Fishing fleet dwindles at Scituate Town Pier
Only five boats still make Scituate their home port, said Frank Mirarchi, a longtime Scituate fisherman. Five years ago, there were 16 fishing boats based in Scituate.
By Chris Burrell
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Jul. 24, 2015 at 1:48 AM
Updated Jul 24, 2015 at 2:03 AM
SCITUATE - Rob Roche had already put in a 10-hour day on a 47-foot commercial fishing boat when it chugged up to the town pier Tuesday afternoon.
But there was still backbreaking work to do – offloading the day’s catch.
“How many boxes of groundfish?” hollered a truck driver, waiting on the pier.
Roche and boat mate Dan Woods stacked the five plastic crates, tied rope around them, hoisted them with a crane and swung them into the air.
“I’ve been lobstering since I was 4 and gillnetting since I was 8,” said Roche, a lanky 26-year-old who lives in Hull.
Roche’s father owns the boat called The New Wave, one of only five that still make Scituate their home port, said Frank Mirarchi, a longtime Scituate fisherman.
That number includes two larger trawlers and three smaller gillnetting boats like Roche’s, said Mirarchi, who is semi-retired but still a close observer of what’s left of the dwindling industry. Five years ago, there were 16 fishing boats based in Scituate.
With just a fraction of the boats now active from this harbor, Scituate’s annual catch of groundfish such as flounder and cod has fallen from 3 million pounds to just half a million pounds in five years, said Mirarchi.
The groundfishing industry in Massachusetts has suffered so severely from depleted fish stock and restrictive catch limits that the federal government in recent years has approved disaster relief funding for fishermen. This year, the total distributed among boat captains, crew members and shore-side businesses was $8.3 million.
Many fishermen have simply given up, said Mirarchi, who sold his boat – a dragger named the Barbara Peters – last month. He still plans to fish commercially part-time.
“It was just beehive of activity there,” Mirarchi said of the Scituate Town Pier. “There were a lot of jobs there and money to be made. But it’s all pretty much dried up.”
The Roche family knows how hard and unpredictable the fishing enterprise is. The flounder that Roche’s boat brought in Tuesday was bound for the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction in New Bedford.
“It’s a daily price,” said Roche. “Three dollars (a pound) would be good for the flat backs.”
After Roche and Woods lifted the heavy boxes of flounder into a galvanized steel container, they grabbed shovels and began scooping up ice and tossing it over the fresh catch. In the late afternoon heat, puffs of steam rose up from the ice cubes.
A rusted yellow forklift rumbled and coughed, then lifted the steel bin into a box truck.
One haul of Roche’s gill nets typically brings up about 200 pounds of fish from different types of flounder to haddock, bluefish, dogfish and sand sharks. The crew aboard The New Wave – three men plus the boat’s skipper, Bob Roche Sr. – consistently works seven days a week from June into late November, and sometimes December.
Days are long, starting before 6:30 a.m. to head several miles northeast before returning to Scituate and tying up at 4:30 p.m.
The Roches also trap lobster, which has been unaffected by any of the federal restrictions aimed at rebuilding depleted stocks of fish. Last year, Scituate lobstermen hauled in lobsters valued at more than $2.6 million, according to the National Marine Fisheries office in Gloucester.
The value of Scituate’s cod catch for 2014 was just over $153,000.
As soon as the Roches and their boat crew tied up the boat and drove off in cars, Scituate Town Pier went quiet again.
Chris Burrell may be reached at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @Burrell_Ledger.
Original Link: HERE
- Commercial fishing.
- 5 fishing boats still call Scituate home today.
- 16 fishing boats were based in Scituate in 2010.
- 589,622 pounds of spiny dogfish landed by Scituate fishermen in 2014 was valued at $115,000.
- 600,398 pounds of lobster trapped by Scituate lobstermen in 2014 was valued at $2.6 million.