For the second week in a row, Chilmark selectmen on Tuesday addressed the continuing struggles of commercial fishermen on the Menemsha harborfront and the state of the town fishing industry.
A number of fishermen, members of the shellfish advisory committee and the town harbor master turned out to discuss rising fuel prices and hear a plan to survey the biology of Menemsha Pond in an effort to enhance fish stock.
In a written statement, commercial fisherman and chair of the shellfish advisory committee John Armstrong expressed concern over rising fuel prices at Menemsha Texaco, the only gas station on Island to sell fuel to both cars and boats.
“This is scary stuff,” he said of a 46-cent rise this month in the price of fuel per gallon. “I think the time has come again to address this issue of a fuel discount for the commercial fleet in Menemsha.”
For the past three years, the price to fuel a boat on the Menemsha docks has held steady at $2.99 per gallon, thanks in part to a concerted effort from gas station owner Marshall Carroll.
“I think I did a good job keeping the price steady,” Mr. Carroll said at the meeting. “While it was holding for the fishermen, it kept going up for me.”
On Oct, 1, following new mandates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the price per gallon for red fuel, a fuel used for boats, jumped to $3.45.
In an effort to aid town fishermen, Mr. Carroll began offering road fuel to boaters for $3.29 per gallon and is investigating how fishermen can receive state and federal tax breaks for fuel purchases.
Despite the effort, fishermen and selectmen on Tuesday expressed concern over the rising prices and interest in a possible discount. “We don’t see fluke or lobster prices keeping pace with the increases,” said longtime fisherman Steve Larsen. “It could help Menemsha fishermen and attract other legitimate fishermen to the harbor,” said selectman J. B. Riggs Parker.
Selectmen voted to ask the park and recreation committee to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue.
Mr. Doty also presented a proposal from Elizabeth Fairchild of the University of New Hampshire Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center to study the biology of Menemsha Pond in an effort to rebuild the stock of winter flounder in the pond.
The study, approved by selectmen, will survey the sources of food for and possible predators to the flounder.
In other fish-related news, selectmen voted to open the commercial bay scallop season on Nov. 1. Limits will stay the same as the previous year at two bushels a day, five days a week. Quitsa Pond will remain closed except to dip nets from boats. The shellfish committee will meet two weeks into the scallop season to determine whether to reopen the pond to draggers and divers.