My View: Fishing boat project draws more support
Phil Bolger and Susanne Altenburger
December 08, 2008 05:50 am
As some readers have noticed since 2004, we have worked across a
series of articles, interviews and My View columns in the Times to
raise awareness of a significant economic disadvantage imposed on our
port's fishing fleet by federal statute.
It amounts to a prohibition on our fishermen against acquiring and
benefiting from the equivalent of a hybrid car — a remarkable state of
regulatory affairs in this age of energy-cost uncertainty and need to
pursue all opportunities to become sustainable. This has seriously
hurt our port's viability.
We see no indication, however, that in the age of the Obama
presidency, serious national energy-security concerns, and the
multiple pressures on the bottom-line of the myriad of family fishing
businesses, the permitting agencies would stand in the way of pursuing
21st century vessel-economics that can match the hard dictates of
Prototyping and testing in the harsh rigors of the 12-month fisheries
should demonstrate the viability of adjusting permit-restrictions away
from "length" towards "weight"-based regulation. This would inevitably
lead to a broad diversity of efficient hull-geometrics to specifically
match the demands of various fisheries and captain's personal
For our port's economy within the protection of the DPA, this offers
significant commercial opportunities enhancing marine-industrial jobs
and our tax base, by first constructing for this fleet, then other
port's fleets, then commercial craft such as "Whalewatchers"
governmental craft and the world's largest pleasure boat market.
This nation's boats and ships were designed and build in an age of $1
per gallon fuel. Past fleet-building assistance programs on the
federal level established sound precedent to help restructure this
fishing fleet to match current and future challenges.
Since 2007, more than 40 fishermen across all catch-methods and tribes
have come to agree with our proposal, as have their counterparts in
the ecological community such as the Conservation Law Foundation and
the Ocean Alliance — a rare coalition these days.
Absent since 2002 though has been an active engagement in this project
by our city's leadership. Elected under an explicit emphasis of
"sustainability" across all aspects of our city's economy, Mayor
Carolyn Kirk has recently decided to support our proposal in pursuit
of sustainability of the fleet and thus this port's economy and the
Here are several excerpts from a letter of support we recently
received from her:
"To maintain the steady supply of seafood to this port and the nation,
this city must lead in the development of low-carbon footprint
resource-sustaining operation of commercial fishing craft and of our
port. Only a fleet and a port prepared for the 21st century will be
able to prosper, once resource sustainability is assured," the mayor
"By adding major marine industry it is hoped to reinvigorate America's
oldest marine industrial port. (...) Across the growing number of
specialized yards, commercial boat building for this market offers
apprenticeships to our students, and opportunities for life-long
careers at good wages in an industry based on sustainability of the
resource and the demands for matching craft," she wrote.
"Re-establishing Gloucester-based vessel construction re-emphasizes
the opportunities of value-adding harbor-dependent ventures such as
seafood-processing for board demands and specialty needs. Processing
catch right out of the vessels eliminates quality losses and
transportation cost of shipping unimproved product, a key advantage to
survive in the market-place.
"Designing and testing these vessels will demonstrate lean geometries
with minimized 'carbon footprint' and should trigger the elimination
of persistent regulatory roadblocks against energy efficiencies across
"Gloucester assumes the lead in establishing the sustainability of
fishing," the mayor wrote, "as our port depends on it."
Phil Bolger and Susanne Altenburger are Gloucester residents and
design boats as Phil Bolger & Friends, 66 Atlantic St., Gloucester.
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