NEW BEDFORD - The New Bedford City Council has voted to send a letter to former mayor John Bullard and the area's federal delegation calling for an immediate reversal of the decision to close the Sector IX fishing group.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with Bullard as the administrator of the Northeast sector, abruptly halted fishing operations last month by the 22 vessels, most of which are owned by Carlos Rafael, who was convicted of evading fishing quotas and smuggling cash.

At least one councillor scolded the federal delegation's seeming lack of concern for the over 300 fishermen and subsequent shoreside businesses whose livelihoods are at stake. Councillor at Large Brian Gomes says he's disappointed that the City's federal representatives have not been more vocal in their support of local fishermen and labeled Bullard's decision as ruthless.

"There's 300 fishermen and businesses that are going to suffer from one man's (Rafael's) wrongdoing that I feel should not be held against our entire city," said Gomes. "And I expect that our federal delegation, where this falls into the hands of them, they should be screaming loud and clear for the City of New Bedford."

Gomes says he has not heard much from Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren or Congressman William Keating on the matter.

Ward Three Councillor Hugh Dunn was quick to defend Congressman Keating, saying he has written letters and spoken on record about his opposition to the shutdown.

"Saying that this is a heavy-handed regulation, that it's punishing people who haven't been convicted of any crime," said Dunn. "Carlos has been convicted, but these fishermen haven't."

Dunn, a former staffer for Keating, says the Congressman is a strong supporter of area fishermen, having been successful in bringing over $100 million of federal relief funds to the industry.

In addition to the letter, the Council also requested a meeting with those affected by the shutdown to explain how the decision will continue to affect the city.

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