A restless waterfront is demanding the attention of elected officials on the state and federal levels, but so far there has been little but lip service.

This week, Governor Charlie Baker promised to listen to the concerns of the local fishing industry, as plans proceed for an offshore wind farm that could have grave consequences for the industry if not done right.

Industry reps are concerned about the impact such development could have on fish stocks. They also worry that the budding wind industry could crowd them out along the waterfront and pose safety risks for vessels putting out to sea.

Fishing industry officials have written to Baker seeking a dialogue on such issues as navigation, access, cable routes, radar interference and gear loss. They urge the governor to make the state's first wind farm "as modest in size and scope as possible" so that the impacts can be studied. They also seek a delay in awarding a contract for harvesting wind energy. Above all, they want a voice in the process and want the New Bedford Port Authority to be the "central facilitator" for discussions between the wind farmers and the fishermen.

The industry has the backing of Mayor Jon Mitchell, who tells me he spoke personally with Baker this week about getting it right, given what is at stake.

New Bedford's fishing industry is also reeling from the closure of Sector IX by the feds due to fishing violations. The closure has impacted every aspect of the industry and support businesses that service the waterfront, and should be reconsidered.

To that end, City Councillor-at-Large Brian Gomes has filed a motion calling for an emergency summit to deal with the closure. Gomes seeks a gathering of all local, regional and federal officials involved in the fishing industry, as well as members of the state and federal legislative delegations, both of which seem to have lost their tongues on this issue.

The power lays in Washington and our federal delegation, led by Senators Warren and Markey and Representative Keating, which has been shockingly AWOL on these issues. These folks have taken our region for granted for far too long, and it's about time we insist that they earn their pay, not to mention our vote.

The future of our fishing industry and our economy are at stake.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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