Annual meeting highlights accomplishments, welcomes new board members

Feb 28, 2024 | Aids to Navigation, News

Seth Rolbein, who heads up the Small Boats, Big Taste program, talks about the importance of Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program at an event on the Chatham Fish Pier in 2023. The Small Boats, Big Taste program has continued to grow with clam chowder added to the offerings of haddock chowder and Provencal fish stew, made with skate.

By Doreen Leggett

Numbers surfaced at the annual meeting of the Fishermen’s Alliance last month – 504, 2, 7, 3, 12, 25, 10,000, 228,000, 1.7 million, and more. Each is part of a story.

The first several were shared by Policy Manager Aubrey Church, who started in February of last year.

She has spent more than 500 hours in New England Fishery Management Council meetings advocating for the fleets on the Cape, tracking myriad, changing federal regulations. If the hours CEO John Pappalardo and Outreach Coordinator Ray Kane (who is on state and regional committees) are added, the number more than doubles.

“You can’t possibly turn the key in your boat every day and pay attention to all these things,” Pappalardo told a roomful of members and some Zoom attendees.

The annual meeting was an opportunity to share the work the staff had done in 2023, look ahead to 2024, and take required votes, including appointing two new members to the board of directors, Captains Sam Linnell and Bradley Louw.

Church also told the group about two trips she had made to Washington, D.C., the first with fishermen, to meet with legislators and staff. Those meetings led to more than 10 follow-ups with various federal offices for input on legislation, including working waterfront acts.

“It is great to have that connection down in D.C. and also at the local level,” Church said.

Much of her time was also spent on 12 policy campaigns that include efforts to provide more access to inshore areas for the scallop fleet, increase possession limits in the skate wing fishery, and work to protect herring, a vital forage fish.

Seven advocacy letters were submitted, ranging from adding more support for seafood into the federal Farm Bill to Seafood Watch’s wrongheaded characterization of the lobster fishery.

Fishermen’s Alliance staff was also involved in research projects to benefit fish and fishermen.

One involves fishermen to see how climate change may be affecting scallops. The effort was supported by $228,000 in scallop quota for 25 fishing businesses.

There is more scallop research planned for this year, as well as a project to benefit the monkfish fleet, which will allow fishermen to land more monkfish and improve their bottom line.

Melissa Sanderson, chief operating officer, told the group the Fishermen’s Alliance had just submitted a $2 million proposal to the state for expanding “eMolt,” which gathers information about the ocean through sensors installed on lobster traps and mobile gear.

“If you don’t have one of those and you want one, come let me know,” Sanderson said.

Those interested in Fishermen Training were also asked to reach out because the Fishermen’s Alliance is hosting an intensive, several-day program this spring. The program builds on previous trainings and is part of the non-profit’s effort — which also involves local schools – to introduce more people to a career in fishing.

Fishermen are also heading into the third year of a project to improve the marketability of seafood by making small changes along the supply chain.

“So, there is a lot going on in science,” Sanderson summed up.

Pappalardo said staff also has been active on the economic development front.

“We worked very hard to make sure commercial fishing was included in the economic development plan for the state, previously it wasn’t even mentioned,” he said.

Pappalardo said it was a priority to remind people how important the commercial fisheries are to the Commonwealth. There are also efforts to make it easier, and less expensive, for state fisheries permits to be transferred so more people could get into the commercial fisheries.

The Small Boats, Big Taste program has continued to grow with clam chowder added to the offerings of haddock chowder and Provencal fish stew, made with skate.

Since its inception during COVID, the program has helped keep fishermen on the water and supplied almost two million servings to food banks and neighbors in need across the Commonwealth and beyond.

The Fishermen’s Alliance is also in the middle of a capital campaign to create an endowment, which will ensure Cape Cod fishermen have representation at local, state and federal levels.

Long-time Fishermen’s Alliance member Captain Bill Amaru said he was thinking about how far the Fishermen’s Alliance has come since it started as the Hook Fishermen’s Association more than 30 years ago.

“Look at the things you are doing,” he said. “It’s quite a hand up to the fishing community.”


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