Sen. Somers Backs Measure to Help Stonington Commercial Fishermen

June 7, 2023

For Immediate Release

Sen. Somers Backs Measure to Help Stonington Commercial Fishermen

Sen. Heather Somers, who represents Stonington, on June 6 voted in favor of a measure she is co-sponsoring which aims to provide more flexibility for the state’s commercial fishing industry.

“In Stonington, we have the last commercial fishing fleet in the State of Connecticut,” Sen. Somers said. “This legislation arose after one of the commercial fishermen I represent was injured and unable to fish.  Due to current state law, he was unable to transfer his license in order to continue fishing.  This change to our law would allow him to transfer that license to a family member or a crew member so that the boat can continue to fish and to maintain the boat’s catch.  This improvement to our law will really help our commercial fishermen.  It’s really important that our law is made more flexible so that we can preserve, maintain and even enhance that historic way of life in Stonington so that area residents have the benefit of eating fresh local seafood.”

“The commercial fishermen that I represent from Stonington are an integral part of Southeastern Connecticut’s way of life since before there were colonies. Local families going back generations have worked the sea to provide fresh seafood and feed the Eastern seaboard. These small proud family businesses are now on the verge of closing forever.  We as policymakers must be focused on helping commercial fishermen prosper in our state again.  We must continue passing funding and policy measures like this which nurture and grow this industry.”

The bill:

  • expands the circumstances under which the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) may temporarily reissue or permanently transfer certain commercial fishing licenses (i.e., principal commercial fishing license, general commercial fishing license, or commercial lobster pot fishing license).
  • allows the DEEP commissioner to temporarily reissue a license due to a licensee’s own incapacity or an immediate family member’s medical situation that prevents the licensee from fishing. The temporary license will be valid for the duration of the licensee’s incapacity or family member’s medical situation
  • specifies that any landings made under the temporary license may count toward the requirements for a permanent license transfer
  • allows the DEEP commissioner to permanently transfer a license if the original licensee owned a vessel that landed regulated species under a quota-managed species license endorsement in at least five of the prior eight years and reported landings to the commissioner for at least 30 fishing days in each year
  • allows a recipient of a transferred license to use a vessel that is 20% greater, rather than 10% as under current law, than the length of the largest vessel the original licensee used when fishing with a trawl net.
  • expands the circumstances under which the DEEP commissioner may transfer a license following the death of a licensee. If the deceased held a license for less than five calendar years, the DEEP commissioner may transfer the license as long as the licensee landed regulated species, or owned a vessel that did so under a quota-managed species license endorsement, for at least six months of each year in which the licensee held the license and reported the landings to the commissioner as required for at least 30 fishing days each year

In April, Sen. Somers and Rep. Greg Howard applauded the State Bond Commission’s approval of $250,000 for upgrades to the Town Dock North Pier in Stonington. Somers and Howard personally requested the funding.