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(WASHINGTON, DC) – The U.S. Senate recently approved an amendment to provide $500,000 to allow the buy-back program for groundfish industry to continue. Senator Murray joined other Senators in offering the amendment, which will keep the West Coast vessel and permit buy-back program afloat.

"Washington fishermen and coastal communities have been suffering for years because of the dramatic decline in West Coast groundfish," Senator Murray said.

"The prospect of closing the entire continental shelf to fishing next year would force even more people out of the industry. This $500,000 appropriation will allow the buy-back program to move forward -- vessels will be scrapped and permits retired. As a result, vessel owners who want to leave the business will at least get some compensation instead of just going bankrupt, and their boats won't end up in other fisheries, such as the shrimp or Dungeness crab fisheries."

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council determined in its Strategic Plan for groundfish that a buy-back program was the number one priority.

The commercial fishing industry will take out a loan from the federal government of $50 million, which will be used to permanently remove fishing vessels and permits. The amendment appropriated the $500,000 necessary to offset loan defaults, which are estimated to be 1 percent of the total loan.

Senator Murray added, "While we still need to do more to respond to the crisis, such as increase funding for observers and for cooperative research, this funding is an important step forward for the West Coast."

In January of 2000, former Secretary of Commerce Daley declared a commercial fisheries failure for West Coast groundfish.

There are about 250 boats that land groundfish in Washington state. In 1999, the ex-vessel value of the groundfish catch in Washington state was $9.64 million. This estimate does not include the economic value of other fishing-related businesses, such as fish processors, boat and gear shops and recreational fishing operations.

In 2000, Senator Murray worked with other senators to secure $5 million in emergency funding for the West Coast groundfish disaster.