In 1994 the Port of Gloucester approached the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), about a battle with regulators and environmentalists over what they believed was an overly simplistic plan to save the depleting fish stock. The JPC responded by researching the issue and issuing a report, entitled Barehanded Fish Catching, and organized the fishermen by forming what came to be known as The Cardinal's Forum. The new forum represented over two-dozen fishing organizations that had never before gathered in the same location. On August 23, 1994 they agreed to formalize the organization, calling it The Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership (MFP) and named David Bergeron to head the group.
Under David Bergeron's leadership, the Partnership worked with the MIT SeaGrant on a socio-economic study to establish a community based project to gather data needed to describe and quantify the impact of regulatory measures, rather than rely on the traditional anecdotal accounts. They joined the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to make fishermen part of its five-year management plan for that important area of the Atlantic. The Partnership also undertook their own studies with Boston University looking at the relationship between rolling closures and habitat.
The Fishing Partnership Health Plan (FPHP) also grew from this collaboration, and addressed the need for high quality, affordable and comprehensive health coverage for the members of the fishing community. As a result, over 2,000 individuals from the fishing community who previously did not have health coverage obtained benefits. In 2006 the Massachusetts Legislature, in crafting the first in the nation and groundbreaking universal health care reform legislation, included an extension of the Fisherman's Partnership Health Program through 2012. In addition, the Commercial Fisherman of America (CFA) took the first steps to make the FPHP a national program.
In addition, POUA, in partnership with MassDevelopment, built a $4 million state-of-the-art processing plant at the Jodrey State Fish Pier, the economic and cultural center of Gloucester's Inner Harbor. It was a development that had been talked about in Gloucester for 15 years and the Planning Office developed it in two. The facility opened in 2001.
POUA's advocacy, initiatives and physical developments to sustain the industry facilitated over $28 million dollars in public and private investment in less than ten years.