Sanfilippo resigns from fisheries commission

Desi Smith/File photoGus Sanfilippo, who captained the F/V Lily Jean and is fishing again on the Miss Trish, has resigned from the state’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission because of a lack of time.

Longtime Gloucester fisherman Gus Sanfilippo has resigned from the state’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission, leaving Arthur “Sooky” Sawyer as the only Gloucester resident on the commission.

Sanfilippo, appointed to the commission in May 2016 as part of Gov. Charlie Baker’s wholesale purge of existing commission members, said he resigned so he could spend more time fishing.

“I just didn’t have the time now that I’m back fishing again,” said Sanfilippo, who has been working on the fishing vessel Miss Trish. “I found it really interesting, but it was really just a matter of not having the time.”

Sanfilippo said his time on the commission gave him a greater appreciation for the complexities of the state’s varied fisheries and the overall performance of the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries.

“It’s something I’d definitely do again if I have the time,” he said.

Sanfilippo hails from an established Gloucester fishing family and skippered the 80-foot F/V Lily Jean on the History Channel’s 2012 fishing mini-series, “Nor’easter Men,’ a three-hour documentary that focused on draggers from several New England ports.

Sanfilippo’s term was set to expire Aug. 23, 2018. A spokeswoman for the commission said the process for replacing him is ongoing.

The nine-member commission met last Thursday in Westborough. The first meeting of the new year is scheduled for Jan. 25.

Sanfilippo’s resignation leaves Sawyer, who also serves as president of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, as the solitary Gloucester resident on the commission — though member Louis D. Williams, who resides in Salem, lists Gloucester as his principal port for lobstering.

Sawyer was appointed to the commission a year ago to replace Bill Adler, who survived the initial Baker purge but was not reappointed by the governor after Adler’s term expired in October 2016.

Sanfilippo was one of seven new members appointed to the commission after Baker decided on wholesale changes in the membership of the commission, which is tasked with the responsibility of advising the administration on fishing and marine issues.

In an action criticized by outgoing members as “political tampering,” Baker declined to re-appoint seven standing members — including Gloucester’s Vito Calomo — in May 2016 and filled those seats with new members. Many of the outgoing commission members claimed their exodus was part of political retribution for voting in July 2015 to block the appointment of former NOAA Fisheries staffer Doug Cristel as the successor to Paul Diodati as DMF director.

That position ultimately went to David Pierce, a longtime deputy director at DMF.

Baker administration officials denied that the motives for the changes were political.

“We saw this as an opportunity to revitalize the commission and we did it all at once because just about everyone on the commission was on holdover status,” Secretary for the Environment Daniel Sieger said at the time.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.

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