THRIVING OR JUST SURVIVING: LONG ISLAND’S FISHING INDUSTRY

Are Long Island’s fishermen thriving or merely surviving on the East End? We’re taking a deep dive into the story.

Aired on September 20, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

I'VE BEEN IN DIFFERENT FISHERIES AND I STILL -- I CAN'T SUCCEED DO MY GOAL TO GET MY OWN LICENSE TO START MY OWN GEAR.

WITHOUT MY LICENSE, I'M NOTHING, I'M JUST SOMEBODY ELSE'S WORKER.

SO IT'S VERY FRUSTRATING AND, YOU KNOW, I DON'T WANT, LIKE I SAID, I DON'T WANT TO BE PUSHED OUT LIKE A BUNCH OF THE OLD TIMERS HAVE.

HE'S HAVING A HARD TIME MAKING ENDS MEET.

AARON WAS BORN IN SAG HARBOR, HE'S PROBABLY ONE OF THE YOUNGEST FISHERMEN.

WE CAUGHT UP WITH HIM ON ONE OF THE UNUSUAL DAYS HE WAS NOT ON THE WATER.

MANY LICENSES FOR FISHERIES IN LONG ISLANDS ARE CLOSED DUE TO THE POPULATION OF SOME FISH OR THE COASTAL QUOTA SUCH AS SEA BASS.

THE ONLY WAY A YOUNGER FISHERMAN CAN HOPE TO GET ACCESS TO A FISHERY IS IF THEIR PARENTS DIE AND PASS THEM THE LICENSE.

THE PARENT HAS TO LIVE IN THE SAME HOME AS THEM WHEN THEY PASS.

AUTHORITIES PUT IN THAT MORATORIUM.

I'VE BEEN IN THIS LOTTERY SYSTEM FOR NEW YORK STATE.

AND I KEEP GETTING REJECTED IN A WAY.

AND THEY CALL IT A LOTTERY, SO IF YOU GO TO THE LOCAL GAS STATION OR CORNER STORE AND BUY A LOTTERY TICKET TO TRY TO BE A MILLIONAIRE.

I DON'T WANT TO BE A MILLIONAIRE, I WANT TO GETS A FISHING LICENSE AND I CAN ENABLE MYSELF TO MAKE MY OWN LIVING INSTEAD OF WORKING ON THE BACK DECK FOR SOMEBODY ELSE MY WHOLE LIFE.

I WANT TO FISH.

I'M NOT GOING TO QUIT FISHING.

IT'S UNAMERICAN, I'VE SAID THIS BEFORE, IT'S UNAMERICAN.

IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT, IF YOU PUSH HARD ENOUGH, SOMETHING SHOULD COME OUT OF IT.

THE COMMERCIAL FISHING ISSUE IN LONG ISLAND IS COMPLICATED.

BUT PART OF IT BASICALLY BOILS DOWN TO SOME FISHERMEN WHO WANT THEIR OWN FISHERY.

THAT LAST ONE BECOMES A BIT OF AN ISSUE, BECAUSE MANY OF THE OLD E EER FISHERMEN WHO GOT THE LICENSE RENEW THEIR PERMITS, BUT HARDLY USE THEM.

I'VE BEEN IN THE SAME ROOM WITH NOT NAMING ANY CERTAIN PERSON, BUT I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT THEY'RE NOT FULL TIME FISHERMEN LIKE MYSELF, AND IT'S VERY FRUSTRATING.

KNOWING THAT THERE'S A FRAUDULENT WAY OF GETTING A LICENSE THAT THEY ASK FOR MY TAX FORMS, I PROVE IT, I FILE MY TAXES AS A COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN.

REMEMBER I SAID THIS IS COMPLICATED.

ANTHONY IS A FULL TIME FISHERMEN, HE'S BEEN IN THE GAME SINCE 1980, HE HAS A GRANDFATHERED FISHING LICENSE.

HE SAYS THERE'S A REASON WHY PART TIME FISHERMEN RENEW THEIR LICENSE EVERY YEAR.

IT'S DIFFICULT TO STAY A COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN FULL TIME.

YOU DON'T HAVE BENEFITS, YOU DON'T HAVE MEDICAL.

SO WE'RE UP AGAINST THE WEATHER.

WE'RE UP AGAINST QUOTAS, AND WE'RE UP AGAINST OUR AGE EVEN AT THIS POINT IN TIME.

WE'RE GETTING OLDER.

THE REGULATIONS HAVE NOT SOFTENED.

IF MY FATHER WAS A PLUMBER, I JUST DON'T GET HIS PLUMBING LICENSE, YOU HAVE TO EARN IT, YOU KNOW.

DANIEL COMES FROM A LONG HISTORY OF FISHERMEN.

HE'S BEEN PART OF THE DECADES LONG BATTLE.

ALEXA CAME OUT IN 1989 WHICH SHOWS HOW LONG THIS BACK AND FORTH WITH THE STATE GOES.

THAT'S NOT LOST ON NATHANIEL.

THE LEGACY OF FISHING MAY END WITH HIM AND HIS GENERATION.

I HOPE THAT THE STATE FIGURES OUT A WAY TO -- WHAT WE DO AND HOW WE FISH OUT HERE IS A DYING TRADE OR DEAD TRADE.

I KIND OF FEEL IGNORANT.

I'M STILL TRYING TO DO IT, GUESS.

IT DOES MAKE ME HAPPY, IT'S WHAT YOU DO, IT'S WHAT YOU KNOW.

BUT I HOPE THAT WITHOUT MORE FISHERMEN AND YOUNGER FISHERMEN IN THE INDUSTRY, IT WILL NOT SURVIVE.

AND THAT'S JUST A FACT.

I WOULD RATHER SEE ANOTHER 100 FISHERMEN COMPETE EVERY DAY, THAT'S THE ONLY WAY YOU ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO SURVIVE IN THE INDUSTRY.

THE STATE IS TAKING NOTICE NEAR THE BEGINNING OF THE SUMMER, THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION.

ANY REGULATIONS LEFT.

THE DEC HIRING CONSULTANT FORMER COMMISSIONER OF NATURAL RESOURCES, IS FIGURING OUT A WAY TO STREAMLINE THE PROCESS THAT WILL HELP SMALL COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN, AND ALSO PROTECT WATERS FROM OVER FISHING.

ONE THING WE HEARD SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE MEETING AND BEFORE WAS THIS.

I'VE BEEN IN THIS THE GAME FOR LONG ENOUGH, WHERE YOU WOULD THINK THAT I WORKED UNDER ENOUGH PEOPLE.

THERE SHOULD BE SOME KIND OF APPRENTICE PROGRAM.

SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE CHANGED.

THE DEC HAS NINE COMMUNITY MEETINGS FROM JULY THROUGH AUGUST.

BUT HAVE SINCE WRAPPED UP, AND NOW THE WAIT BEGINS FOR GEORGE LaPOINTE'S FINDINGS.

THEY EXPECT TO HAVE A FIRST DRAFT OF THAT REPORT BY OCTOBER.

THAT DRAFT WILL BE PRESENTED TO THE FISHERY COMMUNITY AND THEN THE RESPONSES OF THAT AS WELL AS THE DRAFT WILL DETERMINE WHAT THE NEXT STEPS WILL BE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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