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Interviewee: Angela Sanfilippo

Role: Fisherman’s wife and industry advocate

Date of Interview: 9/22/07

Collection: Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Angela Sanfilippo, President of the Gloucester Fisherman’s Wives Association, talks about the beginnings of her role as an advocate for her husband and other fishermen.

Transcript: It was1977 and the two hundred mile limit had just been passed. I was living in Gloucester. We had our own boat, our own family boat in Gloucester. But I was never involved with the community. I was living a very private [life]. But being bilingual, and because Gloucester at the time, the fishing industry was ninety-five percent all Italian-American, just recent immigrants. They were going to have a meeting with National Marine Fisheries and the Fishery Management Council, and they needed somebody to translate because they were pretty sure the fishermen were not going to understand what was going on. So, one of the fishermen’s wives, Lena Novello, called me up on the phone, and she introduced herself and she says, “You know, we’re going to have this meeting. They’re not going to understand. And we need a translator.” She says, “I can do it but my Italian is very old, and people talk different today.” So she says, “Can you please come and translate?” And, I said to her, “I will ask my husband. I’ll talk to him and see what he’s doing. And I’ll let you know.” And my husband came home and, I told him, he says, “Oh yeah!” He says, “There’s a meeting. We have to go too. So, why don’t you go with Lena?” He says, “Be prepared!” But I remember my husband said, he said, “Be prepared. There’s going to be chaos.” And sure it was.

My job was only to translate until after listening the whole night to what was going on back and forth and…the questions that the regulators were asking and, the answers that the fishermen were giving were not really matching. Basically, they were saying, “You caught all this fish. Now we’re going to close the fishery. Why do you say you cannot survive until December if you caught all this fish?” And the answer was simple. But the fishermen couldn’t come up with it. We had made no money! Because we sold cod fish at four cents a pound.

And, so… I put my hand up! I made my speech. And then I heard this loud applause. And before you know, they said I was invited back. Then Regional Director of National Marine Fisheries, Bill Gordon, invited me to go to the Council meeting. I became an advisor to the New England Council. And I became, by the end of ‘77, I became the president of the Gloucester Fishermen [Wives] Association. I still am.

To read Angela's full transcript, click here.