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States Decide How To Split Fishing Disaster Funds

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The five coastal New England states and New York have decided how to divide up most of the $32.8 million they’ve been promised for communities that have been hard hit by declining fish populations.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which announced the region’s total in February, said on Wednesday that officials are still deciding how to allocate $11 million in the Northeast to develop a buyout or buyback program, but the states have agreed how to split the rest.

Massachusetts will get $14.5 million, Maine will get $2.3 million and New Hampshire will get $2 million. Rhode Island’s share will be $1.9 million, while New York will get $814,000 and Connecticut will get $250,000. Those amounts include both direct assistance of $32,463 for each qualified permit holder and grants allocated to each state based on a formula that considers their groundfish revenue losses.

In September 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department declared a fisheries resource disaster for the Northeast fishery after research showed several key fish stocks, such as cod and flounder, were not rebuilding despite catch limits. The declaration also predicted those species would continue to fall.

While states must get NOAA approval for spending plans, they will have some flexibility, the government said. For example, states could use the money to help recreational fishermen or put it toward shore-based infrastructure.

“Each state situation is unique, and it was challenging to identify an approach that could work for all,” said John Bullard, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “But after considerable discussion and outreach, I think we came up with a framework that has something in it for everybody and will enable us to get some monies into the hands of fishermen and others affected as quickly as possible.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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