Cape fishermen say federal money needed for monitors
By Doug Fraser
CHATHAM – Federal fisheries regulators want fishermen to pay to have somebody watch what they catch and what they throw back.
And, while Gov. Charlie Baker told federal officials last week that they should foot the bill, local fishermen are hoping the state will reconsider and use its share of federal disaster money to pay for the observers required on commercial fishing trips.
The extra eyes on deck cost $710 daily, and fishermen say that hits smaller vessels especially hard.
“What small business can afford to be $710 in the hole before they even open their doors?” Chatham fisherman John Our said.
Expenses are already high for fuel, crews, bait and gear, fishermen say. Haddock, though plentiful, are too far offshore for them to catch, and their traditional species of choice, cod, have disappeared from local waters, mired at historically low population levels.
Cape boats now have to travel farther to catch monkfish, or land skates and dogfish from local waters at just a fraction of the price of cod.
A typical skate trip, at 35 cents per pound and grossing $1,100, would be left with less than $400 to split between the boat and crew, said Chatham fisherman Jan Margeson.
“We don't gross enough money to afford this,” said Margeson, who proposed allocating federal disaster money to fishermen who actually carried observers.
The fleet will pay an estimated $10,000 per vessel annually to cover the cost of the observers, but its fishermen catch very little of the groundfish species that are in trouble, Our said.
“This cost should be paid for by the federal government,” said John Pappalardo, chief executive officer at the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “This fishery is bankrupt right now. It’s nonsensical to lay it on a struggling industry.”