GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Fishing Industry Stories

October 22, 2012

Spear fish bill gets mixed reaction

A bill that has passed the state’s House of representatives and would allow recreational spearfishing for striped bass is getting diverse reactions — with support and opposition from what might be seen as surprising sources.

State Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante are among the co-sponsors of legislation, which has passed the House and is now before the Senate. The bill, with Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, as primary sponsor, would create a new form of hunting the signature inshore game fish for New England and the mid-Atlantic states.

Dave Stillman, who owns the Cape Ann Divers dive store at Eastern Avenue Plaza in Gloucester, is dubious about the idea of spearfishing for stripers, and says he does not believe it will help his business.

”I don’t take fish out of the water; I’d prefer to watch them, rather than kill them,” he said in a telephone interview Friday, adding that he does not sell spear guns.

Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, was more overtly opposed.

”No nets, no spears, do it with hook and line, end of story,” said Adler.

But two celebrated Gloucester fishermen, Al Williams, one of the cape’s premier recreational and commercial striper fishermen, and Mark Godfried, an industry consultant and retired fisherman, gave qualified support to the idea.

“Spearfishing is done in other states (New Hampshire and Rhode Island),” said Williams. “The technique is somewhat defensible. It’s not as blind as the normal hook and line method of fishing for stripers. the problem is the intermingling with other fishermen,” not to mention lobstermen.

The law in Massachusetts gives divers a 100-foot clearance from boats, based on the location of the divers’ flag; this protection has been contentious when divers were in the vicinity of lobster traps, and kept working boats from working.

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