GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 10, 2014

Report spotlights fishing's fast fall

A report commissioned by the city Fisheries Commission shows that, as of a month ago, 210 commercial fishing vessels berth at docks and wharves in Gloucester’s Inner Harbor and 38 percent of those utilize publicly-owned facilities.

But that’s not all it shows. The report, compiled by the Urban Harbor Institute at UMass-Boston, also offers a glimpse of how quickly things can change as the city and the region experience the throes of the ongoing commercial fishing crisis.

The first draft of the report was completed last spring. Between then and late February, when the Fisheries Commission received the final report, the roll of vessels docking at the 77 waterfront properties in the city’s Designated Port Area declined by at least 12-15 boats.

Also during that period, the 56-berth Jodrey Fish Pier went from having a waiting list of eight vessels to an availability of five slips, according to the report’s findings.

MassDevelopment, which operates the Jodrey State Fish Pier, disputed those numbers. Spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese said the State Fish Pier still has a waiting list of 11 vessels despite two open berths each able to accommodate 100-foot vessels.

“None of the vessels on the waiting list are looking for a berth that size,” Abbruzzese said.

That discrepancy aside, the fishing crisis, now entering its third full season, is a picture of flux and uncertainty, where the bad news seems to be snowballing with accelerating momentum.

“If there’s one thing about the report that surprised me, it’s the speed in which things can change,” said Fisheries Commission Chairman Mark Ring. “That did surprise me.”

That’s one reason that Jack Wiggins, president of the Urban Harbor Institute, calls the report a “snapshot in time.”

Wiggins said the fluid nature of the fishing crisis, with boats being sold and otherwise leaving the fleet while others — mostly lobster boats — make their way in, makes it difficult to determine the current demand and the future needs for dockage.

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