For years, Narragansett scallop fisherman Michael Marchetti has believed information being used by government officials to manage the fishery did not correlate with his at-sea observations. He’s taken advantage of several research programs to both improve available data and increase his own financial opportunities in an industry in which many of his colleagues are feeling increasingly burdened by regulatory requirements.
Last month, Marchetti and other members of the Port of Galilee Task Force met at Narragansett Town Hall to discuss available funding to aid local fishermen through such research programs, loans and various federal grants. The meeting, however, failed to draw anyone from the fishing community, a reflection of either the inability of some fishermen to miss a day on the job or simply lack of interest.
“Fishermen have been … catching fluke and scup offshore, and the weather has been well within their reach of going out, making money and paying bills,” said Richard L. Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, after the April 3 meeting. “[Most fishermen would not prefer] a handout of any sort, especially when the National Marine Fisheries Service is tied into it.”
Once the president of the Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, Marchetti and fellow task force member Chris Roebuck are veterans of several research programs and agree that they aren’t geared for every fisherman. In 2011, Marchetti contributed to research designed to evaluate a new dredge that would possibly reduce winter flounder bycatch – accidental catch – in the sea scallop fishery.
“It’s not always easy to participate in these studies, but it does make it easier when you are heavily invested in the [scallop] fishery,” Marchetti said.
This year he will participate in a Virginia Institute of Marine Science study evaluating the discarding of skates in the scallop fishery. It is a two-year study of fishing in Georges Bank Closed Areas I and II, using five-to-seven-day trips, and includes multiple vessels and owners. This project was awarded 115,992 pounds of scallops with a potential value of $1,092,642.