By Doreen Leggett
As a fishing boat full of silvery mackerel unloaded below, State Representative Dylan Fernandes, up from Falmouth, stood on the Chatham Fish Pier and presented the Fishermen’s Alliance with a $500,000 check, approved in the state budget, to help support and modernize the Cape’s commercial fisheries.
“Fishing is not just an industry on the Cape and Islands. It is woven into the very culture and fabric of our communities,” Rep. Fernandes said on a blustery late November day.
The earmark was part of a package Fernandes secured for the Cape and Islands during the FY2024 budget process. Another $250,000 was appropriated for commercial fishing-related programs throughout Massachusetts with $150,000 going to local towns for shellfish propagation.
“That is nearly a million for the fishing industry here,” Fernandes said. “We were thrilled to be able to do that.”
He added the funds are important as coastal communities address climate change to help the commercial fishing industry adapt to a changing ocean. The idea is to provide a pathway so a sustainable industry can be passed down to future generations, Fernandes added.
The funds can be used to modernize fishery resource surveys, expand data collection on fishing vessels, organize educational opportunities for commercial fishing workforce development, and advance policies and practices to support fishermen across Massachusetts.
“I just want to thank you for everything you do for Cape Cod and fishermen,” said John Pappalardo, Chief Executive Officer of Fishermen’s Alliance. “This pivotal funding will help us continue fighting for fish and fishermen.”
Pappalardo said it was important Fernandes appreciates how important the commercial fishing industry is to the economy and environment.
Nearly 2,000 fishermen live and work on Cape Cod, landing over $73.8 million worth of fish each year. The industry supports thousands of additional jobs, from mechanics to restaurants, wholesalers, and burgeoning blue economy tourism.
“Supporting the original Blue Economy will also pay dividends as the Fishermen’s Alliance continues to defray the high cost of fishing permits, strengthens working waterfronts, provides fishermen training, and works to bring more local seafood into immigrant and food insecure communities on Cape Cod,” said Pappalardo.
“This funding truly is a tide that lifts all boats and we are grateful.”
Pappalardo said the funds would support ongoing projects and continue to give fishermen a voice in fisheries management.
Pappalardo and other staff members represent fishing interests at more than 80 meetings a year dealing with local, regional and national policy.
Being at sea, dealing with maintenance and markets, make it impossible for fishermen to attend that many meetings, Pappalardo said.
“This support will help us meet the challenges ahead as we magnify the voices of local fishermen in federal, state and local fisheries policy decisions,” he added.
In tandem with policy, staff at the Fishermen’s Alliance promotes the involvement of fishermen in cooperative scientific research, which helps drive management and ensures sustainable fisheries.
Ongoing work includes efforts to use commercial vessels to protect access to windfarm areas and improve understanding of climate change’s impacts to the marine environment. The Fishermen’s Alliance is also working to modernize data collection sensors on fishing boats and expand the collection of oceanographic data.
That adds to a collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to expand research to support fisheries management and provide access to an extra 100,000 pounds of scallop quota for Cape Cod fishing businesses, an economic benefit of more than $1.3 million in ex-vessel landings.
Fernandes said fishermen training programs the Fishermen’s Alliance runs and supports also are important to the continued success of the industry.
He said there has been “an ebb and flow,” but sees more young men and women entering the fisheries because there is a future.
“We need to make sure future generations can be a part of it,” Fernandes said.