RFA Mourns Passing of Fishery Journalist Richard Gaines

The coastal fishing industry today is mourning the loss of award-winning New England journalist Richard Gaines who was found dead Sunday afternoon in the swimming pool outside his home in the Bay View section of Gloucester, Mass.

A 40-year New England journalist who spent more than a decade as staff writer with the Gloucester Daily Times, Gaines had carved out a national niche with his regional coverage of the coastal fishing industry.

According to Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) Gaines’ passing is a big blow to all saltwater fishermen on every coast.

“Richard was known as a commercial fishing reporter being from Gloucester, but he was a journalist first and foremost who wrote the truth and didn’t play any bias between the recreational and commercial sectors,” Donofrio said. “The challenges facing local fishermen, the working class fishery, have been mostly overlooked and minimized by glossy sports writers who travel the globe in search of exotic species, but Gaines was not afraid to delve into the less glamorous side of running a fishing related business.”

“Members of Congress paid attention to Richard’s writing and his exposes on enforcement issues and environmental green-washing helped bring some sense of transparency to fisheries management issues in America today,” Donofrio added.

Gaines worked 11 years at the Gloucester Daily Times and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the paper in 2010. He had previously worked as Massachusetts State House political writer for United Press International in the late 1960s and 1970s, then became a political writer and later editor-in-chief at The Boston Phoenix, from 1979 through 1989. The Phoenix was also a runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting during his tenure there.

After working as a journalist and consultant in Florida for a time where he helped run a congressional campaign there, Gaines later worked in political consulting and marketing when he returned to the Boston area. He joined the staff of the Times in 2002, and worked initially as local political and city reporter covering Gloucester. When the Times restructured its coverage beats in 2008, Gaines (a longtime recreational angler) jumped at the chance to take on what initially began as coverage of the fishing industry and Gloucester harbor front.

What began as a mostly regional report however grew in recent years as Gaines’ news coverage helped spotlight efforts by fishermen and lawmakers alike to challenge the actions of NOAA, ultimately leading to a federal Inspector General’s investigation and findings of wrongdoing in 2010.

“There are only a handful of publications in the United States today with the guts to report truthfully about the problems within our own government, free from political and partisan bias,” Donofrio said. “While we often have our differences on gear and allocations issues, recreational and commercial fishermen alike are being abused by a hostile and ineffective government agency. Without Richard Gaines there at the Gloucester Times to ask the tough questions and demanding honest answers, I hate to think of what can happen with an unchecked, hostile government agency.”

“Richard Gaines was one of a kind, a man of great integrity, honor and courage to do and say what was right and not always politically correct,” Donofrio added.