Nautical News: For the week of March 2, 2014


The New England Fisheries Management Council decided to take no action on the proposed 55 square mile closure on Stellwagen Bank to recreational fishermen. They decided more science and more public comments were needed. Although the matter was on the agenda for the morning, discussion and the decision to take no action didn’t come until early evening. It is not clear if the actions that happened during the meeting were orchestrated by the council, but motions made by commercial fishermen to open more areas to them, followed by amendments and substitute motions delayed the council from acting on the proposed closure to recreational fishermen. So now the proposed closure will be back on the table when the feds try again to decide what to do.



Fishermen have yet to receive a penny of the $75 million disaster relief money approved by Congress last January, but last week it was announced that the five New England states with commercial fisheries will receive $32.8 million. The $32.8 million is about one fourth of what the fishermen were originally seeking. State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester said, “These funds represent a critical lifeline for fishing families and ports. However, Nautical Talk Radio has learned that it still has not been decided how the money will be divided amongst the 5 states and that it could take months before fishermen see any money. Even more disturbing is that not all the money will go to the fishermen. Some of it could go toward science and management efforts between the government, academia, and the fishing industry.



According to a report in the Cape Cod Times, the Monster Shark Tournament that was organized by the late Steven James will take place next summer in Newport, Rhode Island and not in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. You might recall that Steven James, the president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club that sponsored the tournament in Oak Bluffs, died this past January while duck hunting on the Westport River. A competing group, identified as Sharks Fund Fishing, is also planning a shark tournament in New Bedford, the same weekend the shark tournament in Newport takes place. In addition, Oak Bluffs selectmen voted last month to approve a proposal by two Cape Cod men who want to host a big game fish tournament in place of the island’s shark tournament. The Monster Shark Tournament had been held in Oak Bluffs the past 27 years, but in recent years drew fire from animal rights groups and locals. The spectators sometimes became rowdy, to the point the town imposed additional fees on tournament participants to pay for keeping the peace. Greg Skomal, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries shark scientist said he didn’t think the big game fish tournament would attract as many boats or spectators. He reasoned that sharks are caught relatively close to shore, but big game fish such as marlins, tuna, and swordfish are caught far offshore. A round trip of 200 miles can burn a lot of fuel and cost the boatowners a lot of money.



An effort is now underway on Cape Cod waters to recover abandoned fishing gear. The fishing gear is referred to as ghost gear because it continues to fish and trap animals. Four Provincetown lobster boats are participating in the project. The crews will work in areas where gear has been reported, as well as in locations identified with side-scan sonar surveys. Identifiable lobster traps are returned to the owner when possible. Other gear is sent to a waste-to-energy facility or recycled as scrap metal. The effort is part of Fishing for Energy, a partnership of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Energy, Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Local partners for this project are the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, the Provincetown Public Pier Corp. and the Provincetown Harbormaster.



This past week, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. gave his final state of the Coast Guard address at the service’s headquarters in Washington. He emphasized that this year the Coast Guard became the first U.S. military service to achieve a clean financial audit providing a sound stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars. Papp focused on the agency’s acquisition of new assets, such as the fifth National Security Cutter and a new Fast Response Cutter. He also told how the Coast Guard received 148 of the 170 medium Response Boats that were ordered stating they were delivered on time and on budget. As a maritime nation and with more than 90 percent of trade being carried in ships, Papp noted that America needs the Coast Guard.



In a related story, President Obama nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Paul F. Zukunft to be the next Coast Guard commandant after Adm. Robert J. Papp retires. Zukunft is a 1977 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy. He is currently the commander of the Pacific Area and Defense Force West.



State officials in Alaska say the record pink salmon harvest in 2013 is the largest on record, creating a market glut that could drive salmon prices down for several years. Alaska’s fishing fleets caught 219 million pink salmon last year. However, demand for Alaska salmon seems to keep growing and the Department of Agriculture announced that they will buy $20 million of canned pink salmon for food assistance programs across the country.



Chatham Town Manager Jill Goldsmith reported that Harbormaster Stu Smith has been returned to his post. On December 19th, Smith was put on paid administrative leave by the town’s police chief after he became in charge when the town manager went on vacation. No reason was given as to why the harbormaster was put on leave, but the police chief said that it did not involve a criminal matter. Town officials refuse to talk about the incident, but town manager Goldsmith simply said the Chatham Municipal Employees Union and the town were able to resolve the issues that led to the harbormaster being placed on leave.



Papers for a new harbormaster association were filed at the state house in Massachusetts. Its official name is Commonwealth of Mass Harbormasters and Maritime Professionals Association of Mass Inc. Listed as its President is Marshfield Harbormaster Mike Dimeo. Other corporate officers listed are Marshfield Assistant Harbormasters Mike Murray and Jamie Curran, Quincy Asst Harbormaster Robert Coakly. Meanwhile the South Shore Harbormasters Association just launched a new website and its lists the towns of Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, New Bedford, Norwell, Plymouth, and Swansea as some of its members.



Bruce Brown of Connecticut pleaded guilty to impersonating a Coast Guard officer. Wearing a badge, a bullet-proof tactical vest, and a gun and handcuffs, he told a boat owner that he was commandeering the boat for Coast Guard work. According to court records, his exact words were, “Your boat is now a U.S. Coast Guard vessel.” He then directed the owner to drive the boat toward other boats in the harbor and as they got close to the boats, Brown asked the people for IDs and to show their papers. He did something similar to a jet skier. When people complained about his behavior, police were called and after they investigated, they arrested Brown. Their investigation further revealed that in April 2002, Brown was discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard “under other than honorable conditions.” It was widely reported that he is the half brother of former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.



The captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, went back on board the ship last Thursday for the first time since the huge cruise liner sank two years ago causing the loss of 32 lives. Schettino, who faces multiple charges including manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, went aboard the vessel with an expert team of investigators appointed by the court, but was only present as a defendant and was not part of the investigation. The wreck is propped up on underwater platforms just outside the port of Giglio where it capsized on January 13, 2012. Residents of Giglio, a tiny island that depends on tourism, can’t wait to see the ship towed away. Stripped of his maritime license, Schettino is the only person remaining on trial after four crew members and an official from Costa Cruises were sentenced up to 34 months in prison after they plead guilty last year. Schettino has admitted that he bears responsibility for the accident as the ship’s captain, but claims that he is not the only person to blame and has pushed for the vessel to be examined for evidence of possible defects with its navigation electronics. Apparently, Schettino would like to tell his bosses .

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