In the fourth year of the Obama presidency, bipartisan congressional frustration with administration fisheries policy in Massachusetts — gone from simmer to boil — Wednesday finally reached the White House.
It arrived in the form a “Dr. Mr. President” letter, signed by Sens. Scott Brown and John Kerry and three Democratic representatives asking Obama to direct the Department of Commerce to do what it has refused to do for nearly two years — to issue a disaster declaration that would mean emergency financial relief for fishermen, who are facing increasingly hard times not of their own making, the authors make clear.
“We are concerned that recent efforts by your administration to provide disaster relief for agricultural producers, including catfish farmers, affected by drought ... did not include assistance for the hardworking fishermen and fishing communities in New England,” the letter began.
Signing along with Brown and Kerry were Congressmen John Tierney, whose district includes Cape Ann; Barney Frank, who represents New Bedford; and William Keating who represents the ports along Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod.
Brown is a Republican; Kerry the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee who has been among President Obama’s closest Senate allies and is considered a possible secretary of state in a second Obama administration.
Kerry and Brown have formed the linchpin of a bipartisan, fishing port coalition in Massachusetts with allied bipartisan delegations all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
New Hampshire and Maine have also filed requests for disaster declarations for their fishing communities. New York is said to be ready to take similar action.
“The fact that this issue has risen to the level of the president of the United States is appalling for the lack of response it represents and at the same time a testament to the importance of the fishing industry in America,” said Mayor Carolyn Kirk.