Mitchell: ‘Will Do Everything We Can’ for Fishermen’s Families
With the search called off for the two missing fishermen from the sunken Misty Blue, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell says the city and its residents will do all it can to offer solace to the families.
"We will do everything we can to support the families through this," Mitchell said. "It's going to be hard, but there are other families who have experienced it who can certainly offer a shoulder to them."
Mitchell made the comments during his weekly appearance on WBSM, although he was calling in from Washington, DC. The mayor was in the nation's capital to speak with officials about issues that directly affect the fishing industry in New Bedford.
The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for 44-year-old Michael Roberts of Fairhaven and 32-year-old Jonathan Saraiva of New Bedford Tuesday evening, after rescue efforts had failed to locate them following the Misty Blue's sinking Monday evening.
"It's unfortunate we need these kind of reminders of just how dangerous commercial fishing is," Mitchell said. "It's the most dangerous profession out there, and there are way too many families in greater New Bedford who have experienced what these families are experiencing today, and it's an awful thing."
The Fishermen's Tribute Monument at Pier 3 has acted as a de facto gathering place in the past for families affected by fishing tragedies, something Mayor Mitchell knows personally.
"Pier 3 is the historic home of the New Bedford fishing fleet, and it's the place where my own grandfather left on his last trip when his boat went down," he said. "So it's a place where lots of families have connected with the industry over the years. So if it's helping people grieve, that's a good thing."
Mayor Mitchell's grandfather, Captain Alexander Mitchell, was the skipper of the Anna C. Perry, which went down along with all six members of her crew on March 11, 1952.
"My father was a kid, and (my grandfather) left behind six kids and my grandmother," Mitchell said. "Lots of families in our city, in our region have suffered the way these two families have suffered. It's the tough side of being in the fishing industry. There are a lot of families that have suffered that way, and I hope those families know we're all here to support them."
Mitchell was in Washington to meet with Chris Oliver, the head of the National Marine Fisheries Service, to talk about the organization's decision to close down Sector IX and how to settle the Carlos Rafael case in a way that won't continue to hurt New Bedford fishermen.
"I made my case about how I believe this should be a so-called global settlement of what remains of Carlos' case. There's the pending appeal to his criminal case, concerning the forfeiture of his vessels, the Sector IX closure, the pending civil enforcement proceedings. All of it gets very complicated," Mitchell said, noting his continued push for the federal government to allow Rafael to sell off his vessels and associated permits to New Bedford interests, to keep operations going at the port. "We don't want fishermen out of work, we don't want businesses that rely on Carlos' landings to suffer. That's the case I've been making, and I made it to the boss (Tuesday)."
Mitchell said NOAA needs to get "on a faster track now that Sector IX has shut down," in order to get the fishermen back in the water as soon as possible.
"None of this is to excuse Carlos' behavior," he said. "But we don't want a situation where others who weren't involved in the offensive conduct suffer as well."
The mayor also met with Senator Ed Markey, primarily about getting some federal funding to help build the North Terminal for fishing, offshore wind and commercial freight operating out of New Bedford harbor.
"I did bring up the Carlos situation with him," Mitchell said. "Everyone is familiar with it. He's concerned about that. Senator (Elizabeth) Warren's office has weighed in as well. I know a lot of them take their cues from what I've submitted, because I'm closer to the action. I'm a little more versed in these issues, so they often follow my lead on them."