On the Value of Fisheries

Cornell Extension would study commercial harvest
Money is being raised for a Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County study of the commercial and for-hire recreational fishing industries as well as aquaculture interests in East Hampton and the other East End towns. Carissa Katz

The chairman of the Town of East Hampton’s fisheries advisory committee told the town trustees on Monday that the committee has raised $35,000 toward the $100,000 cost of an analysis of the socioeconomic importance of fisheries to the town, and asked that the trustees consider making a contribution of their own. 

Brad Loewen, a bayman and a former town councilman, told the trustees that the State Industrial Development Agencies has awarded a $25,000 grant toward the study, which would be conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and cover the commercial and for-hire recreational fishing industries as well as aquaculture interests. The town, to which Mr. Loewen had appealed in the spring, has agreed to provide $10,000. 

The town board recognizes the importance of these industries, Mr. Loewen said, but the state and federal governments “seem to have some bias in not recognizing we’re an industry.” The committee would like a study to be completed as quickly as possible, he said, “because none exists. There are data, statistics, various things that management and we and you guys could look at if you have questions about fisheries, but nothing comprehensive. We don’t even know how many people work in our industry, or what it’s worth, in a scientific way.”

Initially focusing on East Hampton, the committee decided to expand the scope of the proposed study to cover the five East End towns, Mr. Loewen said. The committee has asked for contributions from the Towns of Southampton and Southold, which he said agreed that a study would be valuable but have yet to make a commitment. “When we make grant applications . . . everybody says it has to be more regional to be considered,” he said. 

“ ‘Regional’ is the new government buzzword,” said Bill Taylor, a deputy clerk of the trustees. 

Mr. Loewen said that he was personally apprehensive about expanding the scope to cover the five East End towns for fear of diluting its focus on concerns specific to the fisheries advisory committee. “If we take their money we will have to agree to some of their criteria. I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m just trying to make a point that this is an East Hampton project.” 

The trustees, however, encouraged him to look at it differently. “I can see where it probably would be advantageous to make this study more comprehensive, have it encompass the local towns,” said Jim Grimes. “Everybody shares from that benefit. . . . You’d be a much stronger voice than you would be as single East Hampton.” The present $65,000 shortfall toward the study’s cost is another reason to include the other towns, he said. 

“If you can get five towns and three boards of trustees to put in something like $10,000 or $12,000 each,” Mr. Taylor said, “you’re there.”

Mr. Grimes suggested dedicating a meeting of the trustees’ harbor management committee to a closer examination of the study and how to finance it. 

Rick Drew, who heads that committee, said the proposal could be further vetted there, helping the fisheries advisory committee “establish a foothold where the trustees could be part of the process moving forward.” The trustees’ formal support would strengthen outreach efforts to other towns and trustee boards, he predicted. “Ultimately, you want to effect political change,” he said. “That means numbers. The more government bodies behind you, the greater your strength.”