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October 31, 2012

Sandy stalls out fishermen

As it curled relentlessly up the Mid-Atlantic and New England Coasts, Hurricane and then Post-Tropical Storm Sandy struck the fishing industry in multiple ways, which together brought short-term paralysis.

The elements of the markets of the industry all but stopped Monday and Tuesday and into today.

A couple of boats working Georges Bank beat the storm into Nantucket, and rode it out there before setting out for the New Bedford markets, said Richie Canastra, co-owner of BASE New England, which operates auction markets in New Bedford, Gloucester and Boston.

But the industry, already weighted with miniscule allocations and a catch share trading system that continues to steer equity into the industry’s largest and deepest hands, and with an economic disaster declared by the government in September, is expected to return to pre-storm normal by the end of the week, according to the projections of major buyers.

Physical damage was not widespread due to forecasts and due diligence born of waterfront experience. But in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Agger Fish Co., a major broker and exporter, suffered an electrical meltdown from the enormous storm surge up the East River.

The repair and replacement of cooling systems could take “two to three” weeks and cost the company $1-2 million in lost business transactions, said Mark Agger, CEO and owner of the company in the Navy Yard industrial redevelopment.

The storm surge up the East River and other south facing rivers along the coast was unprecedented, according to the National Weather Service. Agger estimated the surge through the former Navy yard was at least 10 feet and came with a high tide Monday night.

”First it’s the government, now Mother Nature,” said Agger, who has been a leader of East Coast industry resistance to excessive law enforcement and regulatory policies.

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