Mitchell Says NOAA Attempt to Quantify Codfather Overfishing an ‘Absurdity’
NOAA proposed a plan on Wednesday to help the grounded fishing vessels of Sector IX begin to make strides toward repaying the overfishing of convicted "Codfather" Carlos Rafael and get back in the water, although if approved, the new rules still wouldn't go into effect until mid-summer.
In his weekly appearance on WBSM, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said it shouldn't be taking that long, as NOAA's decision to ban groundfishing in Sector IX has already cost tens of millions of dollars since the November decision.
"The hangup right now is that NOAA has to calculate the amount of fish that were lost as the result of the fraud that Carlos Rafael perpetuated, which is a very difficult exercise," Mitchell said. "They have all the information that they're ever likely going to get to make those calculations, so those calculations will inevitably be highly imperfect."
Mitchell said his argument is that NOAA needs to focus less on getting it perfect, and more on getting it done. He said with two different sets of problems--what fish did Rafael mischaracterize in order to be able to sell when he shouldn't, and how much fish did he catch without reporting at all--it's going to be hard to come up with a final, complete answer.
"It's almost like debating how many angels will fit on the head of a pin. It's sort of an absurdity," he said. "The information they have isn't going to get any better. They just have to hurry up and get on with the calculation, and tell the folks of Sector IX how much they owe, and let's get back down to business."
Mitchell also with a civil case pending against Rafael that was brought forth by another component of NOAA, he's hopeful it will force some kind of so-called "global resolution." He said he will continue to do whatever he can to help facilitate those discussions, such as finding buyers for Rafael's seized vessels and permits, with the goal to keep as much of the fish coming into New Bedford as possible.
During his radio program, Mitchell also said he has no concerns about Governor Charlie Baker's announcement that a decision on which of three companies would get the state's first offshore wind contract will be delayed. The decision was supposed to be announced this coming Monday, but Baker said it could still be weeks away from being decided.
"I'm not concerned about the delay," said Mitchell. "They are committed to the process, and I think frankly, it's probably a good thing, because it will allow for more of a discussion around fisheries issues, which I believe the governor is taking seriously.”
Mitchell said he has already discussed the issues between commercial fishing and wind energy with Governor Baker, and he plans on having more discussions in the immediate future.