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June 4, 2011

Fish council seat goes to Cape Cod executive

A leader of a controversial Cape Cod commercial fishing organization has been named to a seat on the New England Fisheries Management Council — taking over for the same group's CEO, who has served as chairman despite questions from fishermen and industry supporters over alleged conflicts of interest.

Thomas D. Dempsey is one of two from Massachusetts named to at-large council seats by the federal Department of Commerce this week, and one of four appointments made to the New England Fishery Management Council. Commerce officials, in all, named 21 members to councils across the nation.

Dempsey, policy director for the Cape Cod Hook Fishermen's Association and an assistant director for the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust, had topped the list of three nominees for the panel submitted to outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke by Gov. Deval Patrick in March.

With the appointment, Dempsey will take the seat of John Pappalardo, who had previously served as the Cape Cod group's policy director and is now its CEO while serving as the New England council's chairman.

By selecting Dempsey, the Commerce secretary — like Patrick — chose him ahead of Stephen P. Welch, a commercial fisherman from the South Shore who lands his catch in Gloucester and New Bedford.

Welch had been the candidate nominated by the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, which has clashed with the Cape Cod Hook Fishermen's Association for years based on the environmental alliances and advocacy for reduced fishing and limited gear goals endorsed by the Cape Cod group and its environmental allies.

No candidates from Gloucester were included in the nomination process; America's oldest fishing port was last represented on the New England council by Vito Calomo, who stepped down after serving his final term in 2001.

In announcing the appointments of all of the new councilors, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration fisheries chief Eric Schwaab hailed the selections, which include both returning and new members.

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