The crisis facing the Massachusetts and New Engand fishing industry wasn’t a focal point of the second debate between U.S. Senate hopefuls Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Edward Markey in Springfield Tuesday night, but the two men vying for the seat previously held by John Kerry staked out their fishery stands in the hours prior to the event.
In a question-and-answer session with the State House News Service, both candidates staked out claims to support the state’s fishermen, but from different angles.
“I stand with the Attorney General (Martha Coakley) for standing up for these fishermen and suing regulators in Washington who think they know or care more about the ocean than the fishermen who make their lives from it,” said Gomez, referring to Coakley’s lawsuit that aims to put a halt to new catch limit cuts that are crippling the industry.
“I’ve sat with the fishermen in New Bedford and Gloucester,” he said. “They described how their way of life is being threatened and drastic catch limits being imposed by NOAA will bankrupt a proud livelihood that has been a part of our coastal economy since before there was a Massachusetts.
“This program currently relies on flawed science and overreaching regulations that don’t account for the regional economic impact,” Gomez added. “Local fishermen don’t want welfare, they want to be allowed to work.”
Markey also acknowledged that “Massachusetts fishermen and their families are hurting right now.”
“I recently sat down with fishermen in Gloucester, and they told me how they need more help. I’ve heard that in New Bedford, on the Cape, and around the fishing communities of Massachusetts,” he said.
But Markey, who has drawn fire from fishermen and some of their backers for opposing new flexibility in the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act and for his support of so-called ocean zoning that could lead to more closed fishing areas, targeted the need for financial aid.