s fishermen.

Last month we urged Congress to act during its lame duck session, to provide funding for fisheries disasters that have been officially declared — not only in states impacted by Sandy, but also certain fisheries in New England, Mississippi and Alaska where a formal disaster declaration has been made by the Secretary of Commerce.

With the Sandy disaster package being prepared, our friends in Congress stepped up and successfully included $150 million in funding to help those devastated by these disasters. In response, a number of media outlets and commentators have condemned such spending, labeling it as ‘pork’.

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) has been a champion for fishermen and coastal communities affected by fisheries disasters.

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) has been among those lawmakers who have championed the cause of fishermen and coastal communities devastated by fisheries disasters.

Well. Let’s be very clear about one thing: the fishermen and coastal communities who are struggling to survive in the face of these disasters desperately need our help. Fisheries disaster declarations are no arbitrary process: they are made in accordance with statute, specifically the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Among the many hoops that must be cleared to satisfy the National Marine Fisheries Service Disaster Assistance Policy, the causes of any claimed disaster must be beyond the control of fishery managers to mitigate through conservation and management measures. In other words, economic hardship precipitated by overfishing or other poor management practices are not grounds to make a claim.

Sure, let’s have a debate about fiscal responsibility and the deficit. It’s only proper that lawmakers and interest groups scrutinize government spending and debate the difficult tradeoffs that must be made between revenue and expenditure. But to target emergency funding for fishermen and coastal communities who through no fault of their own find their livelihoods jeopardized, and to characterize it as some kind of new “bridge to nowhere”, is deeply insulting.

Just like Sandy’s victims, these folks deserve our compassion, not contempt. We’ll continue to work with our friends on Capitol Hill, and do everything possible to ensure they receive some measure of relief.

15 thoughts on “Word to the wise: salmon ain’t pork

  1. Todays “Bridge to Nowhere” spending ‘Pork’ is Catch Shares. Hundreds of Millions have been spent on it in the past 4 years, costing thousands of jobs….driving seafood cost up, alomg with cheaper imports….and yes causing, or greatly contributing to Declared Fishery Disastors such as we see in New England that has its own $100 million dollar pricetag attached to it. Jane Lubchenco’s insistance on Catch Shares at all cost is something we will all be paying for as she departs. Time to stop this “pork” funding and start placing budget priorities on Reliable Science. The money is being spent, so why not make it with a good purpose?

  2. Pingback: Ghosts of 2012: fisheries funding is unfinished business for the new Congress | FishHQ

  3. Pingback: Victims of Sandy need help now – but they’re not the only ones | FishHQ

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