By Richard Gaines
---- — The city is sponsoring an all-day “solutions workshop” today with an eye toward sketching out options for the future for what once was the nation’s greatest fishing port, but now faces catastrophic cutbacks for the new fishing year beginning next Wednesday.
The workshop begins with remarks by Mayor Carolyn Kirk at 9 a.m. at the Gloucester House Restaurant, followed by an overview of the efforts to convince the federal government to allow a second year of interim catch limits, and an easing of the dire May 1 cuts that many see threatening the groundfishing industry that remains rooted in Gloucester.
The regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, John Bullard, has said he would not grant the relief — which for the ending year required only a 22 percent cut in Gulf of Maine cod landings, the primary stock harvested by the fleet of mostly day boats operating from the port.
A 77 percent cut — effectively eliminating the landing of inshore cod as anything but a by-catch fishery — is expected to appear in the Federal Register at any time for the new year that begins Wednesday. Bullard said he has been deluged with pleas for relief, but he reiterated at the New England Fishery Management Council meeting that ended on Thursday in Mystic, Conn., that he would resist even President Obama, whom he said he had not yet heard from.
Kirk said in a prepared statement that the goal of today’s forum is to “craft a comprehensive package of solutions for funding and implementation, which address the impacts of the groundfish cuts and that will be submitted to the Commonwealth’s Division of Marine Fisheries, the U.S Commerce Department through its agencies NOAA and National Marine Fisheries Service and our federal delegation.”
While the workshops and program are geared toward both long-term and short-term issues, state Rep. Ann Margaret-Ferrante, who expects to attend a portion of the forum, said the community needs to speak with a united voice and drive home a unified point.
“If we don’t have the interim rule, that jeopardizes the future of our fishing industry in and of itself,” she said Thursday.
After Vito Giacalone today reviews the status of the lobbying for a second interim year of lesser cuts, a series of workshops will be held beginning at 9:30 a.m. These will take place simultaneously on the following topics: fishing boats, shore-side services and support, fresh fish handlers, research and vision and plan for fishing’s future.
Giacalone is leader of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, a permit bank that has helped insulate the local boats from reduced landing allowances by leasing catching rights from permits acquired with $12 million in a state grant as mitigation for the construction of liquefied natural gas terminals just off the coast. Giacalone is also a board member of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, the region’s largest industry group. Both organizations were sparked by former Mayor John Bell.
Giacalone is also an active groundfisherman and widely considered a visionary in an industry subject to acute changes and models of commerce.
The simultaneous workshops will resume after lunch and conclude with reports from the workshops and a general discussion on next steps, ending at 3 p.m.
Gloucester was the nation’s first fishing port, and was settled albeit temporarily in 1623 by a crew from Dorchester, England, hoping to use the peninsula as a base of operations.
By the late 17th century, a true fishing industry was operating out of the port, which had the unique geographical advantage among ports on the Gulf of Maine of having a southerly mouth which provided protection from nor’easters and the natural contours of a great harbor. By the years before the Civil War, Gloucester was the nation’s great port for fishing and it has remained the only port that has not significantly diversified, thus putting much faith in the recovery of the Northwest Atlantic stocks which increasingly seem to be involved in profound changes in life patterns driven by warming waters.
At this week’s New England regional council meeting in Mystic, the policy making and advisory arm of NOAA approved a series of motions that together formally acknowledged that climate regime change was underway, and the panel committed to managing the Northwest Atlantic as a complex ecosystem rather than a series of individual stocks.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.