An airing of grievances and an airing of fears rained down on U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren Tuesday in her first meeting with the fishing community since she took office last month.
The grievances were those of business people, descendants of the nation’s earliest industry, who in one form of another had made their way harvesting the sea, but now find themselves trapped by government edicts and policy said to be posing as biology, according to Vito Giacalone, the local port’s best known and connected leader.
The fears were those of a community poised to lose it all in the weeks to come, when new controls on the harvesting of the sea take effect May 1, and families find there is no one left from whom to borrow when second mortgages and personal loans come due.
There was a poignancy in the life-collapsing stories told by one fisherman after another with little reticence because, in the ever-smaller circle of the Gloucester fishing fleet and associated supporters, pulled and pushed without notice by government regulators, most everyone knew most everyone else’s sad tale.
Setting the coordinates of the catastrophe were a handful of fishermen. Al Cattone said that, once the 77 percent cut in cod, voted by the New England Fishery Management Council last month, takes effect May 1, he would have about 3,000 pounds to himself for the entire year — less than 10 percent of what he took out three years ago.
Joe Orlando said his allocation would collapse from 108,000 pounds of cod to 17,000. And Don King, who fishes near shore with a state permit, added that the commonwealth has allocated only 122,000 pounds for the entire fleet of state permitted boats, 21 full-timers and 40 more part-timers.
“My payments are $1,000 a week, and I can fish four months in the year,” he said.