Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk's office has released a proposed "bridge plan" to have the federal government finance a transition for fishermen displaced by drastic reductions in landings for 2013 and reinvent the nation's oldest fishing port, long the center for landings from the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, as a set of "green" and sustainable smaller and specialized businesses.
Sarah Garcia, the city's port development director, said the mayor was planning a trip to Washington, D.C., later this spring to lobby the Obama administration and Congress for financing to underwrite the project that can be understood as a reinvention of the port and redefinition of a 21st century fishing port.
"We have not seen any offering up of aid," said Garcia, who in so doing, was acknowledging that the bridge plan is, for now, a wish list — " a template for what's needed." she explained..
The fishing industry, its advocates in Congress, notably Rep John Tierney, whose district includes Gloucester. Attorney General Martha Coakley and Gov. Deval Patrick have carried out an escalating effort to obtain federal fisheries disaster relief for the fleet — at a price tag $100 million — but have been unable to win the support of President Obama. A direct appeal by the governor to Valeria Jarrett, a senior White House advisor to the president, fell on deaf ears.
The Department of Commerce also declared the Northeast goundfishery — covering the entire region from Maine to New York, as a recognized "economic disaster," but no funds have been appropriated to address it.
Patrick has told Attorney General Martha Coakley's office that he spoke to Jarrett by telephone on April 25, asking for the White House to reverse the order by NOAA to cut landings in cod, haddock and flounder by more than 50 percent in the fishing year that began May 1. But Jarrett did not respond, and the cuts were announced four days later.
Garcia said what the mayor has in mind is qualitatively different and more appealing as an investment in the future rather than pouring money into an industry that remains in the midst of federal regulatory strangulation.
"Before, it was characterized as handouts to fishermen," said Garcia. "This is different, this is investing in a new marine environment."
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