It is difficult to know what to make of a series of meetings in East Hampton last week between local officials and representatives of the United States Department of Commerce. The participants were more or less handpicked by Town Hall, and the sessions were closed to those not invited. The meetings had their origins in an Economic Development Administration study of six United States commercial fishing ports. The goal was to determine how development aid might be appropriated in light of reduced landings of 19 species, including cod, haddock, and yellowtail and winter flounder.
From a look at an agenda, however, it appears that the meetings were set from the start to be more of a grab-bag on the local economy than the beginning of something that would ultimately help commercial fishing. The first day included representatives of the East Hampton Business Alliance and the heads of the town’s chambers of commerce, as well as “work-force housing advocates” and others.
The second day started with bank officials and the work-force housing people again. That afternoon had motel owners, real estate brokers, and film industry personnel discussing the challenges and opportunities of doing business here, and, yet again, work-force housing advocates. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon on the last day that the group got around to actually talking directly to the fleet. Then it was time for a wrap-up buffet at Gosman’s.
The value of the meetings will be judged from a report said to be coming in a matter of weeks. It remains to be seen whether any aid for the fishing industry will be the result.