Click on the photos to learn more about each board member.
Gwen Holden Kelly
Captain Eric Hesse, of Barnstable, earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Bates College and a Master of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering from the University of Massachusetts. Once he started fishing in the 1980s it was something he couldn’t give up. A tuna harpoon fisherman, he also fishes for groundfish with lines and hooks –a method that hearkens back hundreds of years. Hesse, who owns the Tenacious II and the Mattanza, has seen the stocks of groundfish such as cod and haddock plummet, but he has also seen them begin to come back.
Hesse has partnered with Whole Foods in a program to bring fresh local fish into the supermarket and introduce consumers to the fishermen who caught it and still supports creating new markets for small-boat fishermen. He also supports much of the scientific research work the Fishermen’s Alliance is involved in and does his own cooperative research as well. He is a firm believer in accountability and was an early supporter of the electronic monitoring program, which puts cameras on fishing boats to record the catch.
Hesse served on the board of directors of the Hook Association, the forerunner of the Fishermen’s Alliance, for six years and rejoined the Alliance board in 2018. “I’ve always felt that since the inception of the organization people have taken a really forward-thinking approach,” he said.
Greg Connors leads by example. A hardworking fisherman, he serves as chairman of the Fixed Gear Sector and is a regular presence at industry meetings meant to move the fisheries forward.
Connors grew up in Wilmington, but summered in Wellfleet and after a short stint in college started his fishing career in Chatham. “I just fell in love with it,” he said.
Decades later, Connors, the captain of F/V Constance Sea, is still committed to his career, appreciating how success in fishing, unlike a typical 9 to 5 job, is usually directly connected to how hard you work.
He finds his work on the policy side of fisheries much the same. “If you go to the meeting, you can effect change. You can have influence,” he said. Connors, a gillnetter, was one of the first in the fleet to begin to focus on catching skate in 2001. Skates are now a successful, sustainable fishery and Connors continues to advocate for a well-managed industry. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Provencal Fish Stew program launched as a sister product to haddock chowder n 2022.
Kurt Martin started commercial fishing when he was 13 years old. The mainstay of his career has been lobstering, but he also fishes using traditional weirs, and sea bass pots. He’s tried pretty much every other fishery, save sea scalloping. In order to stay ahead of changing times, he has participated in fisheries management and policy.
The Fishermen’s Alliance was founded to sustain the Cape’s fisheries and help fishermen evolve with myriad changes, which is why Martin, of Orleans, agreed to become a board member.
“We’ll have to change or we won’t have any fishermen,” he said.
In 2021Martin started his second stint on the board, he served for about 10 years starting in 2003. He stepped off to spend more time with his partner, Lara, and young son, William who often goes out on his dad’s boat, F/V Time Bandit or on the Nancy S. trap fishing.
Now, older, and with more experience, Martin has seen how the Fishermen’s Alliance has grown and continues to support the fishing industry and the wider community. “It might not do
everything you like, but there are a number of ways the Fishermen’s Alliance has made sure the fleet survived. It is a necessary organization,” he said.
For example, as a raft of regulations to protect whales emerge, forced in part by lawsuits, Martin thinks advocacy organizations that bring common sense and sustainability to the table will be increasingly important not only to fishermen, but the Cape.
Photo By David Hills/Fishy Pictures
In the late 1990s, Andy Baler was asked to become a board member of the non-profit founded to champion the Cape’s small-boat fishermen. “I fight like hell for things,” he said, “especially for those who typically don’t get a fair shake.”
He knew many of the fishermen who started the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, now the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. With a degree in fisheries biology, he also had experience in the industry as owner of Nantucket Fish Company, which processed, bought and sold fish, as well as Yarmouth Oyster Farms, his aquaculture grant on Lewis Bay. He had also
managed Cape Quality Bluefin and served on fisheries advisory boards.
Baler, a Yarmouth resident, said yes and spent the next 16 years making sure decisions about the future of the peninsula’s fleets weren’t made by others.
“We never had a voice,” he remembered. “Independents didn’t have voices.” Over the intervening decades the need for the organization has grown. So has Baler’s experience as he has added restaurant ownership -Bluefins Sushi and Saki Bar in Chatham and Falmouth -and other accomplishments to his fisheries-centric resume.
Bureaucracy and regulations have become even more complex since he started in the industry.
“It’s evolved to the point where you can’t make it as an independent without help representing you and your business,” Baler said. “You need a serious organization that has infrastructure.”
Baler believes the Fishermen’s Alliance is that organization, which is why he has stepped back on the board in 2021. He said the organization’s strong track record proves it can and will help the industry on the Cape.
“Now we have to get more results to help them succeed,” he said. “People’s backs are against the wall all the time.”
Meet the Fleet was and still is a major attraction for board member Richard Banks.
He still remembers his first Meet the Fleet several years ago when he attended with his sister-in-law and immediately became a member of the Fishermen’s Alliance. Soon he was spending many volunteer hours supporting the organization and encouraging others to attend the informative and entertaining monthly MTFs. He has written several articles about commercial fishing on Cape Cod and has greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet many interesting people along the way.
Banks has always loved the sea. When he was a teen he remembers recreational fishermen catching boatloads of fish, which left him wondering how that could continue.
Fast forward 50-plus years and it has become clear that fish are not limitless.“We support what the Fishermen’s Alliance is doing to foster, support and encourage sustainability,” Banks said. The organization’s belief system was much like his own. Take river herring for instance. Banks is an active counter in the annual count in Orleans and knows the big role the little fish play in the success of the peninsula. He supports the Fishermen’s Alliance’s efforts to ensure their success. Protect herring, protect the Cape, he says.“I feel a sense of community,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Born in Montreal, Quebec, his family emigrated to Bedford, Mass. in the 1960s, and after a stint in the Navy he took advantage of the GI bill to earn a Master’s from UMass Amherst. He worked for Miller Brewery and spent 30 years in Wisconsin, not only at Miller, where he did marketing to management but for a much smaller company that had a big impact on how draft beer is dispensed.
He often visited the Cape with his wife Kathleen, whose parents had retired here. They finally got the chance to buy a house in Yarmouth and moved here full-time over ten years ago. He has been a member of the board since 2019 and continues to support the Meet the Fleet events and the Hookers Ball as a volunteer and donor to the silent Auction. He is also a strong supporter of the haddock chowder program and other Cape-wide programs to encourage people to eat more fish.
“The ocean just continuously called to us,” he said.
When Charles “Chuck” Borkoski first moved to Chatham in 2005 he lived within walking distance of the fish pier and he walked down there a lot.
“The fishing aspect of being here in Chatham really resonated with me,” he says. “I always enjoyed seeing the guys out there.”
So it only made sense that when he heard about the Fishermen’s Alliance he was interested. And that interest grew as he heard more about the organization’s work. Commercial fishermen are buffeted by a lot: Mother Nature, climate change, variable markets, the lack of a steady paycheck, markets, regulations -the list goes on.“
There are just so many roadblocks to success for fishermen,” says Borkoski, adding that growing up in a farming community on Long Island he felt some empathy.
The Fishermen’s Alliance can’t do much about the weather, but it can help the fleet in regards to policy, advocacy, and marketing and that is what hooked Borkoskiwho joined the board of directors in 2018. He has recently helped with the marketing, outreach, and financials for the haddock chowder program launched by the Fishermen’s Alliance in 2020.
Borkoski is a people person, retired as Vice President from McLaughlin & Moran, Rhode Island’s premier beverage distributor. He serves his Alma Mater, Providence College, on a number of boards and committees, including its President’s Council and the Student Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Chatham Men’s Club and the Monomoy Yacht Club.
A 1971 graduate of the college he gives back by working on matters affecting the quality of student life, and his communication skills are valuable in his interaction with the college administration and maintaining a close relationship with faculty, student leaders, and student organizations. They also serve him well as a board member here.
Chuck and his wife Leslie live a bit further from the pier now, but they, and their daughter Jenna, who currently resides in Boston, still stop by.“
Fishermen are very hardworking, risking their lives every day. More so than farmers ever did,” Borkoski says.
Photo By David Hills/Fishy Pictures Image
Beau Gribbin, the owner of High Pressure Fisheries, is a life-long fisherman. Since the age of 10, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, and uncle, his home port has been Provincetown. He started on the draggers that helped define the town in the 1980s, left to go crabbing in Alaska, but came back to longline on the Cape and now splits his time here between scalloping and lobstering.“
To me, Provincetown Harbor is like a second home, that was like a giant playground and also a place where my family made its money, but it seems like my backyard. I have infinite knowledge of it and it seems like home to me.”
He invested in a new boat, the F/V Kahuna, in addition to his boat, Glutton, intending to diversify and expand his work. Gribbin is an outspoken proponent of sustainable local fisheries. Along with hosting scientists onboard for research projects, he engages in fisheries policy and advocacy that directly impacts Cape Cod fishermen. He traveled to Washington D.C to advocate for opening productive areas to scalloping while protecting sensitive habitats. He enjoys connecting with locals and visitors to discuss the importance of fishing to the fabric and economy of the Cape. Gribbin joined the board of the Fishermen’s Alliance in 2017.
Gribbin’s daughter, Sarah, and wife, Kathleen, are a welcome sight at Farmers Markets during the year selling dayboat scallopsand lobster from a company the family launched: Salt Seafood Company.
Gwen Holden Kelly
Gwen Holden Kelly and her husband Paul bought their home in Orleans in 1991, the same year the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association started. But she didn’t spend much time on the Cape until years later because she was working for another non-profit organization: The National Criminal Justice Association in Washington D.C. In her 21-year association with the special interest group, 12 as executive vice president, Holden Kelly managed finances and more as the organization took on new challenges, secured funding, and implemented policy, research, and legislative programs.
“It parallels what happened at the Alliance, the organization had to learn to grow up,” Holden Kelly said.
Holden Kelly’s organizational skills and penchant for best practices was why she was tapped to serve on the finance committee of what was the Hook Association in 2011, then on the board of directors in 2014 of what had become the Fishermen’s Alliance a year earlier.
Holden Kelly’s introduction to the Fishermen’s Alliance had started years earlier in a more celebratory atmosphere as a volunteer for the Hookers Ball. Holden Kelly and her husband had become full-time residents of Orleans 1997 and began looking for ways to volunteer. They met the late David Martin, hit it off, and were soon introduced to his son Kurt, a fisherman and a Fishermen’s Alliance board member.
They were talking at the Nauset lobstermen’s clambake, the Hookers Ball came up and she was roped in. Holden Kelly wasn’t a fisherman or even a boater, but she found the industry interesting. “I just love the ocean,” she said. Holden Kelly and Paul helped Kurt at the raw bar, divvied up steamed clams and mussels, and as she had ideas about how to help the organization her role grew.
A decade later, chairman of the finance committee and treasurer of the board, she is more impressed than ever.
“The Fishermen’s Alliance promotes the interests and concerns of local commercial fishermen; influences the shaping and implementation of national and state policies and regulations affecting the fishing industry; and pursues the viability and longevity of the fishing industry through research and demonstration of best practices,” she said.
Holden Kelly believes the organization’s close relationship with the community helps make that possible. Whether through events that celebrate the value of the fishing industry like Meet the Fleet, or campaigns that enlist support such as they fight to protect herring or new endeavors like a haddock chowder outreach, she sees the Fishermen’s Alliance working hard to build connections:
“People aren’t like, ‘I wonder what they are doing?’ That’s huge.”
Gwen is active in the community, serving as the chair of the Orleans Finance Committee for several years and for the past five years on the Cape Cod Regional Technical High School building committee.
Holden Kelly’s favorite early morning spot is Priscilla’s Landing in Orleans. Haddock is her favorite finfish, and she’d never turn down lobster, clams, mussels, or scallops.
In the early 1970s, Barry LaBar went offshore lobstering with Ray Kane a few times, three-day trips. LaBar was in his element. “I love the water,” he says. He started coming to Chatham in 1963 as a kid with his parents and although he was often surfing at Nauset or sailing in ponds, the fish pier always defined the town for him. “The fish pier was always what it was all about. Even now, fishing is still the heart of Chatham,” LaBar says. Graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1973 with a degree in English and philosophy, he found himself taking a different path that led to Pennsylvania and Ohio. He went into the printing business, owned his own company, and ultimately served as president for OnPress, Inc.
Although he was spending less time on the Cape, he kept in touch with Kane and when Ray retired from commercial fishing to be a fisheries advocate and outreach coordinator at the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Barry began to hear a lot more about the non-profit’s work, “about what was being done to help the fishermen,” he says.
When LaBarretired here in 2012, he became more familiar with the Fishermen’s Alliance. As he heard more about the organization and began attending fundraising and other events, he thought the work the Fishermen’s Alliance was doing to protect fishing, the community, and the ecosystem was something he could get behind. He joined the board in 2018.
“I think it’s important to protect the heritage, to keep the tradition going,” LaBar says. He has realized something else since he joined the board of directors: “The organization has a great vibe. It’s a great thing to be associated with.”
In his spare time, you can find Barry on the golf course or watching the UConn Women’s basketball team; he is a serious fan.
He is a longtime captain, with a great grandfather, father, brother, three sons (one a successful captain) all in the industry, so it is difficult to find someone more connected to commercial fishing than Tim Linnell.
His perspectives and concerns about the future of the industry bring important views to the board he joined in 2014. In addition to his work on the board of the Fishermen’s Alliance, Linnell has worked on many of the policy and marketing initiatives the non-profit has pursued.
Seeing the disappearance of the storied codfish, Linnell has supported efforts, such as Pier to Plate, to introduce the public to tasty alternatives like dogfish and skate. He has participated in scientific initiatives, including working to open the barn door skate fishery to help strengthen business plans of local fishermen.“
It’s important to be part of the decisions that are made; the word of fishermen should be listened to,” he said. “The Fishermen’s Alliance is consistently putting industry ideas forward, you can see that in the skate fishery where they worked really hard to make changes that made sense.”
Although he is skeptical that anyone can get the federal government to fully make use of the science fishermen have collected to improve the fisheries, he believes the Fishermen’s Alliance has made some strides.
Linnell bought his boat F/V Perry’s Pride II in 2000 and was able to keep fishing and pass along some permits that allowed his oldest son to invest in his own boat without the additional expense. The hurdles facing those getting into commercial fisheries galvanized Linnell and his son Sam to join the Fishermen’s Alliance in advocating for the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, which finally passed in 2021. Linnell thinks far more needs to be done.
“There are not enough opportunities for kids,” Linnell said, adding that the industry hasn’t done a good job of showing how valuable it is to the economy and is something the Fishermen’s Alliance continually tries to reinforce.
Linnell has always fished, often with his brother Matt. His first calling was shellfishing, which put him through college at Saint Anselm’s (he was a history major)and he came back to a huge mussel set in town so that set him up for several years.
But thinking ahead, he diversified to groundfish when it seemed federal managers were going to close shellfishing areas. Now he works to make sure commercial fishing remains a sustainable career for generations to come.
When it comes to his favorite fish, Linnell says anything that regulations require him to throw back dead he’ll eat (his three dogs are big fish eaters too). His favorite harbor is Chatham’s Aunt Lydia’s Cove because his mooring is right next to the dock; practical.
Brian Sherin has a long history as a recreational fisherman and like many thinks the Cape is a unique place. But recently he got to musing about what would happen if its defining character disappeared.
“It hit me, this could change dramatically: What wouldCape Cod be without the fishing industry?” he thought.
Sherin is willing to lend a hand to help the Fishermen’s Alliance ensure that he won’t have to experience the answer to that question.
As president of his own consulting firm, BPStrategies, the Harwich resident’s background is in health care financial consulting. That work includes fighting for regulatory changes in that industry, an experience that comes in handy in his role as a member of the board of directors for the Fishermen’s Alliance –a position he has held since 2018.
“I thought if I can add value I’m willing to do it,” he said.
Before he was invited to serve he knew there had been hard times in the industry, but he didn’t understand the complexity of fisheries management, policy, science, the interplay between them, and the impact these all had on the daily lives of the fisherman themselves. The more he has learned the more interested he has become. With an MBA from La Salle University in Finance, he can also provide some advice as the Fishermen’s Alliance moves forward to purchase a new fishing quota, which it will lease back to local fishermen at a price that helps them grow their businesses.
Sherin laughs to think he hadn’t heard of the Fishermen’s Alliance until his cousin Keith, who also lives on the Cape, invited him to a big party a number of years ago. “And that’s how it all started, an invite to the Hookers Ball,” he said.
With three children grown, Sherin has more time to fish and boat with his wife, Jane Anne, as well as with family and friends. They currently have two grandchildren and they look forward to someday fishing on the Cape with them.
In his past business endeavors, Sherin was president of Besler Consulting, a healthcare financial and operational firm, and was actively involved with the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), having served in numerous committee chair roles, as a Director on the board, and ultimately as President of the New Jersey Chapter.