Mafia tactics employed at New Bedford scallop hearing

On March 20 th at the public hearing for Amendment 21 General Category Scallops in New
Bedford an incident occurred in the audience that raises serious questions about IFQ management and
the consequences of them. A New Jersey fisherman, who was in the area looking at boats for sale,
decided to attend the public hearing that night. As he entered the room he was approached by a well
known local fishing industry entrepreneur, who now sells boats and fishing quota , and who he has
previously done business with. He is also handling the sale of the boat the fisherman is looking to buy.
He aggressively gave the fisherman the fifth degree of questioning about why he was at the meeting,
leaving said fisherman with an uneasy feeling of intimidation, as the questioning implied don’t testify
against the plan.

After the New England Fishery Management Council’s presentation concerning the details of the
proposed changes to the management plan, the audience was asked for comments. The major change
that is proposed for the scallop fishery is an increase in the daily trip limit from 600 pounds to 1200. The
original trip limit for General Category vessels was 400 pounds. This was increased to 600 pounds in
2011 with the passage of Amendment 15.

A few fishermen came up to voice their support for the plan including the boat/quota broker
who is also a member of the Scallop advisory panel. After he spoke it seemed to the Jersey Fisherman
that the rest of the audience was afraid to testify, many fishermen are afraid because of a fear of public
speaking, so he went and expressed his view, stating that he was happy with the trip limit as it is, and
didn’t see a need to increase it. He also pointed out that many Mid Atlantic and southern New England
fishermen would be negatively impacted by these scallop vessels who would now be able to catch their
quota in less then half the time it took to catch the original 400 pound trip limit, and would use that
extra time to compete in the already over capitalized Squid, Fluke and Black Sea Bass fisheries which are
working on tightly controlled quota’s and trip limits. They would cause early shut downs of those
fisheries and cause more economic harm to those fishermen, many of whom had their General
Category permit taken away for not catching enough scallops in the short 5 year qualifying period set in
Amendment 11 in 2006.

When he was finished speaking he returned to his seat near a now enraged Broker who verbally
assaulted him with a barrage of profanity laced accusations and threats, including many MFers and a
threat to take it out into the parking lot. Also included was a threat to make sure he didn’t buy the boat
he was looking at. The backroom ruckus caused the Council hearing officer to pause the meeting to
restore order. The meeting ended shortly after with what appeared to be an intimidated audience, now
afraid to speak.

The next morning before driving back to New Jersey the Fisherman stopped in to see the New
Bedford Seafood Auction, and talk to a few friends. Coincidently the Broker showed up shortly after and
started a new profanity and threat laced tirade in front of more people. Luckily the confrontation didn’t
escalate to violence, but clearly the fisherman felt that was his intent. He drove home later that day
emotionally distraught and wondering what the hell was that all about?

This incident raises many serious issues including the inappropriate, possibly even illegal actions
of the broker, who as an advisory panel member and a Scallop lease broker should know better then to
threaten and intimidate an audience member at a public hearing. But a more serious question arises, if
the Broker was not afraid to use Mafia enforcement actions in a very public forum, what has he been
doing privately? His Brokerage, leases a lot of Scallop quota. Has he privately contacted every scallop
purchasing client that he has been doing business with and threatened them that they better support
the increase or they will never sell them another pound of quota? Has this whole amendment process
been totally compromised by his intimidation tactics, and the possibility he committed many more? It’s
widely agreed that a raise in the trip limit will increase quota prices by 25 to 50 cents a pound to the
buyer. Why would they ever support that? With all the money involved to the investors, can we be sure
that they have not bribed a few NEFMC members, with no skin in the game, to vote for the increase?

There are some large Scallop quota holders that lease scallops, some to assure their local
fishermen have access to the resource, others to make sure that the product comes across their dock.
And then their are the profiteers who have bought quota using outside investment money, promising x
amount of return for the investors. When the scallop prices are lower or fuel is higher the return to the
investors drops. Consequently pressure mounts to increase the return or else the investment house of
cards collapses. The Broker’s Mafia tactics now raise serious questions about the benevolence of this
supposed model of modern day enlightened environmentally friendly management technique. It
appears that the real push behind increasing the trip limit is simply that the brokers want more money
per pound for their Scallop quota, so they can satisfy their investors expected returns on their
investment money, and it seems certain people will resort to any means to meet them. It always comes
down to the money.

NMFS needs to do a complete investigation into this matter and should interview every person
who has ever leased Scallops to see if they have been told or threatened what to do in regard to
amendment 21. The NEFMC should pause this whole Amendment process in its tracks until the
investigation is over. The whole idea of people being able to sell quota while they just sit back and not
even have to own a boat, is sickening to most fishermen on the coast. But for mafia tactics to be used to
intimidate and threaten fisherman to be quiet is not supposed to be how management works. These IFQ
fisheries turn fishermen into indentured servants as their plantation owners reap the rewards of the
fisherman’s hard work. It’s time to look behind the curtain and see what the wizards are really up to.

Jim Lovgren