Keating Says Relief Coming for New Bedford Fishermen [VIDEO]
Some relief may be coming for the fishermen of New Bedford.
In his weekly appearance on WBSM, U.S. Congressman William Keating shared some details from his conversation with Wednesday with NOAA Regional Administrator Michael Pentony, and said he expects fishermen to at least have some answers "in the next two to three weeks."
The Democrat said he believes the ground fishermen who were forced to remain on land whe NOAA implemented a ground fishing ban on Sector IX in New Bedford will soon be able to lease their quotas to other fishermen. The Sector IX fishermen had opted to join Sector VII back in March in order to lease their quotas, while still working with NOAA to determine how much overfishing had been done by convicted "Codfather" Carlos Rafael.
"Hopefully, this is the beginning of the road back to open this up," Rep. Keating told WBSM's Chris McCarthy. "We're working with NOAA on a couple of issues to help dramatically in this process."
Keating said he believes NOAA will publicly announce its plan in the next couple of weeks, and that there is a required public comment period on that plan before it can be put into effect.
"Usually in our office, we argue for a long comment period, having constituents that continually want to comment and have the time to do it," Keating said. "This time, we're trying to work hard and see if we can shorten the period, because that's time wasted getting people back fishing."
Keating also said he's working on a plan with NOAA to help make up for the fish that Rafael's boats caught illegally.
"There has to be a correction on that, (so) what we're also working on, and we're getting great cooperation on from NOAA, is that fact that the time lost already in fishing, that estimated quota that was lost be counted as the penalty, so that when next year starts, the people aren't facing an additional penalty," he said.
The congressman said people have to understand that even though Rafael was sentenced to 46 months in prison, the investigation still isn't completed.
"There are still investigations that are going on," he said, noting he is not privy to exactly what they are. "So you have the criminal side of this, that really interfered and created some obstacles going forward on the other front. But we've been able to move around those things, and I'm very hopeful that in the next two to three weeks, we can get the ball started."