New Bedford is one of the biggest commercial fishing ports in the United States — and almost entirely owned by foreign private equity firms, according to a joint investigation from New Bedford Light reporter Will Sennott and ProPublica.

Blue Harvest Fisheries, one of the largest fisheries on the East Coast, “has been acquiring vessels, fishing permits and processing facilities” in the port city — acquisitions backed by Bregal Partners. Bregal Partners is part of COFRA, a privately held company formed by members of the Dutch billionaire Brenninkmeijer family. With other private equity firms and foreign investors latching on to New Bedford’s fishing industry, Sennott found that fishermen are fronting the costs.

“[Blue Harvest] is expanding and has done so largely by pushing the burden of cost onto fishermen who are employed on its vessels,” Sennott said on Boston Public Radio Wednesday. “That's things like maintenance, fuel, leasing that feel like a $400 charge every time they park the company-owned vessel at the company-owned dock.

“I think it's fair to say that there are inequities in the fishing industry — in the world — that are nothing new,” he continued. “But what the story really revealed to me as a reporter, which I was surprised by, is just how vast those inequities have grown in something as simple as the fishing industry.”