GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 4, 2008

No consensus on fishing aid; Meeting on $13.4-million aid plan draws packed room of questions

The state's director of marine fisheries said last night that he and his allies in Congress intend to reject the advice of federal fishing regulators and distribute nearly all of a $13.4 million emergency appropriation to groundfishermen harmed by federal restrictions.

"I don't think we'll be looking for middle ground," said the director, Paul Diodati.

Diodati was in Gloucester for the third of three nights of meetings with groundfishermen called to work out — if possible — a consensus on how the money should be distributed.

After 90 minutes of argument, reason, and analysis from about as many perspectives as there were speakers in the crowd, Diodati confessed he and his state government advising group had their hands full devising a distribution plan that could satisfy even most of the industry. The hearing drew about 80 fishermen to the Division of Marine Fisheries station on Emerson Avenue.

Diodati said afterward that the stew of ideas he'd just absorbed in Gloucester was fundamentally different from the mixes that emerged Tuesday in New Bedford and Wednesday in Plymouth.

"New Bedford has bigger boats and more crew, so there was sentiment for more (money) for the crews," Diodati said. "In Plymouth, we drew the Cape (Cod) folks who have smaller boats, and they didn't want any poundage filters.

"There's a much larger crowd here in the stronghold of groundfishermen," he continued, "and there was no consensus."

He declined to speculate on how the eligibility or allocation criteria for the money might read, but said he hoped to have a final draft ready for the agency's Web site by the end of work Wednesday for comments before it goes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The draft he took on the road this week is posted on the division Web site, www.mass.gov/dfwele/dmf/spotlight/groundfish_assistance.htm#spot

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