Meet Ray Rowell: Our new permit bank director

Apr 24, 2024 | Aids to Navigation

Raymond Rowell is the new permit bank director at Fishermen’s Alliance.

By Doreen Leggett

Most mornings on the way to work in Chatham, Ray Rowell will take the long way out of Wellfleet along Ocean View Drive, past White Crest Beach, to look out at the Atlantic and check who’s fishing.

“I can see if there are any clam boats out there,” Rowell said. “It’s my way of keeping tabs on things. I also compulsively check the weather.”

Rowell used to be on clam boats until the Bentley College graduate took a job as a sales agent with a life insurance company. Then he saw an advertisement for Fisheries Permit Bank Director at the Fishermen’s Alliance:

“Permit holders hold in trust and manage fishing quota on behalf of fishing communities,” the job posting read. “(The director) will have the primary responsibility of facilitating the use of quota by the fishing community, to achieve the permit bank’s goal of retaining local access to fishing rights.”

This highly entrepreneurial role, the listing continued, requires someone to manage a $10 million enterprise. Close relationships with fishermen and a deep understanding of financial and impact data are paramount.

Rowell, 28, wondered how the Fishermen’s Alliance was going to find someone who was as comfortable with excel sheets and equity as they were with groundfish and Grundens.

Then he realized he was describing himself.

He quickly sent off the first cover letter he had ever written:

“I believe this opportunity at the Fisherman’s Alliance is an ideal fit for me as it would enable me to give back to the community and industry that made me the man I am today. In addition to personally knowing many of the fishermen on Cape, I have intimate knowledge of permits, quotas, and fishing regulations,” he wrote. “I appreciate the historical significance of this industry, and that the Fisherman’s Alliance strives to preserve this legacy and keep the tradition going in more modern times.”

He was hired in April, jumping into a round of New England Fishery Management Council meetings, policy discussions, public hearings, plus leasing fishing quota – his first transaction involved several hundred pounds of white hake.

Rowell has met with members of other fishing organizations across the country to learn about ways to grow regional permit banks and develop community partners. He also is exploring how fishermen can own equity in quota, to provide better local fisheries access.

“I’m looking forward to getting people together – policy makers, fishermen, and concerned members of the community – and figure out the best way to manage community resources,” he said.

In between those commitments, he is pitching in a local baseball league.

John Pappalardo, chief executive officer of the Fishermen’s Alliance, said Rowell walks into the role with a wealth of understanding of the commercial fishing industry:

“There are people who have lived on the Cape for far longer who don’t have his level of understanding and appreciation. Ray combines skills and experience in a great way, from knowing what it takes to work on the back of fishing boats to a great college education with financial skills. He’s Cape Cod born and raised, part of the next generation we want to see stay — and succeed. Plus, if we ever start a Fishermen’s Alliance baseball team, he’s our ringer, a southpaw pitcher with heat!”

The non-profit launched the nation’s first permit bank, the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust, in 2010, and owns $7 million worth of scallop, groundfish and ocean quahog fishing rights. The trust directly supports more than 20 businesses, creating $1.5 million in direct benefits annually.

Rowell has already begun exploring ways to build on the trust’s success.

“I’d love to add other species, find other ways to help local fishermen,” he said. “We want to preserve local jobs and give fishermen a chance to reduce their costs.”

Rowell, middle son of David and Lezli Rowell, knows how expensive the Cape is and lives in his family home on Gull Pond Road.

“It’s the oldest house in Wellfleet,” he says, likely built around 1713.

He has done some research and thinks the house belonged to Goody Hallet, famous for her doomed love affair with pirate Black Sam Bellamy.

Rowell and his brothers were often on the water growing up, and he did some fishing from docks, but mostly he skateboarded, played soccer, basketball and baseball.

When he graduated from Bentley with a degree in Business Management he came home that summer and after a stint in the construction business jumped on the back of a boat.

“It meant being able to work hard and be here,” he said.

He stayed in the business for five years, deck boss on F/V Clamnation out of Wellfeet and F/V Kimberly Ann out of Provincetown. He also crewed on the Highland II.

Rowell has great memories harvesting sea clams, oysters, bay scallops and blood clams. The blood clams went through Wellfleet Shellfish Company (where Rowell worked for a short time in college) and then to Asian markets.

“I ate everything we caught raw, everything but blood clams,” he said, adding that sometimes he would cook a shellfish meal on the exhaust.

Rowell could see his friends from shore and they would kid around about how they could hear his music all day.

“Everyone knew the Clamnation for its sound system,” Rowell said.

When Captain Keith Rose, who owns both Clamnation and Kimberly Ann, was younger he worked on trip boats out of New Bedford where he would have to listen to the same CD for weeks at a time, so when he got his own boat that changed in a big way.

“He was like play whatever you want,” Rowell said with a smile.

Rose, as well as his daughter Vanessa and the rest of “Clamnation,” said the Fishermen’s Alliance was lucky to have Rowell, considered one of the best and brightest to come out of Nauset High School.

“He was always the smartest and the fastest at anything we ever did on these boats,” said Rose. “Ray brings his A game to everything he does. He stands to make a huge difference in our industry. Ray Rowell is one of the, if not the, most impressive young man I’ve ever met.”

Rowell hasn’t ruled out going back into commercial fishing, plus he just won a lottery for an acre and a half aquaculture farm in Wellfleet. But he wants to apply his business acumen and personal connections to benefit the fishing industry.

“It’s always been a huge part of the Cape’s identity,” he said. “I don’t see any reason for that to change in the future.”

Check out this 1st Look on NBC video of Rowell working on Rose’s boat and hear about the allure of the industry.



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