National Fisherman

Fishermen, scientists and government officials are always going to disagree on something — gear choices, quotas, forecasts, climate change and everything in between. But there’s one issue that the entire industry can get behind: Rapacious invasives have got to go.

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The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association recently announced in its newsletter that its launching a new branding pilot in Colorado in September and that its new consumer-facing website is live.

I checked out the new site soon after opening the newsletter and spent the better part of the morning flipping through the recipe gallery. Hot honey broiled salmon? Salmon quinoa taco bowls? Sockeye tortilla soup? Yes, please.

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Being out on the water as much as you can, keeping up with fashion trends might be the last thing on your mind. Looking good for the camera isn’t top priority when you’re hard at work (although we’ve seen plenty of stylin’ deckhands in Crew Shots).

While you might not be thinking about when to change your summer wardrobe over to your new autumn duds, there’s one bit of clothing news that’ll be interesting if you’re involved in the seafood world: self-repairing garments made out of squid.

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How much do you know about lobster rolls?

2016 0810 lobsterollDOWNEASTMainers take their lobster rolls seriously and expect everyone else to as well. Nina Gallant photo, courtesy of Down East Magazine.Before you answer, remember that the National Fisherman offices are located in Portland, Maine — the heart of lobster roll country.

Dont be embarrassed. Luckily, theres an easy way you can study up on the subject so you sound like a pro next time you talk to your friends in Vactionland. In the most recent issue of Down East magazine, managing editor Brian Kevin put together what he calls The Definitive Oral History of the Lobster Roll.

Yes, its that serious.

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Fishermen look at fish in a lot of different ways. You see them in the water, in your nets and on your dinner plates. You might know your favorite fish inside and out, but University of Washington biology professor Adam Summers wants to take a look at them at an angle most people dont have access to.

20160803 CL fishscanA scan of the Thoracocarax stellatus species of fish is shown, with color added by computer to enhance the rendering of the structure of the bones. Adam Summers image.Summers, who works in the universitys School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, is working to create one of the largest clearinghouses of fish computed tomography scans in the world. In layman's terms, he uses a special scanner that meshes together X-rays from different angles into a 3D image, giving him a clearer picture of the creatures internal structure.

Summers has worked with fish for a long time but just started this project in the spring. And boy, is it an ambitious one. The professor is setting out to scan and digitize all 25,000 to 33,000 fish species on Earth. Hes using the scan information to help his biomechanics research.

"I've always been a fish guy," he told National Public Radio. "It's just been in my blood since I was as small as I can remember." Thats not a front. He was a scientific consultant on animated blockbusters "Finding Nemo" and "Finding Dory."  Instead of the typical firstname.lastname email address, his university username is simply fishguy.

The science behind the work is pretty complex. You can dive into that with a simple Google search of his name. What you really need to check out are the artful scans he’s created by adding dyes to specimens.

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In the September 1986 issue of National Fisherman, we ran a full feature on East Coast fishermen  who had recently started to market their fish directly to customers instead of working through processors and marketers.

2016 0801 CL CVR SEPT 86Fishermen from Maine to Chesapeake Bay and Florida were experimenting with marketing their own catch. Some were selling to consumers from roadside pickup trucks or leasing stalls on piers with high foot traffic. Others were marketing direct to wholesale restaurants, retail fish markets and supermarkets.

Marketing, merchandising and product development were once foreign words to the fisherman. But hes starting to have to come to grips with these things today in order to survive, said Gene Connors, a former fisherman who was overseeing a New England Fisheries Development Foundation project at the time.

There were plenty of tales of fishermen renting U-Haul trucks to sell their catch out of and making double the money.

As you know, direct marketing hasnt been perfected over the years. Not all fishermen are trying their luck on their own and making stacks of extra cash. But the experimenting continues.

Just this week the Peninsula Clarion ran a story about F/V Ounce out in Cook Inlet where many of the salmon that wind up in the nets have their buyer’s name on them from the moment they come out of the sea.”

Local fishermen Chuck Lindsay and Hannah Heimbuch operate Kenai Wild Salmon Company and deliver their catch to customers, usually within 12 hours of docking.

According to that report, about 31 fishermen currently hold direct marketing licenses in Cook Inlet and the initial permit itself only costs $25 and the time it takes to fill out a simple joint application for the Department of Revenue and Fish and Game.

When Bristol Bay was celebrating the two-billionth salmon caught in the fishery, Kenai Wild Salmon Company was posting to Facebook about the 2,000 pounds of salmon they managed to sell directly to Alaskans.

A lot of the companys business is done through Facebook and over text message.

“We pick fish out of our net, and we’re like, ‘This is going to Kent,’” Lindsay told the Peninsula Clarion. “We’ll text him from our boat and say, ‘We caught your fish! Here’s a photograph.’ There’s that connection to the fisherman, to their fish. I think that a little bit can be lost with the direct marketing down to the Lower 48.”

Direct marketing certainly isn’t new, but the social technology available today sure does make it easier. Shooting a text message to your neighbor who buys from you regularly sure beats setting up shop on the side of the road.

If you’ve ever considered trying to sell your catch directly, be sure to check out the linked story and learn a thing or two from the pros. Maybe youll bring the next innovation to the table. I hear some people would sure like to watch their fish caught through a virtual reality headset somehow!

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Another day, another lobster liberation.

It seems that buying or stealing live lobster and returning them to the ocean is becoming a popular trend this year, and the frequency of prison breaks is only increasing during the summer months.

In June, we saw a vegan-run rescue operation that the savior likened her actions to saving slaves through the Underground Railroad, a grocery store passing up on a 15-pound bug and a clam bar setting their 130-year-old, 20-pound friend who was living in their live fish tank free.

These stories are pretty quirky, yes, but the latest tale of lobster freedom blows the others out of the water.

This past weekend, a group of Buddhist monks out of Prince Edward Island, Canada, purchased and released eight boxes of live lobsters (estimated to be about 600 pounds) to get people to think about compassion.

"This whole purpose for us is to cultivate this compassion toward others. It doesn't have to be lobsters, it can be worms, flies, any animals, drive slower so we don't run over little critters on the street,” said Venerable Dan of the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society.

He told Shane Ross of CBC News that they weren’t doing it to change anyone’s dietary habits. He said the release was an exercise in caring and that they work to be kind to all living beings.

The group held a special ceremony before releasing the lobsters and found a spot where the lobsters were unlikely to be recaptured anytime soon.

While I don’t recommend dropping your entire catch just to be nice, this story is a great reminder to respect the animals that we catch, consume and make a living off.

Up here in Maine, Id bet a bystander would jump in after a lobster and claim it as their own if they saw anyone throwing one of the states prized crustaceans back into the ocean. To do my part, maybe Ill just have one lobster roll the next time I'm out by the pier.

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If you like playing tunes onboard and aren't a fan of seals, boy do we have the song for you.

2016 0608 goddamnsealScreenshot from the Canadian Beaver Band video.Last week, the Canadian Beaver Band released a special song titled "Them God Damned Seals" and it's a hoot, to say the least. 

"Between the propaganda and hate from the likes of HSUS, IFAW, Greenpeace, PETA, Paul Watson and a variety of other anti-seal hunt nutbars, comes this love song," reads the video's description.

But I don't think it technically classifies as a love song. "They're eatin' all the crab, they're eatin' all the shrimp and they're trying to blame the fishermen for all the overfishin'," goes one line toward the beginning of the track.

It's worth a listen or two and could even become your boat's game time anthem.

You can listen to the song on Youtube. There's a lot of profanity (pretty much every other word), so this is a  fair warning for anyone who doesn't want to hear that.


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NMFS recently released its annual report that details the economic impacts of commercial fisheries across the country and Alaska came out on top by producing the greatest volume and value of any other region.

2016 0601 AlaskaThis isn’t a surprise. Alaska regularly sits atop these lists.

Looking through the National Fisherman archives for the latest Fishing Back When section, I found a photo collection from when Alaska’s fisheries were still climbing, not dominating.

In 1965, the 49th state came out on top in dollar earnings for U.S. fishermen with a total of $71.7 million, producing about one-half billion pounds or 10 percent of the national total.

The latest Fisheries Economics of the United States report puts the state’s 2014 catch at 5.7 billion pounds worth more than $1.7 billion. It’s safe to say they’re landing a few more fish than back in the day.

According to the Alaska Journal of Commerce, the nation’s commercial seafood industry produced 1.4 million full- and part-time jobs, $153 billion in sales (including imports), $42 billion in income and $64 billion in value-added impacts in 2014. Domestic harvests produced $54 billion in sales.

Alaska’s seafood industry employs more people than any other private industry in the state. California supported most of the nation’s 1.4 million seafood jobs in 2014 with 143,440. Alaska’s industry supported 60,749 jobs.

The report states that landings revenue was dominated by salmon ($546 million), walleye pollock ($400 million) and crab ($238 million), which together accounted for 69 percent of revenue.

National Fisherman editors marked the occasion with a photo essay with images from around Alaska — from small halibut boats and salmon transfers in Cooks Inlet to monster Dungeness crab catches and the view from a salmon seiner in Tongass Narrows.

A lot has changed in the past 50 years and a lot will change in the next 50, but I bet we’ll still have plenty of images to look back on from Alaska’s fisheries.

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Beginning June 1, some New England fishermen will be flipping a switch on a brand new digital camera before they leave the dock. No, this isnt just a way for them to send in more candid crew shots to National Fisherman — theyre finally getting a shot at electronic monitoring.

2016 0531 Coastlines electronicmonitoringThe electronic monitoring systems use cameras to record fish handling on deck. NOAA photo.Only a handful of vessels are getting the equipment this season in what is being considered a soft-launch for the program. The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance says up to 20 groundfish boats will use the cameras to start. Over the next year, fishermen and NMFS will hopefully be able to work out any kinks that may arise.

While years ago the average fisherman might not have been keen on the idea of a government camera watching their every move, todays fleet has been looking forward to them. No one is a fan of prying eyes while going about a days work, but cameras seem to be a decent alternative to at-sea observers.

Fishermen turn on the cameras when theyre preparing for a fishing trip, go catch some fish and hand off the hard drive with video footage to a third-party review team when their back on shore.

The industry is expecting electronic monitoring to help ease the burden of observer costs and be for affordable in the long run.

NMFS estimated that electronic monitoring would cost over $60,000 annually per vessel along with nearly $60,000 in start-up costs for equipment and other expenses, but costs for video review arent set in stone. It isnt an inexpensive option, but for some smaller boats that cant hold an extra person or fishermen in troubled fisheries, it could be the only option to keep running.

On top of the obvious benefits to the monitoring bill and day-to-day operations, having set cameras on board could benefit the industry in other ways. This is a way of keeping people safe, as an extra observer, sometimes not the most experienced seaman, could prove dangerous in some situations. The access to video could also help accident reports, basic employee management and even help in future gear studies.

While the option of having cameras onboard is an in progress projects, its a step in the right direction toward keeping fishing affordable. Fisherman should have the option at the very least.

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Inside the Industry

SeaWeb and Diversified Communications are accepting proposals to present at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit up until Friday, September 30.

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Governor Bill Walker has officially requested that the federal government declare a disaster for four Alaska regions hurt by one of the poorest pink salmon returns in decades.

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