From the repair of the Hull Bay fishing ramp to a ban on fish traps, far-reaching concerns of local fishermen were heard Tuesday at a meeting of the Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection.
The meeting, chaired by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, was called to address local fishermen's concerns that were briefly touched on earlier this month in a committee hearing on Benner Bay. Representatives of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources also testified.
Barbara Kojis, director of Fish and Wildlife for DPNR, said she saw no ban on fish traps in the near future. Monica Lester, a spokesperson for the fishermen, said that was a concern of the International Reefkeeper Association and the Caribbean Management Council.
"I don't have the time or the money to attend all these meetings," said David Berry, a local fisherman. "I have to work for a living."
David J. Berry, another local fisherman, said that every time he came away from one of the federal meetings addressing fishing in local waters, he had the distinct feeling that he was being told implicitly to prepare for the worst, to anticipate having his livelihood banned. Kojis said banning fish traps is currently "not on the table."
Repair of the storm-damaged fishing ramp at Hull Bay, which is regularly used by fishermen and local boaters, was addressed by Donastorg.
When he asked for a repair timetable, DPNR officials assured him that repairs would be completed by June 2000.
David Berry brought up several items of concern, including the Frenchtown bayside fishing area. He said that if the gut there were covered over to the water, the fishermen would have better access to their boats.
"It's pretty bad when you see a 60-year-old fisherman lugging his equipment over a two-foot-wide plank, about 20 feet long," he said.
Berry also reiterated an idea brought up at the Benner Bay meeting: that if DPNR would build a dock at its Krum Bay offices, fishermen could tie up there to have their catch inspected, saving both the fishermen and DPNR time and money.
Responding to a question by David J. Berry about the lack of lighting and water at the fish stand at Lionel Roberts Stadium, Lucia Roberts of DPNR said she would have her accounting department look into the matter.
The three-mile Virgin Islands' fishing limit was also addressed. Puerto Rico has a 12-mile limit, and David Berry said "other Caribbean islands have a 20-mile limit." This a jurisdictional matter, Kojas pointed out. Puerto Rico, as a commonwealth, has a broader limit.
Donastorg said that some fishermen had called him Tuesday morning complaining that they couldn't attend the morning meeting. He announced a follow-up meeting to be held in January, and said it would be held in the afternoon.
Donastorg said the January meeting will address federal jurisdictions, sewage spills and foreign vessels fishing in territorial waters, as well as the subjects discussed Tuesday.


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