NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — A proposal to move the region’s NOAA Fisheries headquarters to New Bedford now has the backing of U.S. Senate candidate Joe Kennedy III.
Kennedy, currently a Democratic congressman, made the announcement in the city Friday while visiting Pier 3 alongside Mayor Jon Mitchell. He spoke with local fishermen about his new COVID-19 economic recovery plan, which calls for large-scale public works and federal hiring programs.
“Listening to local communities, recognizing those bottlenecks and then saying, ‘Hey, with you at a seat at the table, let’s actually design a policy to do that,’” Kennedy said. “The risk that we have in the midst of a shock like this is that small guys essentially get eaten up and closed.”
Fisherman Steven Palmer said he appreciated his conversation with Kennedy, during which he expressed frustration about scallop prices during the pandemic.
“Earlier this year it dropped down to $4 a pound in some spots, so it’s been tough,” Palmer said.
During the event, Kennedy said he supports New Bedford leaders’ years-long effort to move the Northeast Fisheries Science Center from Woods Hole to the Whaling City, saying the federal government should prioritize facilities that “could help capitalize this region into the future.”
New Bedford has long been the highest-grossing commercial fishing port in the nation, and city leaders have long argued it should therefore be home to the preeminent federal agency that deals with the seafood sector.
Kennedy’s Democratic rival, incumbent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, offered a different idea during a U.S. Senate debate on WPRI 12 last month. He suggested that NOAA consider having locations in both New Bedford and Woods Hole.
“Something that winds up with perhaps a shared facility,” Markey said.
The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has been in Woods Hole since 1871. Mitchell argues a move to New Bedford could help increase trust between regulators and fishermen.
Mitchell has not yet endorsed in the Markey-Kennedy race. The primary is Sept. 1.