Independent fishermen squeezed by catch restrictions
'We are stuck in the ideology of not wanting to let fish get caught.'
NO RED HERRING: Richard L. Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, says that ships from New Hampshire often come into Rhode Island waters and catch herring.
PBN PHOTO/CHRIS SHORES
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
Richard L. Fuka is the president of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, an organization he started in 2008 in response to tightening state fishing regulations. The alliance’s mission is to help create sustainable fisheries without putting licensed fishermen out of business. More than 80 percent of the seafood sold in the United States is imported. The alliance represents the interests of many Rhode Island fishermen, most of whom are independent, self-employed businessmen that own their own boats.
The alliance interacts with state and federal regulators to preserve area fisheries by reporting their catches, observations and conducting scientific studies.
PBN: What made you start the alliance?
FUKA: The final straw was the state’s lobster-trap allocation program. That motivated me to challenge myself. I couldn’t let state and federal regulations dictate my livelihood. The allocation plan also came on the coattails of a lot of things that were changing at the same time, like landings for monkfish and cod for state fishermen. The groundfish regulations [Amendment 16] were also part of it. … I wasn’t willing to sit anymore.
PBN: Is the alliance connected with fishermen nationally?
FUKA: I’m constantly in contact with other state organizations, mostly from Massachusetts to Florida, to make sure our views are properly represented. There’s always an information-sharing pool of real stuff that goes on. I’ve had contact with the Gulf Coast people, Louisiana in particular, because we’ve done fundraising for them in the past. We keep in contact with an organization that represents the Gulf Coast. …
There are cases where paid advocates from environmental nonprofits visit organizations in other regions and misrepresent our views.
PBN: The Atlantic sturgeon, a noncommercial fish, was recently declared an endangered species. Will this impact fishing along the Atlantic seaboard?