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  •   Gore Offers $5 Million Aid Package to Fishermen

    Al Gore, AP
    Vice President Gore inspects the contents of his plankton tow mesh net collector Thursday in Boston Harbor. (AP)
    By Ceci Connolly
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, September 3, 1999; Page A6

    BOSTON, Sept. 2—Vice President Gore, opening a critical month of campaigning and fund-raising, wooed frustrated local fishermen today with $5 million in much-needed federal relief.

    He also announced that the United States is expanding its coastal enforcement zone to 24 nautical miles, double the 12-mile area now patrolled by the Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Administration and immigration officials. The move is aimed at cracking down on foreign drug trafficking, illegal immigration and polluters operating near the U.S. shore.

    Accompanied by a group of teenagers, Gore rode across the Boston Harbor aboard the research vessel Voyager III. Floating within yards of former president George Bush's blistering 1988 attack on then-Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and the polluted harbor, Gore remarked on the strides made in the decade since. "People said we couldn't clean up this harbor, but we did," he said.

    The coming weeks present a critical challenge for Gore, who has been struggling to overcome organizational difficulties, low poll numbers and a lack of enthusiasm among many party activists. A new team of consultants--led by former tobacco adviser Carter Eskew and veteran wordsmith Bob Shrum--has been quietly honing his message. At the heart of that appeal is a two-pronged theme: keeping the current prosperity for those already benefiting and extending it to those left behind.

    Gore, long known as an ardent environmentalist, attempted to refine that image today with a more economically oriented appeal. The ocean, he proclaimed, "is not just part of the environment, but the engine of our economy."

    The $5 million in disaster relief provides fishermen up to $1,500 for each day last spring that their fishing grounds were closed as part of a massive effort to replenish the region's codfish. In return, eligible fishermen must agree to help researchers monitor fishing stocks in the Gulf of Maine.

    "For too long, we acted as if the ocean's resources were infinite, and we must help those who are now paying the price," Gore said in brief remarks.

    The aid came as welcome relief to the New England fishing industry. Local fishermen have struggled under tough restrictions aimed at revitalizing the once-plentiful fishing stock. Last winter, fishermen suffered another blow when regulators adopted a 100-pound limit on cod catches.

    Officials said the program announced by Gore was the first time the federal government had specifically targeted about 750 smaller fishing boats trolling the coast that stretches from Massachusetts to the Canadian border.

    "No [environmental] plan is worth anything unless it protects these working families who depend on the healthy ocean and healthy [fishing] stocks for their future," Gore said under a tent at the New England Aquarium.

    As the summer concludes, Gore and the other presidential candidates are stepping up the pace of campaigning. The vice president plans to be on the road for 21 of the 30 days in September, often raising money. Most of those trips will be paid for by his campaign, but because today's trip was deemed "official business," it was paid for by taxpayers.

    "The fall certainly marks the beginning of a new chapter," said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane. "We're in a great position to really engage the public about the type of change we want to bring to help working families."

    This Labor Day weekend, Gore will participate in several events with union members. On Friday in Chicago, he will speak to female labor leaders. On Sunday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney will accompany Gore to Detroit for a rally and then to Iowa, home to January's first presidential caucuses.

    Late today, Gore and his staff began preparing for his next major policy address, to be delivered during a California swing next week. Already, Gore has given policy-oriented speeches on education, tax policy and the use of religious groups to help address a range of social problems.

    And when New Jersey Democrat and former NBA star Bill Bradley formally announces his candidacy next week, the Gore team will be ready. Both the vice president and his wife, Tipper, plan to travel to Iowa next week to join a 10-day effort to organize all 99 counties in that state.

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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