In the late 1990s, Andy Baler was asked to become a board member of the non-profit founded to champion the Cape’s small-boat fishermen. “I fight like hell for things,” he said, “especially for those who typically don’t get a fair shake.”
He knew many of the fishermen who started the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, now the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. With a degree in fisheries biology, he also had experience in the industry as owner of Nantucket Fish Company, which processed, bought and sold fish, as well as Yarmouth Oyster Farms, his aquaculture grant on Lewis Bay. He had also managed Cape Quality Bluefin and served on fisheries advisory boards.
Baler, a Yarmouth resident, said yes and spent the next 16 years making sure decisions about the future of the peninsula’s fleets weren’t made by others.
“We never had a voice,” he remembered. “Independents didn’t have voices.” Over the intervening decades the need for the organization has grown. So has Baler’s experience as he has added restaurant ownership - Bluefins Sushi and Saki Bar in Chatham and Falmouth - and other accomplishments to his fisheries-centric resume.
Bureaucracy and regulations have become even more complex since he started in the industry.
“It’s evolved to the point where you can’t make it as an independent without help representing you and your business,” Baler said. “You need a serious organization that has infrastructure.”
Baler believes the Fishermen’s Alliance is that organization, which is why he has stepped back on the board. He said the organization’s strong track record proves it can and will help the industry on the Cape.
“Now we have to get more results to help them succeed,” he said. “People’s backs are against the wall all the time.”