Southold Town considers joining East End fishery study

East End fishery study

Officials from East End towns and villages are being asked to contribute money toward a comprehensive socio-economic study of the East End fishery.

East Hampton Town Councilman Fred Overton, bayman and East Hampton Town fisheries committee member Brad Loewen, and Cornell Cooperative Extension researchers Emerson Hasbrouck and John Scotti addressed the Southold Town Board on Tuesday to discuss the proposed study.

The group specifically wants to research commercial fishing, aquaculture and recreational fishing for hire, including charter boats. Mr. Loewen said such a study is necessary because certain data, such as employee figures, isn’t readily available.

“In order for us to talk to politicians or fisheries management officials, we need something that is proof of a value to our industry,” he said. “We think a comprehensive socioeconomic study — done by qualified people with credentials — is what will do that.”

Mr. Loewen said the group has been working to obtain grant money to study East Hampton Town’s fishery for three years, but has been unable to do so, and were frequently told that such a study wasn’t regional enough.

As a result, the group now plans to visit other East End towns to see if they’d been willing to fund the proposed study.

So far, East Hampton has agreed to fund at least $10,000 and maybe $20,000, Mr. Loewen said. They’ve also met with Southampton Town, which they said was supportive but wanted to see other towns contribute as well.

On Tuesday, they met with the Southold Town Board to request funding.

Mr. Loewen said the group also plans to visit Greenport Village and possibly Shelter Island. He was unsure if they’d ask for money from Riverhead Town, since it doesn’t have much of a fishery.

The group is aiming for a $100,000 study and they’ve already been promised up to $25,000 in grant money from the state. However, that amount could change depending on the cost of the project, Mr. Loewen said. If they are unable to raise the full $100,000, the amount of the state grant will shrink accordingly.

Cornell Cooperative Extension would do the study, according to Mr. Hasbrouck. They’ve already done a similar study of the Rhode Island Commercial Fishing and Seafood Industries in 2011, and that study helped get $2 million in federal funds for infrastructure improvements for the fishing industry there, according to Mr. Hasbrouck.

“If you use your ability to make sure the industry doesn’t die, it’s going to be good for everybody,” Mr. Scotti said. “It’s going to keep jobs in this town. I believe that Southold Town has probably lost more in their fishery than any other town.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said that’s only partially true.

“Perhaps the commercial fishing industry might not be here like it used to be, but we do have a very robust recreational industry, and that counts,” he said.

Mr. Russell told the group Southold Town is interested in the study, though it didn’t commit to any funding at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Photo: From left, Fred Overton, Brad Loewen, John Scotti and Emerson Hasbrouck addressing the Southold Town Board at Tuesday’s work session. (Credit: Tim Gannon)