The New England Fishery Management Council will be updated on the groundfish crisis involving several New Bedford-based fishing sectors when it convenes for three days of meetings next week in Mystic, Connecticut.
The groundfish presentation by staff from the Gloucester-based Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office will be the centerpiece of the groundfish report on Wednesday and is designed to provide “an overview of (Northeast Fishing) Sector IX’s steps to address its shortcomings, as well as a summary of Sector IX’s operations plan,” according to the agenda for the meetings.
“The New Bedford sector has submitted its operations plan to GARFO and this will be an overview of what they’ve done to address the problems and what they need to do to have a new plan approved,” said council spokeswoman Janice Plante.
Plante said the presentation will not include comment from officials with the New Bedford fishing sectors.
NOAA Fisheries shut down Sector IX last November, withdrawing its operation plan for the remainder of the 2017 fishing season and into the 2018 season set to begin May 1.
The extraordinary move came in the wake of the conviction and sentencing of New Bedford fishing kingpin Carlos Rafael on charges of tax evasion, money laundering and bulk smuggling.
In announcing the ban, NOAA Fisheries said it held the sector responsible for not following its own operations plan and creating an environment where Rafael could spend years cheating the quota system.
The move put the Sector IX groundfish boats — four of which belong to Rafael — out of business until a new operations plan is approved. It also initiated what New Bedford officials and fishing stakeholders have described as an economic crisis throughout the city’s waterfront and beyond.
On March 26, 55 vessels that used to fish in Sector IX transferred to another New Bedford-based sector, Sector VII, where they still are prohibited from groundfishing. Those vessels with groundfish permits, however, will be allowed to lease their quota to other fishing entities.
The presentation, according to the agenda, is expected to include a discussion on the proposed Sector VII operations plan amendments that relate to Sector IX, as well as possible impact on other sectors and the sector system as a whole.
“The council may provide recommendations to (NOAA Fisheries) on any topics discussed,” according to the agenda.
Also, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has scheduled daylong open houses to gather feedback and answer questions on recently proposed commercial offshore renewable energy projects — especially wind power.
The sessions will be held in a conference room adjacent to the council’s meeting room at the Hilton Hotel in Mystic. They are open to the public and all stakeholders.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.