Distributors have stopped biting, forcing RI lobsterman to sell his own catch


NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Galilee is close to Tanya Townsend’s heart.

That’s why she decided to walk along the docks earlier this week to get some fresh air.

What she saw surprised her.

“I saw a man on the dock, and he was waving and waving,” she recalled.

That man was Louis Fusco, a veteran lobsterman of 36 years. Fusco tells Eyewitness News he, like many local fishermen, are struggling because of COVID-19.

“It’s pretty dire at the moment,” he said. “We’re catching lobster, that’s the only way we can make an income, and without that, we’ve got nothing.”

In-Depth: RI fisherman says pandemic is crippling the industry

Fusco said because of the pandemic, big dealers aren’t purchasing their catch.

“The dealers can’t take our lobsters right now because of the restaurants being closed,” he said, adding that the dealers are responsible for distribution.

Fusco said because of this, he’s resorted to selling lobsters for $10 apiece from his boat. He said he typically sells from his boat during the summer, but it’s not what he primarily relies on for income.

Upon learning of Fusco’s situation, Townsend felt compelled to help. She posted about Fusco on social media, urging the community to support local fishermen.

The post led to a flood of messages in Townsend’s inbox.

“They were like, ‘Where is he? I’m here,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t even know the guy,'” Townsend said. “I feel like, during this tough time, we’re working together, we’re supporting each other. People really want to help out.”

Louis said thanks to Townsend’s post, he’s sold all of the lobsters he recently caught. While he’s thankful for the attention, he wants to also shine a spotlight on fellow fishermen who are also trying to make ends meet during this trying time.

“It’s a little uneasy not knowing if we’re going to be able to sell what we catch,” fisherman Derek Pascale tells Eyewitness News.

“Without the dealer being open, it’s going to shut us right down,” fisherman Eric Marcus added.

Fisherman Domenic Campanale tells Eyewitness News without community support, fishermen across the state could soon be out of business.

“This could all come to an end pretty quick,” he said.

Anyone looking for Fusco can usually find him on his boat, which is docked near Great Island at Galilee. He said his fellow fishermen are also usually docked over there as well.

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