Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today that the fiscal year 2017 funding bill that was signed into law last week contains $6 million to initiate two grant programs to support safety for fishermen. Senator Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, championed the effort to ensure the Fishing Safety Training Grant Program and the Fishing Safety Research Grant Program receive funding. For the first time, these competitive grants will expand access to training resources for fishermen in Maine and other coastal states as well as support research on technologies and tools that will enhance safety.
Last year, Senator Collins led a bipartisan letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, urging them to provide $3 million each for the Fishing Safety Training Grant Program and the Fishing Safety Research Grant Program. Established under the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, these programs will help provide members of the fishing industry with safety and survival training.
In her letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins noted the importance of fully funding these programs to help vessel operators comply with new safety requirements and protect commercial fishermen. In addition to preserving countless lives, these safety programs will save taxpayers money by avoiding the need for costly search and rescue operations.
“Safety and survival training is of the utmost importance to fishermen, who work in the deadliest occupation in America,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that these lifesaving and cost-effective programs for which I strongly advocated have been fully funded. These critical initiatives will help protect thousands of hardworking Mainers who earn a living in the fishing industry.”
“Most fishermen in this country have been facing risks that have not been tolerated in our land-based industries for generations. The demand for our Maine safety trainings has exceeded our capacity to provide services for the last several years. This program will dramatically change the U.S. fishing industry for the better,” said J.J. Bartlett, president of Fishing Partnership Support Services, a non-profit representing 20,000 fishing families that conducts safety trainings for commercial fishermen throughout New England. “We know from working in Maine that Senator Collins is a true champion of Maine’s fishermen and of our fishing industry. We are tremendously grateful to her for what she has accomplished through this bill. This is a very big deal for fishermen everywhere.”
“We are extremely grateful to Senator Collins for her leadership on this issue,” said Patrice McCarron, Executive Director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “Commercial fishing is by far Maine’s deadliest industry. Access to safety training can truly make a difference in the life or death situations our fishermen face on the job. We need to do everything we can to make sure they return home to their families.”
Fishing Partnership Support Services, founded in 1997, is a non-profit with a charter to support the health and well-being of fishing families in New England. The organization connects members with a broad range of professional counseling services, provides assistance with health insurance applications, and offers safety and survival trainings and other special health-oriented events for fishing families.
The Maine Lobstermen’s Association, founded in 1954, represents 1,200 members and is currently the oldest and largest fishing industry association on the east coast.