Push For Economic Study Of Local Fishing Industry

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Cornell Cooperative Extension and the East Hampton Fisheries Committee are looking for money to study how much the fishing industry contributes to the local economy.

The research would be conducted by John Scotti and Emerson Hasbrouck, educators at Cornell Cooperative Extension. It would focus on the social, historic and economic impacts of the industry, as well as its future, and cost an estimated $100,000. The study would involve reaching out to businesses like hardware stores that sell equipment used in commercial fishing, as well as studying how and where fishing takes place.

Brad Loewen, who chairs the East Hampton Town Fisheries Committee, Mr. Hasbrouck and Mr. Scotti discussed the proposed study at a Southampton Town Board work session on Thursday, November 10. Mr. Hasbrouck said the study could also be used by East End towns to apply for grants to rebuild docks or roads related to the industry.

Since Hampton Bays is considered the second largest fishing port in New York after Montauk, Mr. Loewen said, developing a study of the fishing industry should be a high priority in Southampton Town. He added that such a study has never been completed for the East End, making it difficult for commercial fishermen, charter and party boat captains and aquaculture farmers to fight against government restrictions.

“Even us, we don’t really know the extent of our industry,” Mr. Loewen said. “We need to have more information … then we can prove our value. We can take this document to Albany when [state officials] are doing legislation concerning fisheries and actually show them something. If they don’t have something made by people with credentials, it becomes nothing. It becomes hearsay.”

Mr. Loewen said the Fisheries Committee, established in 2006, advises East Hampton Town officials about issues that affect the fishing industry. The committee also lobbies against fishing regulations and moratoriums—all with a $10,000 yearly budget from the town. Since the fishing industry extends beyond East Hampton, the committee is now working to reach out to all of the five East End towns for funding to develop the broad study.

“There’s a 100-percent return that goes into the local economy from the fishing industry,” Mr. Hasbrouck said. “And there’s a lot of activity in the fishing industry that takes place this time of the year. When the tourists aren’t here, there’s money being generated.”

The estimated cost, $100,000, was the cost of a similar study done by Cornell in Rhode Island. Members of the Southampton Town Board suggested that the cost was too high, although they said they would want to help pay in some way.

“There’s a consensus of the board that we all want to do something to help,” Councilwoman Christine Scalera said at the work session.

“I think the board is willing to do something here, we just don’t know what that is,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman added, noting that it would be helpful to see how many of the five East End towns will participate and how much each one’s share would be.

The committee was asked to return to the board with a specific funding request after speaking with officials of the other towns.

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