NEW BEDFORD — The council that manages the region’s fisheries and develops regulations will have open seats for new voting members in August. Local officials, as well as Gov. Charlie Baker, have called for retired New Bedford scalloper Eric Hansen to fill one of those seats.
Several state representatives, most from Bristol County, sent a letter to Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito last month to express support for the appointment of Hansen to the New England Fishery Management Council.
“The Southcoast merits and deserves an active voice in Council deliberations,” they wrote, noting New Bedford is the nation’s highest-value fishing port.
The council has obligatory members, meaning each New England state gets at least one seat, and at-large members. Massachusetts currently has five members from Gloucester, Chatham, Plymouth, East Falmouth and then an employee of the state Division of Marine Fisheries in Boston.
Baker on March 15 informed the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo (the former governor of Rhode Island) that Hansen was his preferred candidate to fill an at-large council seat being vacated by Michael Sissenwine of East Falmouth, according to a Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs spokesperson.
Hansen, whose scalloping company is based in New Bedford, currently serves on the council’s advisory panels for scallop and monkfish. He owns two scallopers and was a captain for more than two decades.
“It’s always good to have a local voice representing local interests,” he said. “The scallop industry is the most valuable industry on the East Coast, actually in the country. You need to have someone with experience, I believe, to put forward the views of the industry.”
Hansen serves on the board of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a fishing industry coalition created in response to offshore wind development, and the president of the Fisheries Survival Fund, an organization with the mission of protecting the scallop fishery. Both organizations have advocated for and raised the concerns of fishermen amid the federal approval process for offshore wind farms and lease areas.
Mayor Jon Mitchell called for Hansen to be appointed not only this year, but also in 2014.
John Quinn, whose term on the council ended in 2021, said Hansen would “hit the ground running” given he has served on council subcommittees and is familiar with the regulatory process.
“It’s really important that the voice of Greater New Bedford and the Port of New Bedford is at the table when these decisions are made on regulations,” said Quinn, assistant dean at the UMass Dartmouth School of Law and former state representative.
State Rep. Bill Straus said local concerns have to be reflected on the council and that New Bedford is in need of representation.
“They really set policy decisions,” Straus said. “It’s not just having a cheerleader, it’s actually someone there who understands the impact on the local fishery.”
NEFMC is authorized by federal law to conserve and manage fishery resources from three to 200 miles off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Council members may have an interest in harvesting, processing, lobbying or advocacy as long as they disclose those interests, according to NEFMC. Members are not allowed to vote on matters that would benefit only them or a minority of people within the same sector.
NEFMC has 18 voting members, including the regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, for the Greater Atlantic region. They all meet five to six times annually.
Twelve of the members are nominated by the governors of each New England coastal state and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The limit for each member is three consecutive three-year terms.
In addition to Hansen, Baker nominated Jackie Odell, executive director of Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition, as the state’s preferred candidate to fill another at-large seat being vacated by a member from Rhode Island.
He also nominated Peter Seminara, the shellfish constable for the City of Gloucester, and Paul Vincent Hagan, who owns a shellfish company in Duxbury, respectively, for the at-large seats that will open in August.
The Secretary of Commerce is expected to announce final appointments in June, with the new members swearing in and taking their oaths during the September council meeting.
During the September meeting, the council is also scheduled to vote on the possibility of leasing of fishing allocations in the scallop fishery — a proposal that has drawn strong supporters and opponents.
Email Anastasia E. Lennon at email@example.com.