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June 6, 2005

Fishing Industry Experts Release Study to Aid Gloucester Harbor Planning Process

Shoreside Infrastructure Key to the Future of Commercial Fisheries in Gloucester

June 06, 2005 - Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a full service, regional hub port for the commercial fishing industry in New England, and is well positioned to develop into an important center for the rebuilt, sustainable commercial fisheries of the future. The decisions that Gloucester citizens and officials make today in planning for Gloucester harbor will do a lot to determine whether the port – America’s oldest commercial fishing port – will remain a hub for the industry in our region’s sustainable fisheries of the future.

These are some of the conclusions of a study released today – “Commercial Fishing Industry Depends on Gloucester Harbor, Now and in the Future” – by the Gloucester Community Panel. The Panel is a group of Gloucester fishing industry experts formed as part of the Community Panels Project, a pilot program developed by the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership. The members of the Gloucester Community Panel are captains and owners of commercial fishing vessels, and owners and operators of shore-side support businesses for the commercial fishing industry.

Currently Gloucester provides extensive support services to the New England commercial fishing fleet, and there is real potential for growth in this area. Beginning in 2003, the Gloucester Community Panel has been researching the shoreside infrastructure in Gloucester that supports – and, in the Panel’s words, “makes possible” – commercial fishing. Shoreside infrastructure includes everything from dockspace for commercial vessels, to commercial fishing gear shops, to fish buyers and processors. It is an essential part of the commercial fishing industry, but its characteristics and needs are rarely singled out for research and analysis.

Today’s report is being submitted to the City of Gloucester’s Harbor Committee, the group of citizens charged with making recommendations to the Mayor and City Council for Gloucester’s Harbor Plan and Designated Port Area Master plan.

Several of the main points made in the Panel’s report are:

1. Gloucester is a full service, regional hub port for the commercial fishing industry in New England. Vessels to the north and south of Gloucester come to Gloucester to land fish, buy gear, and pick up services. Some vessels come to Gloucester for a period of weeks or months to fish from Gloucester.

2. New England groundfish stocks are of major importance to the port of Gloucester, and they are rebuilding. Under federal regulations now in place – the “Amendment 13” regulations – groundfish stocks are projected to rebuild such that, by 2015, the fishery will support sustainable landings three times higher than 2003 landings. The report shows that during the years 1975-2003, Gloucester has landed an average of 17.9% of all the New England groundfish landed coastwide. Using this figure to project into the future, the report projects groundfish landings in Gloucester in 2015 of 53.5 million pounds, nearly 3 ˝ times the 2003 Gloucester groundfish landings.

3. Gloucester must prepare itself to be ready to participate in the rebuilt groundfishery of the future. Gloucester needs a diverse groundfish fleet, and to develop this diverse fleet, it needs the return of large (70-100 ft) vessels that can fish offshore stocks. The City should also recognize that, as a regional hub, Gloucester supports vessels from outside Gloucester – some that come to land fish here and some that come to fish from here – and it should be prepared to support this important component of the fishery. Further, the City should also recognize that much of the value of increased groundfish landings will be lost to Gloucester if fresh fish processing in the City does not increase.

4. The fishing industry in Gloucester depends on the shoreside infrastructure in Gloucester and simply cannot operate without it. This report, together with an earlier report of the Panel, “A Study of Gloucester’s Commercial Fishing Infrastructure,” details the infrastructure requirements of the industry.

5. The City and the Commonwealth should use the flexibility provided by Designated Port Area and Chapter 91 rules in creative ways, to enable the shoreside businesses that support the fishing industry to remain viable, so they can be there, over the long term, for the fishing industry. This is one of the major challenges for the current efforts to update the Harbor Plan and prepare a DPA Master plan. The report provides some specific suggestions for compatible uses, including restaurants, fresh fish markets, and facilities to enhance tourism, particularly for the many tourists who come to see a real working waterfront.

“A lot of people think the fishing industry in New England is dying,” said Sarah Robinson, coordinator of the Gloucester Community Panel, “but it’s not dying, it’s changing. And it’s changing profoundly. What people don’t seem to realize is that all the regulations governing the groundfish industry today are in place in order to rebuild the New England groundfishery to the point where it can sustainably land three times the amount of fish it lands today. Does Gloucester want to participate in that rebuilt, sustainable fishery of the future? That’s the question the members of the Gloucester Community Panel want the citizens and officials of Gloucester to think about as they make plans for the future of the Harbor. As the Panel’s work makes crystal clear, there can be no commercial fishing industry in Gloucester without the shoreside infrastructure to support it.”

Greg Ketchen, Gloucester’s Harbor Plan Implementation Coordinator, commented, “The work of the Gloucester Community Panel has been, and will continue to be, invaluable to our ongoing update of the Gloucester Harbor Plan. In preparing the update, we have relied on previous work of the Panel that identified the elements of a full service regional hub port for the commercial fishing industry, and we have mapped Gloucester’s existing commercial fishing infrastructure, as identified by the Panel. We expect the information in the Panel’s new report to be very helpful as well. Frankly, we expect the work of the Panel to form an integral part of the updated Harbor Plan and the work we will do to implement that plan in the years to come.”

David Bergeron, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership (MFP), said, “Both the challenges and opportunities of the fishing industry of Gloucester are very similar to what the Community Panels Project has found in other ports. Many of the findings and recommendations contained in the Gloucester report being released today have relevance in other ports as well.”

The Northeast Consortium, Sailors Snug Harbor of Boston, and the federal Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program fund the Community Panels Project, which formed the Gloucester Community Panel. Principal investigators for the project are David Bergeron, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, and anthropologists Dr. Madeleine Hall-Arber, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sea Grant Program, and Dr. Bonnie McCay, of Rutgers University. Sarah Robinson, coordinator of the Gloucester Community Panel, is a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at Harvard University; previously she practiced environmental law.

The Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership is an umbrella organization for 16 fishing industry organizations in Massachusetts. It sponsors the Fishing Partnership Health Plan, which provides affordable high quality healthcare coverage for more than 2100 members in the fishing industry, and also works to promote collaborative research to address central questions in the fisheries.

Copies of the Gloucester Community Panel’s report, “Commercial Fishing Industry Depends on Gloucester Harbor, Now and in the Future,” are available from the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership. Call the Partnership at 978-282-4847 or pick it up on the website, www.fishermenspartnership.org.  Copies of the Panel’s earlier report, “A Study of Gloucester’s Commercial Fishing Infrastructure” are also available on the Partnership’s website. In addition, the Gloucester Community Panel’s two reports will be posted on the City of Gloucester’s official website, www.ci.gloucester.ma.us.

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