Survey may eventually help NOAA's reputation

Thanks to NOAA Fisheries, two New England trawlers have something to do this summer instead of being tied up at the dock because there’s no fishing quota left.

NOAA spokeswoman Teri Frady said the Mary K out of New Bedford and the Yankee Pride out of Point Judith, R.I. were to leave Thursday on a 12-day yellowtail flounder stock assessment mission, set up by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It’s a flicker of good news in an industry that hasn’t seen much to cheer about. A few days back there was news that Carlos “The Codfather” Rafael, the biggest fleet owner in New Bedford, had sold a trawler to Capt. Hans Myklebust of Point Pleasant, N.J.

This incremental consolidation caused by quota cutbacks and sector management has been doing a lot of damage to smaller operators. But nobody expects Carlos Rafael to be downsizing.

It turns out he isn’t. Rafael is out of the country, so I spoke with Bill Rocha at the Athearn Marine Brokers in Fairhaven, who handled the deal. It turns out that the boat, Sea Escape, hadn’t been used by Rafael since he bought it a couple of years back, and Myklebust had some permits with no boat. Rocha approached Rafael and the deal was done. Now the boat is the Lady Gertrude, once painted blue, now black, but never Carlos Rafael green.

Rocha said there has been a steady but unremarkable number of boat sales, maybe 10 a year. The news about the plight of the fleet has gone around the world, though. “We get a lot of foreign inquires. They want everything for nothing. Chances are they’re not going to get what they think they’ll get.”

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