Dukes County fishermen’s group charts future

In a second informational meeting, the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust discussed a variety of industry issues.

The Martha's Vineyard Fishermen's Trust meets with local fishermen at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury. — Photo by Steve Myrick

The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust held an informational public meeting Tuesday evening at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, a followup to an initial October meeting, aimed at gathering information and setting the agenda for the organization.

Again, attendance was sparse, with 16 people, including members of the group’s board of directors.

The group informally discussed new proposed conch regulations which will increase the legal size limit from the current requirement of 2-7/8 inches, to 3 inches next year, and an additional one-eighth of an inch in each of the next five years, until the size limit is 3.5 inches.

Warren Doty, a Chilmark selectman long active in fishing issues, urged local fishermen to make their opinions known to state regulators.

“If the conch fishermen ask the state to pause,” Mr. Doty said, “go to three inches next year, then wait a year, I think the state would listen to that.”

Also discussed was a state plan to begin pilot sand mining projects in Vineyard Sound, a development opposed by many Island fishermen. While some Island towns favor sand mining as a way to replenish eroding beaches that are the anchor of the tourist industry, fishermen at Tuesday’s meeting fear that the practice could interrupt or destroy spawning of several commercially fished species.

The group also discussed ways the trust might help Island fishermen in the future, including low interest loans, acquiring fishing permits, and partnering with local conservation organizations which have established clout with state and federal regulators.

“Legally, we don’t have any power, but we have connections with people that do,” said John Keene of Chilmark, president of the trust’s board of directors.