Fishing boats docked in Montauk. (May 2010)

Fishing boats docked in Montauk. (May 2010) Credit: Newsday File / Michael E. Ach

The U.S. Commerce Department will send an economic assessment team within the next two months to Montauk for a two-day analysis of the fishing community.

The team will meet with local business, community and government leaders to discuss a range of issues, including financing needs and whether a federal 10-year timeline for rebuilding “overfished” species is unreasonable.

“This economic assessment is long overdue,”  said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has  urged such a meeting. In a news release, she said, “Right now our fishermen are dealing with a regulatory structure that relies on arbitrary timelines and bureaucrats hundreds of miles away from fishing communities, and not science and fact. It is finally time for federal representatives to see firsthand how current federal rules are hamstringing Long Island fishermen.”

Montauk is one of six Northeast communities that the department’s  Economic Development Administration teams will visit.  An aide to Gillibrand said the meeting date has not been set. 

“The Department of Commerce is committed to supporting a vibrant and profitable fishing industry in the United States,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement. “The assessment teams will help communities identify and begin to address the economic difficulties they are facing.”

After getting a ground view, the teams will give each community a report tailored to local needs, with suggestions for long-haul strategic planning.

Gillibrand has pushed for more funding for data collection to get more accurate information on fishing stocks and supports stricter catch limits in cases of insufficient data.

These meetings come shortly after Locke agreed to assign a special master to review stiff fines levied on fishermen and the fishing industry on Long Island and the Northeast by what critics saw as overzealous federal enforcement officers. Those fines were sometimes twice as much as the ones levied in other parts of the country, and Locke said he would standardize penalties.

Photo: Fishing boats docked in Montauk in May 2010.

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