Gloucester’s fishing and waterfront communities received some good news on several fronts this past week.
First came the news that Massachusetts’ maritime economy grew faster than the state’s economy as a whole from 2005 to 2015.
The analysis, done by by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Public Policy Center, said the segments of the maritime economy that performed best over the prescribed decade include tourism and recreation — the largest employer, though a smaller contributor to wages and GSP — and marine transportation and technology — which accounts for only 13 percent of employment but 35 percent of the maritime economy’s total wages.
Those are segments Gloucester is and should continue working to build upon.
The city’s new harbormaster and assistant harbormaster are working to find more transitional mooring for tourists arriving by boat and setting up best protocols and seasonal boating pricing.
It is also considering setting up visitors center downtown. The center, which would be on the second-floor of the American Legion Hall on Washington Street,would serve visitors who may not get to the city’s main visitors center in Stage Fort Park.
Gloucester was also recently awarded nearly $3 million in Massachusetts Life Sciences Center state grants to the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute, Gloucester High School and O’Maley Innovation Middle School.
The $2.7 million grant to GMGI, according to institute Chairwoman Michele May, is being used to help build and equip the research laboratory GMGI plans for the Gloucester waterfront. A research lab is the next step, following the successful opening of its Gloucester Biotechnology Academy, in GMGI’s strategy to create a biotech hub on Cape Ann and help train the workforce to staff it.
The news wasn’t nearly as positive within the living resources sector of the maritime economy, which includes fish hatcheries, fishing, seafood markets and seafood processing.
The report also said Massachusetts exported $445 million worth of fish and other marine animals in 2015, and imported $2 billion of those same products.
“There’s an untapped market for eating our own fish,” said Michael Goodman, executive director of UMass Dartmouth’s Public Policy Center. “We import a lot of fish. It’s hard to know where your fish comes from.”
Gloucester knows about those declines, but is working hard to combat to them.
The administration of Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken has taken new economic development steps in promoting Gloucester’s seafood industry, creating partnerhips with restaurants, and continuing to laud Gloucester Fresh seafood at industry trade shows.
The analysis also showed dramatic declines in employment (5,717, down 13.4 percent) in the decade covered.
The workforce decline, according to the analysis is driven by “federal regulations that make it increasingly difficult for smaller fishing operations to operate profitably” resulting in consolidations around larger fishing operations with economies of scale.
And that’s were some more good news came in.
On Saturday, Congressman Seth Moulton of Salem was in Gloucester to announce the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, which he believes will help rebuild the industry’s dwindling workforce by removing training and economic barriers to cultivate a new generation of fishermen.
The legislation would create grants, which would flow to the administering organizations, who would design and create the programs at the local level.
Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association and a board member of the Fishing Partnership Support services organization, and Vito Giacalone, executive director of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, said their organizations strongly support the legislation and envision their potential participation as administering organizations.
“No question we’re interested,” Giacalone told reporter Sean Horgan. “We’ve been planning to do something similar with or without the grants. The reason to have permit banks is to retain the long-term permit access within the port. But what’s the sense of having permits if you don’t have people that are able to buy boats or start their own fishing businesses?”