Following a call by Massachusetts legislators to formally declare the New England fishery a disaster, Gov. Deval Patrick this week urged the federal government to take quick action to provide direct economic relief to Massachusetts commercial fishermen.

“The need for a disaster declaration is more critical than ever,” Governor Patrick wrote in a letter Monday to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank.

A preliminary report from the National Marine Fisheries Service is forecasting the need for dire cuts in catch limits for groundfish in 2013, possibly as deep as 70 per cent. Responding to that report, last week Massachusetts legislators called on the federal government for a disaster declaration for New England fishermen and fishing communities. The cod and yellowtail flounder fisheries are the most directly affected.

“Without this advance and proactive action, I fear for the viability of our fleet and the communities and shore-side businesses that depend on the industry,” Governor Patrick wrote to Secretary Blank. He asked the Commerce Secretary to use the powers she holds under the Magnuson-Stevenson Act to invoke a disaster declaration for the New England fishery.

“It is now clear that this resource disaster is not the fault of our fishermen who have been following the federal fisheries management plans,” the governor wrote. “Much as the federal government rightly comes to the aid of America’s farmers during times of crisis, so too must the federal government support fishermen, who are working hard to put nutritious food on the table of Americans during this crisis.”

In November 2010, Mr. Patrick asked the federal government for $21 million in relief for the state groundfish fleet. Though the request was denied, federal officials asked for more research.