US to spend $ 25 million to distribute east coast fish to nutrition programs

The federal government will spend $ 25 million on East Coast fish to support nutrition assistance programs and help New England’s struggling commercial fishing industry.

The US Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday it would proceed with the purchase of Atlantic groundfish. These are a group of species such as cod, haddock, and pollock that come to the docks in states like Massachusetts and Maine and are popular at seafood markets and restaurants.

The purchase came after members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation called on the USDA to purchase more seafood from the east coast through its food distribution programs for residents in need. The purchase will help fill pantries and boost an east coast seafood industry still grappling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, delegation members said.

USDA “continues to support the Atlantic seafood industry, as we have urged to do, after our contributions have been overlooked for too long in federal purchases,” Democrats said. Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Democratic Representatives William Keating and Seth Moulton in a statement.

The New England ground fishing industry is one of the oldest trading enterprises in the United States. The USDA buyout comes as the industry is reeling from a series of shocks that have threatened its viability.

American fishermen fished over 100 million pounds of cod per year in the 1980s. Catches were less than 2 million pounds in total last year. Fisheries managers attributed the decline to overfishing and environmental conditions.

Fishing industry managers have also recommended reducing cod catch limits which have already been reduced in recent years. The New England Fisheries Management Regulatory Board said this month it had called for a reduction in the commercial catch of Georges Bank cod from about 2.4 million pounds to about 540,000 pounds per next year. Georges Bank is a key fishing area off New England.

The poor condition of the cod stock resulted in “a sharp reduction from previous catch limits,” the council said in a statement.

The USDA did not respond to a request for comment on the purchase of groundfish.

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