As local fishermen navigate the rocky waves of an economic crisis in their industry, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey made a visit to Cape Ann to assure them and other that he will work hard to help steady the boat. 

The senator joined Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, City Councilor Jen Holmgren, and a host of other Cape Ann residents at Maritime Gloucester on Sunday during his “Leads and Delivers” Bus Tour to discuss the hardships that fishermen are facing and how local and state aid could help. 

Markey is locked in a battle to keep his seat with U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III for the Democratic senate primary election.

Early Friday morning, Kennedy will be on the docks to talk fishermen about his plans to help and why he may be a better choice than Markey to represent them in the Senate. 

The 5 a.m. stop will be last the congressman will make in a 24-hour stump across the state, which began with an early Thursday morning meeting with New Bedford fishermen. In between, Kennedy planned to hit Fall River, Taunton, Brockton, Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Peabody, Worcester, Springfield, Richmond and Chelmsford, documenting his visits on social media and making additional stops along the way.

Markey’s visit Sunday had a unique start as he began the event by giving an elbow bump to attendees, “air” twirling the mayor, and side stepping to Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”

“You’ve got some moves,” someone in attendance yelled. 

But when music eventually died down and the crowd went quiet, the politician got down to business. 

“We all know that the fishing industry in Gloucester is woven into the fabric of the community and the economy,” Markey said. “That is why we have worked hard to promote Gloucester’s seafood and make sure that our fishing industry continues to attract future generations of fishermen and women and that we care for the families that have made this industry their way of life.”

His efforts to support fishing communities such as Gloucester include joining with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to call for an additional $500 million in fisheries assistance for Massachusetts in the next round of COVID-19 pandemic relief. 

Markey stressed that this funding is necessary to ensure that Massachusetts fishermen have the assistance to “weather this storm.”

Gloucester Fisheries Director Al Cottone, a longtime Gloucester fisherman, extended his gratitude to Markey for securing unemployment benefits for fishermen during the pandemic and explained that the industry is facing a “very tough hill to climb.”

“It is making the fishing community whole during this crisis,”  he said.

The two also discussed Groundfish Monitoring Amendment 23, which Cottone says “has the capability of bankrupting the whole fleet, specifically family-owned, small vessels.”

The rule requires fishermen to take monitors on board to document discards which are counted toward fish stock assessments. The problem, Cottone said, is that funding for monitoring the catch can put a strain on fishermen.

“We are looking forward to working with the senator on that,” Cottone said, adding fishermen are looking for a “just and equitable solution” that would keep local businesses afloat. 

Local officials expressed their appreciation of Markey’s work and his background as helpful when assisting cities such as Gloucester.

“Ed is not a stranger to hard work,” Holmgren said. “He is a real person from a working class family.”

She said that for more than 40 years, the senator has worked for the people in Massachusetts by lending a helping hand and having the difficult conversations in order to see a change. 

That includes a long-time partnership with Romeo Theken on projects such as the Gloucester Police Department’s ground-breaking Angel Program that helps addicts get into treatment and avoid jail time, and securing funding to dredge the Gloucester Harbor and Annisquam River. 

Markey also helped secure $28 million in disaster relief for fisheries assistance in the federal CARES Act. 

“Senator Ed Markey does listen, and he does produce,” Romeo Theken said on Sunday. “We wouldn’t be here today with all the programs we have unless we had good representation in Washington, and I want to keep to that.”

Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

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