Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s “bridge plan” for modernizing and retooling America’s oldest fishing port was never presented for comment or criticism to the city’s own Fisheries Commission she created to advise her on fisheries issues, or to the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, the region’s largest and most influential industry group.
”Individual elements were distributed,” said Harbor Planning Director Sarah Garcia in a telephone interview Thursday. “The final one was not sent out.”
The plan was cobbled together and released in a five-point proposal last Friday by harbor and waterfront activist Valerie Nelson and Garcia from ideas generated from a workshop they organized in April, attended by a cross section of industry stakeholders.
Nelson has also traveled to Washington to lobby for support for the plan which is a work in progress, according to the mayor.
With more than 250 members, the seafood coalition, founded in 2002, represents more than half the boats in the Northeast . And, through its registered lobbyist Glenn Delaney, has for many years been active in lobbying Congress, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its science policy advisory arm, the New England Fishery Management Council.
The recent organization of the Nelson-Garcia solutions workshop and subsequent lobbying effort behind the evolving proposal has befuddled and in some cases angered fishermen, the coalition and political leaders.
Among the ideas cited in the “bridge plan” that struck the industry and its allies as especially troublesome were these two:
To “retool the industry through investments in sustainable, innovative businesses”; and, to “shift from a high volume, low-value fisheries to a high-value, low-volume fisheries with a lighter economic footprint.”
Gloucester has been the primary port for landings of groundfish from the Northwest Atlantic since the 17th century, and due to the volume of fish landed by boats working Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, it remains the only port in the region that has refused to diversify and continues to process the bulk of landings from boats home ported in Maine and along Massachusetts Bay.