Fish Alliance CEO applies for regional council
By Doug Fraser
CHATHAM – In August, Tom Dempsey was reappointed by Gov. Deval Patrick to his second three-year term on the regional fishery management council. But in October, Dempsey, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance policy director, resigned from the New England Fishery Management Council because he had taken a job as senior fisheries policy director with The Nature Conservancy in Monterey, California.
“He was an innovative thinker who was very appreciated for that, not just in this office, but in the greater (fishing) community,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the alliance, who has now submitted the paperwork to replace Dempsey for the remainder of his expired term. He praised Dempsey’s diplomatic approach as well as his principles. “He was very bright and he didn’t go in there (to the council) to make friends.
"He went in to make a difference,” said Pappalardo.
The New England Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional councils nationwide responsible for plans to manage commercial and recreational fishing. The New England council has 18 voting members, including state and federal fisheries officials, fishermen, fishing industry representatives, environmentalists and the occasional scientist.
Pappalardo already has served on the council for three terms, serving five years as chairman, during which the New England fishery experienced big changes in management. Under a plan crafted by the council, fishermen were allotted a share of the overall quota of each groundfish stock based on their fishing histories. They then formed cooperatives that managed the combined quota.
In the past, quotas were considered only targets that were often exceeded, leading to chronic overfishing. During Pappalardo’s time as chairman, the council also implemented Congressionally mandated procedures to end fishing once the quota was caught, and to determine annual fishing limits by using the best available science.
But even with these measures, the fishery finds itself in dire straits. Cod stocks, for example, are just a tiny fraction of where scientists and fishery managers hoped they would be after two decades of increasingly strict regulations. While species like haddock and scallops have had dramatic increases many others are stagnating.
Pappalardo thinks it is crucial to have a Cape representative on the council because, in an industry dominated by large vessels and big fishing ports, it gives a voice to the owner-operators fishing out of small ports and catching a multitude of stocks that each have their own regulations.
“What the Cape does, and how it does it, is worth fighting for,” Pappalardo said.
Former National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast region science director Michael Sissenwine is also on the council and lives in Falmouth.
Pappalardo said that fishermen need to share more in the responsibility of recovering fish stocks and that they need to think creatively and cooperatively about solutions to what appear to be intractable problems.
Applications from candidates for Dempsey’s vacated seat were due to state governors in the Northeast by Dec. 1. Each governor will send nominations to the fisheries service in Gloucester. Those will be forwarded with recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce for a decision prior to the council’s January meeting.
Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.