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Fisheries Heard on Dogfish

Last week a coalition of commercial fishing and dogfish processing organizations banded together to encourage the spiny dogfish industry. Spiny dogfish is plentiful and has the potential to support these fisheries as other groundfish supplies dwindle and overseas markets for dogfish decline.

A letter was submitted to the Deputy Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of USDA, requesting the Section 32 commodity purchase of spiny dogfish in response to the New England groundfish disaster and continuing degeneration of overseas dogfish markets. The second letter was submitted to the entire New England delegation, seeking their support for this collaborative industry request. The list of industry supporters includes:

  • Associated Fisheries of Maine
  • Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Association
  • Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association (now the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance)
  • Eastern Fisheries Inc.
  • Maine Lobstermen’s Association
  • Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association
  • Marder Trawling Inc.
  • Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association
  • Northeast Seafood Coalition
  • Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association
  • Seatrade International Co. Inc.
  • Sustainable Fisheries Association
  • Zeus Packing Inc.

In response to the action, Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA) and his staff helped secure the support of the entire New England delegation to submit a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture requesting the support of USDA for this innovative solution to a fisheries crisis.

Congressman Keating was also successful in getting an amendment included the Farm Bill that directed the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct an economic study of the existing market in the U.S. for spiny dogfish.  Unfortunately the bill did not make it out of Congress; however, the Congressman will continue to push for similar opportunities to raise this issue.

In addition, the Northeast Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries (John Bullard) has been informed of the progress of this work and is offering his support. The coalition is looking to him to secure support from the Department of Commerce.

After submitting the letter, the USDA reached out to NEFU affiliate members the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance requesting a call to further discuss spiny dogfish.  They participated in that call earlier this week.  By all accounts, this preliminary conversation was a success – AMS is very interested in continuing this spiny dogfish conversation and becoming educated on the economics of the fishery, processing, and existing markets.  It sounds like they want to make this work, and will work with us to create a roadmap for purchase.

It is going to be extremely important that we work together to provide the USDA with the information they need to move forward towards a purchasing request. This long-term work will rely on continued investment and collaboration from fishermen, processors, managers, other experts, and political leadership. NEFU supports the work of these fisheries organizations and congratulates them on this success!

Please consider contacting Congressman Keating’s office and thanking the Congressman and his staff (Kerry O’Brien) for their leadership on this important issue.

Kerry O’Brien
Legislative Assistant
Congressman William R. Keating (MA-9)
315 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Office: 202.225.3111

This victory was highlighted on Saving Seafood on July 1:



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