BOSTON — The winner of Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. Senate will face a number of issues, but perhaps none tougher than representing a diminished and dispirited Massachusetts fishing fleet in the midst of an industry crisis and a federally recognized “economic disaster.”
Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez and Democrat U.S. Rep. Edward Markey both say they’ll be the better friend to fishermen. But both have backgrounds that give fishermen cause for skepticism.
Gomez is a political newcomer and admittedly unfamiliar with the industry.
Markey is a favorite of environmental groups that have pushed policies that have spurred cuts of up to 78 percent in this year’s allowable catch of Gulf of Maine cod. Markey is also on record as opposed to adding reforms and new flexibility to the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act many fishermen say they desperately need, and he has supported President Obama’s so-called “ocean zoning” proposal that fishermen fear will bring additional area closures to an industry pressing hard for more openings.
Gloucester fisherman Russell Sherman said he distrusts Markey because of his close ties to environmental groups that have fought to restrict the catch in order to conserve fish. The groups have supported Markey for his vigorous advocacy against climate change, among other causes.
Sherman noted a recent Markey fundraiser was hosted by Monica Medina, a former Pew Environment Group officer who led a federal task force on changing to a new fisheries management system that Sherman said has been disastrous for the industry.
“(Markey) is beholden to the heavy-duty environmentalists,” Sherman said. “He isn’t going to help us one iota.”
But Gloucester state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, an attorney who’s represented fishermen in lawsuits against regulators, said she believes Markey is fair-minded and won’t reflexively support environmental groups, or anyone else.