CHATHAM — John Pappalardo is a seasoned veteran of fishery management who cites the importance of achieving both the near-term goals that directly benefit area fishermen and solving the big picture problems that benefit fish stocks, and fishermen, across the Northeast.
Reappointed this week to a seat on the New England Fishery Management Council, Pappalardo, who is the chief executive officer for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, is beginning his fifth term, with five of the dozen years he’s already served spent as chairman of the council. The current council chairman is Dr. John F. Quinn of Dartmouth.
Gov. Charlie Baker nominated Pappalardo in March, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Chris Oliver announced his reappointment along with three other New England council members on Wednesday.
“The Council needs to hear from the Cape and Islands fishermen and I’m grateful to be a strong voice for them,” Pappalardo said in a press release. The New England Council is one of eight regional councils that have fishermen, fishing industry representatives, environmentalists, and state and federal fishery officials appointed to formulate measures to sustainably manage fish stocks in each region.
In an interview Thursday, Pappalardo said he thinks the New England council has achieved some major goals during his past term, including passing a habitat amendment that had been under consideration for more than a decade and seeks to identify and protect habitat crucial to the species they manage.
“It was a massive undertaking,” Pappalardo said. The council’s recent decision to protect deep sea corals is another example of their willingness to improve or preserve habitat, he said.
“There was no mandate to do it, but we did it,” he said.
Over the three years of his new term, which officially begins Aug. 12, Pappalardo would like to see the council approve a limited access fishery for skate. Cape fishermen are catching far more skate and dogfish than cod and want to limit new permits to those who have a history in recent years of steadily landing them. This protects the fishermen and the skate population from the consequences of too many people chasing a limited number of fish. About 30 Cape boats consistently target skates, Pappalardo said.
Pappalardo thinks that within two years, NOAA Fisheries will permit a monitoring system that replaces a human observer with video cameras that record what fishermen are catching and how much unwanted fish they are throwing overboard, usually dead. It greatly reduces the cost to fishermen of having to pay for a human monitor and may have scientific value in providing fisheries scientists with a visual record of what is being caught.
“It will maintain a level playing field and make sure of compliance (with fishery regulations), but in the long term it will be a tool to gather fish data over space and time and help scientists to assess the health of a particular stock,” Pappalardo said.
This November, the council likely will vote on a proposal he has championed, implementing a buffer zone designed to preserve herring schooling close to the Cape that draw predatory fish close enough that local fishermen can catch them. Pappalardo is also looking forward to his role on a committee advising the council on ecosystem-based fishery management.