Key Fishery, Fragile and Unique Ecosystem Must be Protected for New England Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) reintroduced his legislation to protect the fragile Georges Bank off the coast of Massachusetts from any oil or natural gas drilling, which could be potentially disastrous for the New England fishing industry.

"From the boats and wharfs to the markets and restaurants of New England, the unique habitat of Georges Bank is a key economic engine for Massachusetts and the region and an important part of our cultural heritage," Rep. Markey said. "In this economic crisis, the preservation of Georges Bank is vital to not just the environmental integrity of New England but also the stability of its economy."

"As President Obama and Congress pass crucial recovery legislation to create new American jobs, protecting Georges Bank will preserve hundreds of jobs here in Massachusetts. This fragile ecosystem must be protected for its environmental - and fiscal - value," Rep. Markey continued. "The legislation that I am introducing today with my New England colleagues will ensure that Georges Bank is never allowed to become Exxon's bank."

The Georges Bank Preservation Act would prohibit the federal government from allowing exploration, development, or production of oil or natural gas in Georges Bank. The legislation would also protect any areas designated as marine national monuments or national marine sanctuaries, such as the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Massachusetts. The language in the Georges Bank Preservation Act passed the House last year in an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 236-189 as part of H.R. 6899.

Georges Bank is vital to New England's economy and New Bedford, Mass. is by far the most productive fishing port in the United States, in terms of value of catch. New Bedford's $268 million catch in 2007 was nearly double the value of the second and third busiest U.S. fishing ports combined. The collective catch of New Bedford, Gloucester, and Provincetown-Chatham-all of which rely on Georges Bank-is worth nearly $350 million annually.

The bill is cosponsored by thirteen House Members - including twelve from the New England Delegation - Representatives Capuano, Delahunt, Frank, Hinchey, Hodes, Kennedy, Lynch, McGovern, Pingree, Shea-Porter, Tierney, Tsongas, and Welch.

The full text of the proposed legislation can be found here.

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February 2, 2009

CONTACT: Daniel Reilly (202) 225-2836