U.S. Sen. Edward Markey visited Chatham Fish Pier yesterday (Aug. 25) to hear more about creating opportunities for the fishing industry, which include working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture so it continues to buy more fish and to expand regional efforts so small boats are included, two causes the senator has championed.
As he looked out at the bustling Chatham Fish Pier as boats navigated the tide to bring in their catch of dogfish and mackerel, while a crowd watched and took photos from the observation deck, Markey wondered how the industry had fared during the pandemic; if the money he had fought for in the CARES Act made a difference.
“I made that one of my very first projects, making sure fishermen got what they needed and had an economic life raft to get through,” Markey said.
Andy Baler, who owner of Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar, said the funding came at a critical time.
“It’s phenomenal how that can make a difference between here today and here tomorrow,” Baler said.
But, he added, the margins fishermen are operating with today are much smaller than when he first started in the business. There has to be a way to expand opportunities and markets for fishermen to grow their businesses, critical for sustainability and success.
The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance has been trying to convince the USDA to broaden its programs and include more fish caught by small businesses in its huge purchasing and distribution program that sends food to food banks, schools, the military and prisons, said alliance CEO Pappalardo. Purchases in that program historically have been mainly beef, chicken and pork products.
“We could really do something lasting and meaningful for coastal communities,” Pappalardo said.
He explained the non-profit’s haddock chowder program, “Small Boats, Big Taste,” which used more than 200,000 pounds of haddock as a chowder base for food banks, is an example of a successful initiative that could grow.The senator also had the opportunity to speak with fishermen at the pier on a variety of issues, including concerns about wind farms. Markey said fishermen can’t be left out of the equation.
“We have to coordinate so they can co-exist,” he said, “so they both (wind farms and the fishing industry) are a vibrant part of the 21st century.”
Chatham town officials were on hand to thank the senator for his work supporting dredging projects, and asking that they continue. Officials also voiced their continuing concern with the Coast Guard replacing traditional surf boats with response boats. Selectmen have said the new boats will not respond as well to the challenges posed by the treacherous Chatham Bar.
Pappalardo gave Markey a copy of “Pier to Plate – A Cape Cod Recipe Book” which features recipes from local chefs of local fish that are landed in abundance.
“Beautiful. Fabulous,” Markey said, adding with a smile that he and his wife have fish for dinner most nights of the week.
For more information about Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance visit https://www.capecodfishermen.org/
Doreen Leggett is the Community Journalist for Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance.