NEW BEDFORD — Fishing vessels owned by convicted "Codfather" Carlos Rafael and others are moving out of the shut-down Sector IX, but still won't be allowed to fish.

The 55 vessels have submitted their intention to become part of Sector VII for the 2018-19 fishing year.

Richie Canastra, president of Sector VII, tells WBSM News the move from Sector IX to Sector VII will allow the vessels to lease their groundfish quota to other fishing entities, so they can at least recoup some of the financial losses suffered as a result of the shutdown.

"This way, they're able to lease only. They won't be able to fish," Canastra said. "The only way they'd be able to fish is if NOAA blesses it, or if NOAA blesses a sale of the vessels to certain individuals, in which a third party coming in would be able to start fishing again. Because obviously, being in Sector IX, the vessels have no value because they're just tied up right now."

After Rafael was found guilty of overfishing and depleting certain groundfish stocks, NOAA shut down Sector IX to groundfishing back in November. The sector vessels were told they would have to come up with an operations plan that would lay out how they planned to make good on the fish Rafael's vessels caught illegally. Canastra says the sector can't do that, however, until NOAA tells them how much fish that is.

"It doesn't mean they're not going to pay back what they owe," he said. "We're just waiting for the blessing of NOAA, and it's been about six months already with no answers as far as an accurate count of fish that has to be paid back."

With the move to Sector 7, Canastra becomes the president, with Tor Bendiksen becoming the treasurer, and Cassie Canastra becoming clerk of the sector. Any vessels in the sector owned by Rafael are to remain inactive, unless they are sold to a third party.

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