'To not have a voice ... is just wrong': Why New Bedford wants a seat on fisheries council

NEW BEDFORD — The Port of New Bedford has the honor of being the most valuable commercial fishing port in the nation, and the hub of commercial fishing in the Northeast, but the city has no local voice representing it on the New England Fisheries Management Council.

The last New Bedford voice on the council was John Quinn, who left in 2021 and was replaced by Michael Pierdinock of Plymouth.

Eric Hansen is looking to be the New Bedford voice on the council.

"We're the largest valued fishing port in the nation and to not have a voice on the council is just wrong," Hansen said.

Hansen has been a scallop fisherman, like his father and grandfather before him, for 44 years. He doesn't go to sea anymore but his scallop vessel F/V Endeavor does and these days his son is at the wheel, serving as captain.

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New Bedford currently has no local voice representing it on the New England Fisheries Management Council. The mayor is urging Gov. Charlie Baker to change that.

Hansen said it's important to have someone who has been an actual fisherman serve on the council.

"I'm very thankful for the letters of support and humbled," Hansen said regarding the letter of support to Gov. Charlie Baker from Mitchell.

In his letter to the governor, Mitchell said Hansen, "has an extensive history as a leader in New Bedford's fishing community and has dedicated himself to the work of ensuring successful, sustainable fisheries."

Janice M. Plante, public affairs officer at the New England Fishery Management Council, said there are two council-at-large member seats up for appointment and one seat that must be filled by an obligatory member from New Hampshire.

At-large member Mike Sissenwine of Massachusetts is ineligible for reappointment because he has served three consecutive three-year terms, the maximum allowed, making his at-large seat open to new candidates.

At-large member Rick Bellavance, of Rhode Island, is eligible for reappointment but his seat can be filled by a member from another state, although that doesn’t happen very often, Plante explained.

Mark Godfroy holds an obligatory seat from New Hampshire, so his seat must be filled by a candidate from New Hampshire, Plante noted.

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The appointments to the council are made by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, based on recommendations from each state’s Governor, who must submit a nomination letter and the completed applications to the secretary by March 15, 2022.

In late June, the Secretary will announce the appointee selections, and new council members take their seats in August, according to the council's website.

The New England Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils established by federal legislation in 1976, is charged with conserving and managing fishery resources from three to 200 miles off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Standard-Times digital producer Linda Roy can be reached at lroy@s-t.com Follow her on Twitter at @LindaRoy_SCT. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: New Bedford mayor wants Eric Hansen on Fisheries Management Council.