AUGUSTA (AP) — Maine’s congressional delegation is welcoming a decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce declaring a disaster for the New England multispecies groundfishery for the 2013 fishing year.

A statement by Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree says they’re encouraged by the disaster declaration, which acknowledges that Maine’s fishermen are facing new and unprecedented challenges.

The decision enables Congress to appropriate funds to assist Maine’s fishermen, as the fishery is not recovering as quickly as expected despite the industry’s compliance with rigorous fishing limitations. Gov. Paul LePage requested the disaster declaration last November.

The delegation’s statement says the declaration is a first step in a long effort to rebuild one of the nation’s first industries.

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