GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 17, 2012

Washington fish rally: many locals sitting out

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

Despite the cod crisis and the tenuous state of the region's commercial and recreational industries — or perhaps because of the weighty problems — Gloucester is not expected to be heavily represented at the second bicoastal "Keep Fishermen Fishing" rally Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

As it was for the first rally, held in late winter 2010, Upper Senate Park is expected to fill with thousands from New York, the Southeast, Gulf Coast ports, and even the West Coast and Alaska in a noon event that fits snuggly into the federal election cycle.

A chartered bus has been arranged by the American Association of Fishermen and their Families to leave from the Waterfront Grill in New Bedford at 2 a.m. Wednesday, stopping to pick up riders in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Four buses are coming from locations in New Jersey. Other charters will originate in Panama City, Fla; Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, S.C.; Montauk and Brooklyn, N.Y.; Nags Head. N.C.; and Savannah, Ga.

Among the Gloucester community and industry leaders planning to attend are Mayor Carolyn Kirk, Vito Gicalone and Monte Rome. A commercial fisherman, Giacalone is president of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund and an officer of the Northeast Seafood Coalition. Rome is a principal of the seafood buyer and distributor, Intershell International Inc.

The 2010 congregation, an unprecedented mix of recreational and commercial interests, was estimated to mix and merge about 5,000 participants, who seemed, on balance, to get an enjoyable charge from their shared aggravation at federal policies, personified by NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco

Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, which has been lead organizer for both events, said an essential purpose — to expand the congressional coalition behind writing flexibility into the Magnuson-Stevens Act — is driving the effort.

More than two dozen members of Congress — this year including U.S. Sen. John Kerry — are expected to speak.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who was newly sworn in at the time of the first rally, is also scheduled, as are Congressmen John Tierney and Barney Frank. Brown, a Republican, and Democrats Tierney and Frank have urged the president to dismiss Lubchenco.

Mayor Kirk, who is traveling to the rally with David Bergeron, chairman of the Gloucester Fisheries Commission, said, "Our purpose is to reinforce the need for interim action on the cod crisis, reiterate the call for flexibility in Magnuson, and to call NOAA science into question."

In a telephone interview, Giacalone speculated that many fishermen were undecided about attending due to the waning of the fishing year and the need to keep working.

But Joe Orlando, a coalition board member and commercial fisherman, said the few fishermen with whom he discussed the rally told him, "they couldn't afford to go."

Orlando said he wasn't going because he felt no need to.

"We have an organization (the Northeast Seafood Coalition) that's fighting for us every single day," he said.

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or rgaines@gloucestertimes.com.

If you go

To reserve a seat on the bus from New Bedford to the D.C. rally, contact Tina Jackson at 401-837-6932 or tinajaafc@gmail.com. Reservations are $30 a seat. The Northeast Seafood Coalition has pledged to reimburse its members' bus costs.

The bus will leave the Waterfront Grill in New Bedford at 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Visit keepfishermenfishing.com for the itinerary and facts about the event.