Fisheries Committee Wants Leo Back as Consultant

    In their first meeting of 2012, members of East Hampton Town’s ad hoc fisheries committee voted to recommend that the town board reappoint Arnold Leo, secretary of the East Hampton Town Baymen’s Association, to act as its consultant.
    The job, which often requires the consultant to attend fishery management meetings up and down the coast, pays $15,000 per year. After the vote, Rick Etzel, the committee chairman, told fellow members he would inform the town board of the committee’s wishes.
    The vote did not please all 11 members, who represent both commercial and recreational industries. And it did not please Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who last February refused to reappoint Mr. Leo despite the fact that the committee had voted unanimously to keep him on, and despite the fact that Mr. Leo had been willing to serve even though the annual budget was cut from $40,000 to $15,000. He became the town’s first fisheries consultant in 2007. Yesterday, Mr. Wilkinson said it would be the town board’s decision.
    Last February, Mr. Wilkinson insinuated that Mr. Leo, as secretary of the Baymen’s Association, was a commercial fisheries advocate, had not given equal representation to all the town’s marine industries. In a vote of 3 to 2 along Republican and Democratic lines respectively, Mr. Leo was removed from his post on Feb. 2 after the supervisor claimed the consultant had not gotten results during his tenure.
    His opinion was not shared by Paul Forsberg of Montauk’s Viking Fleet of party boats, who submitted a letter saying “his performance for both the commercial and for-hire fisheries has been excellent.”
    Mr. Leo’s pre-consultancy history includes his prominent role in the heated conflict between commercial and recreational fishermen over striped bass regulations in the late 1980s and early ’90s and the subsequent divvying up of awards won during a successful class action suit brought by New York commercial and for-hire fishermen against the General Electric Company.
    The company dumped tons of polychlorinated biphenyls, or P.C.B.s, into the Hudson River over many years. The contamination caused the State Department of Environmental Conservation to ban the sale of striped bass, anadromous fish that swim far up the Hudson to spawn.
    To this day, some in the charter boat industry insist that as the town’s consultant Mr. Leo will always favor commercial fisheries to the detriment of recreational interests.   
    Apparently, this fear did not prevail during Friday’s committee vote.
    “It’s not a matter of liking Arnold. He does a great job and he’s inexpensive,” said Bob Valenti, owner of the Multi-Aquaculture Systems business on Napeague and a fisheries committee member.
    By “inexpensive,” Dr. Valenti was referring to the fact that Eric Braun, a former landings-data collector for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Mr. Leo’s successor, had charged the town $60 per hour for his time, using over half of the committee’s 2011 budget while attending one three-day meeting in Virginia last year. “What the committee did without Arnold was shit,” Dr. Valenti said.
    Reached yesterday morning, Supervisor Wilkinson said that although he had not officially received the committee’s recommendation, he assumed it was coming. He said it would be presented to the town board.
    “I came into this during my first term under concern from recreational fishermen that their views were not being promoted, but I’m going to listen to the committee. I’m not so thickheaded as to say it’s my way or the highway. It will be aired to the entire board, but my views are not changing.”
    The supervisor said he might ask Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc to serve as liaison to the fisheries committee. Mr. Van Scoyoc said yesterday that he thought the subject of Mr. Leo’s reappointment might be addressed at the board’s Tuesday work session.


Comments

Fisheries Consultant Facts I am continually disappointed in the media and the East Hampton Star is no different. The facts keep dropping out the Rusthole. In both of Rusty’s articles 1/12/12, Fisheries Committee wants Leo back as Consultant and 8/11/11, Good New from Fisheries Meeting, there was a reference to Eric Braun spending more than half the East Hampton Fishery Advisory Committee’s budget on a single three day meeting in VA. FALSE TRUTH: The meeting was deemed very important and I was asked to attend the four day meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The meeting was attended in its entirety, I spoke on behalf of East Hampton Lobstermen, did an Interview for News Day and reported back to the committee and anyone else who was interested what transpired. Salary costs were; $3,270 and included attending the meeting and an 18 page summary report (available upon request). Travel costs were; $1,320 for a total meeting cost of $4,590. While this is expensive, it is not half of the $15K budget or more than $7,000 as was reported in the East Hampton Star twice. I have never conducted work without the express and direct permission of the Committee or Supervisor. Rusty’s latest article stated that Eric Braun charged the Town $60 per hour. Let the record show this hourly rate was set by the Town Board and not by Erik Braun. This debate has nothing to do with fisheries; it is all about money and politics. I feel I have impeccable qualifications; a degree in wildlife biology and fisheries management, marine fisheries experience in the U.S. Peace Corps, 17 Years with the National Marine Fisheries Service here in East Hampton, where I was twice honored with Bronze Medals from the U. S. Department of Commerce. I am a lifelong recreational fisherman. I am a veteran charter boat Captain. I have been on countless research cruises for Federal and State Fisheries Management Agencies, as well as Academia. Through my friendly relations with other East Hampton fishermen I have donated several specimens to both the Smithsonian Museum and Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology the leading fish collections in the Country. Some specimens are rare and some are one of a kind. I have fished on numerous draggers in East Hampton both commercially and as scientist conducting cooperative research. I have pin hooked, gill netted, pound netted, long lined and conch potted. I am a vendor of local seafood at multiple East Hampton farmers markets where I not only sell East Hampton seafood but enjoy educating the public about fisheries. I feel I have been a strong ally of fishermen of every type; commercial, recreational, charter and party boats. I have conducted many educational dog and pony shows for school teachers and supply the Springs School aquarium with life. I am currently lobstering on a boat in Montauk. I took the Consultant position with the mutual understanding that I would not only be going to the fisheries meetings and speaking on behalf of the Town, but I would be reporting back what was discussed to anyone who was interested. Following all meetings for which I was asked to attend, I would post a report called: In an effort to keep us all on the same page. These reports were condensed and easy to understand minutes I wrote, and then emailed to a list of over 130 concerned citizens, legislators and fisheries managers. The reports were also posted on two web pages: www.noreast.com and www.fishunited.com . These posts where very well received, and the list of interested citizens was growing. In the first besmirching(8/11/11), Arnold said “East Hampton Town’s fisheries advisory committee was never called to meet before this incredibly important meeting” so Arnold “attended on the Baymen’s Association’s dime”. I can tell you, as a card carrying member of the Baymen’s Association, Arnold never called a meeting before this incredibly important meeting either. He attends meetings because he wants to, and only reports verbally to whom he feels. It was the same when he was the East Hampton Fisheries Consultant. The official comments Arnold wrote on proposed management measures even had his name at the top, rather than the Town of East Hampton as they are now submitted. This position is not about one person. There is too much politics in fisheries already. I hope something more positive will come from the East Hampton Fisheries Committee and more fact checking will come from the East Hampton Star. Ps. My Mom gets mad when you spell my name wrong. k? Erik Braun