The mayor of New Bedford, Mass., asked NMFS director Chris Oliver to help get the fishermen of Northeast Fishery Sector IX back on the water.

Sector IX, which comprises 22 vessels and 80 fishermen, was barred from fishing for groundfish when NMFS withdrew approval of its operations plan on Nov. 20. The majority of the sector's vessels belong to Carlos “The Codfather” Rafael, the former fishing magnate who pleaded guilty to falsifying fish quotas, tax evasion and bulk cash smuggling.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell told South Coast Today that, in his meeting in Washington, D.C., with Oliver on Dec. 5, he argued that NOAA’s action on Sector IX was harming fishermen and city businesses. The meeting was a follow-up to a letter sent to NOAA by Sector IX President Virginia Martins arguing for a reconsideration of NOAA's action against the sector.

“Sector IX strongly believes that your initial determination was based upon incomplete information and respectfully asks that you reconsider your position,” Martins wrote.

During his meeting with Mitchell, Oliver was unable to comment on his NOAA’s actions, as the matter is being adjudicated, Mitchell said.

“It was a one-way conversation as it has to be,” Mitchell said. “I understand he can’t comment on a pending case. That’s not unreasonable at all.”

Since Rafael pleaded guilty in March, Mitchell has advocated for a path forward that would remove Rafael from the seafood industry while also keeping his fishing quotas in New Bedford. NOAA has still not made a final decision on what to do with Rafael’s quotas.

This article was originally published in Seafood Source and is republished here with permission.

Cliff White is the executive editor of

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