PROVINCETOWN — On a calm, sunny day, the word was out among fishermen: big schools of Atlantic bluefin tuna were active and feeding just a few miles off the backside beach. But on a late July day perfect for fishing, many of the commercial boats that go after tuna remained tied up at the pier.
The Provincetown Public Pier Corp. board, all volunteers, is trying to bring consistent application of rules and regulations to the pier, as well as rate increases that will meet the select board’s mandate that pier operations be revenue neutral as much as possible.
Two longtime fishermen, Leo Rose and John Browne, with families firmly rooted in Provincetown via the church, business, and commercial fishing, who have always paid their pier bills and obeyed the rules, have been told they no longer qualify for discounted commercial rates. They have fished in the same fashion and have been called “commercial fishermen” by the pier manager every year until now.
What has changed? We have a new wave attenuator, new docks, and now, supposedly, more people want a slip.
The Pier Corp. members have stated they want more “full-time” commercial fishermen. At times board members Scott Fraser and Carlos Verde have said, in effect, they want younger fishermen. Johnny Browne is almost 75; Leo Rose is turning 65. I don’t believe for a second that age was intentionally a factor in this decision; Fraser and Verde are better than that. At times, however, actions may result in unintended results.
The mission of the Pier Corp. is to support the small-boat commercial fishery, especially those from Provincetown and Truro. The Pier Corp. has stated that many other commercial fishermen are waiting for slips. Who are they? Are they from other towns? We have not been told.
Should we take two long-term Provincetown- and Truro-based commercial fishermen, make it impossible for them to remain, and then give their slips to younger fishermen from other towns?
There are arguments on both sides. Both sides strongly believe in their interpretation of the facts. But, thanks to Covid, “discussions” are happening via e-mails, texts, and virtual meetings, and, trust me, it ain’t pretty.
Let’s back down from the emotions, look at the whole situation, and ask what’s best not only for the pier and the two fishermen but also for the town. Let’s put our egos and reputations aside and work something out. Get an independent third party — a respected member of the community — to be a mediator: someone who understands both sides of the equation.
This could happen face to face, six feet apart, with fewer than 10 people. Where there is a will there is a way.