Written by Samuel Hill
Monday, 11 July 2016
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, I’d bet a bystander would jump in after a lobster and claim it as their own if they saw anyone throwing one of the state’s prized crustaceans back into the ocean. To do my part, maybe I’ll just have one lobster roll the next time I'm out by the pier.Add a comment Add a comment
Written by Samuel Hill
Wednesday, 08 June 2016
If you like playing tunes onboard and aren't a fan of seals, boy do we have the song for you.
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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Written by Samuel Hill
Wednesday, 01 June 2016
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.
This 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.Add a comment Add a comment
Written by Samuel Hill
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
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 isn’t just a way for them to send in more candid crew shots to National Fisherman — they’re finally getting a shot at electronic monitoring.
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, today’s fleet has been looking forward to them. No one is a fan of prying eyes while going about a day’s work, but cameras seem to be a decent alternative to at-sea observers.
Fishermen turn on the cameras when they’re 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 aren’t set in stone. It isn’t an inexpensive option, but for some smaller boats that can’t 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, it’s a step in the right direction toward keeping fishing affordable. Fisherman should have the option at the very least.Add a comment Add a comment
Written by Samuel Hill
Thursday, 19 May 2016
If you’re a fan of old fishing tales and are in need of some new literature to keep onboard or back on shore, you need to get your hands on a copy of “Adventures and History from Downeast Maine.”
This is an anthology of short non-fiction stories by Arthur S. Woodward that serves as a historical record of commercial lobstering on Beals Island, Maine, between the 1920s and 1960s. Woodward was a teacher at heart, according to his daughter who wrote a foreward for the book, but he returned to Down East Maine each summer to help his father run the family lobster business. While Woodward was never a full-time fisherman, he felt the need to preserve his memories of that fishery in stories he found himself coming back to year after year.
The stories cover a lot of aspects of the business, from building local boats and lobster boat racing to making deliveries to retail businesses and everyday conversations with men on the water.
The best thing about this little collection is you can open up to any page and find a new story. Each chapter is a quick look into the past. They aren’t exactly linear, so no need to mark your spot each time you put the book down. If you have a spare minute and need a good piece of fishing history to hold you over, just flip to any section and jump in wherever Woodward takes you.
Woodward also includes his own original photography and sketching throughout the book so readers aren’t left entirely to their imagination and own experiences. These include family photos that probably were never meant to be published publically, so it’s a genuine look into Woodward’s younger years.
He writes about children on the island that were too young to be out on commercial boats, but pretended to do some serious fishing on their own, trips down to Boston with his father to meet up with Canadian lobster dealers and his memories from the pilothouse.
All fishermen have their memories of how they got started, whether they were raised in a fishing family or joined the industry later in life, but not everyone puts those stories into a book for the world to see.
Adventues and History from Downeast Maine: Lobster Smacks, Lobsters, Lobster Boats, Beals “Lobster Island”
By Arthur S. Woodward
International Maratime Library
$20.00Add a comment Add a comment
Written by Samuel Hill
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
Fishackathon 2016, an event that calls coders and science enthusiasts around the world to create new tools for fishermen and the industry, took place over Earth Day weekend and projects that made it to the final global round are viewable online.
This is the third year the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships has sponsored the event. In 43 cities across the globe, tech wizards and sustainability advocates came together to brainstorm some pretty stellar mobile and web applications.
One team sought to tackle the ocean’s marine debris problem and created an app called unTrashed, which gamifies the typically unexciting task of reporting debris. “See trash, be a hero,” is the app’s tentative tagline. Users receive points based on how much data they collect as they encounter marine debris, leveling up and seeing their rank on a leaderboard amongst other “players.” Ideally, this information would be made readily available to experts such as researchers, government officials, and software developers to expand as they see fit.
Another team worked on a location-based regulation and weather information app for fishermen in the Philippines called FishOps. The app uses cell tower GPS data to track a user, display local marine protected areas, and alert them when they enter a regulated area. The app also provides laws and decrees, resources, and weather alert data, which is generated for localized regions.
“We focused on creating a system that is easy to use by anybody, requires no technical knowledge, and is robust enough to be easily scaled,” reads the team description.
The list of finalists includes teams from around the world. You can watch video demonstrations of the apps they made and read about why they decided to tackle a specific problem.
Reading through the thought process of the participants was really interesting. Some are directly involved in protecting the ocean and their country’s fisheries while others were just there to show off their tech skills. One team consisted of a teenage coder who admitted he cared more about mobile mini-games than fish and a Coast Guard patrolman who fights IUU fishing every day.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when two worlds collide. The official winner and the $10,000 in prizes won’t be announced until June 8. Until then, be sure to explore the website and look at the projects. Who knows. You might have the knowledge or experience to help a team make their app idea a reality.Add a comment Add a comment
Written by Samuel Hill
Monday, 02 May 2016
While I was curating this month’s Fishing Back When section, I came across something shocking in the June 1986 issue: dirt cheap fuel prices.
From Cape May, N.J., to Rockland, Maine, fishermen and vessel owners were celebrating a drop in fuel prices — from a reported high of $1.13/gal. to a low of 59 cents. And according to fishermen, the drop was just the shot in the arm the industry needed.
Jerry Wheeler, the general manager of the New Bedford Seafood Cooperative at the time, provided nearly 14 million gallons of fuel annually to about 250 boats and said the savings are going directly to crews up and down the east coast.
“That’s a real boon for them right now,” he said. “Finally, they have something they can take to the bank.”
Frank O’Hara out of Rockland says that the crews of his five vessels have been benefiting from the drop.
“It’s a blessing to the crew. It’s a big, big, big help,” he said.
Fishermen were also trying to predict when prices would hit an uptick again, preparing for a price increase while fighting the urge to stock up on fuel at its low-point. A lot of boats have been staying out longer, finding the extra cash to spend a little more time working each day.
The drop in fuel prices and adjusted budgets translated into a 12 to 20 percent raise for most crewmembers. Fuel costs are the difference between taking the boat out or tying up for the day. The increased time out meant bigger hauls in a lot of cases.
Fishermen across the country have been helped out by the oil business’ loss. Gulf shrimpers have been able to stay out on their grounds longer than normal and some owners out of Alaska are putting the cash right back into their operation with upgrades.
While living in a world where 59 cents a gallon prices are permanent sounds like a dream come true, fishermen know it won’t last. Wheeler said the price dip signals a “dangerous time” in the oil business.
“Fishermen should just figure that they’re getting a gift right now,” said one Seattle dealer with a chuckle.
We know how this story ends. The prices rise and rise. I’m not trying to make anyone stress out about their bills by retelling this story. Just reminding you to take a second to recognize when you’ve got it good.Add a comment Add a comment
Written by Samuel Hill
Wednesday, 20 April 2016
Close your eyes. Speak the word “salmon.” Where does it take you?
This is how the organizers of The Salmon Project introduce their research in a new book called “Made of Salmon: Alaska Stories from The Salmon Project.”
“Salmon and Alaskans,” writes executive director Erin Harrington in the collection’s introduction. “We have danced with one another for a millennia. For thousands of journeys around the sun, for more than three millions spins of the earth, for hundreds of thousands of turns of the seasons, we have shared a rhythm.”
The Salmon Project began as a series of focus groups in Alaska communities. Strangers from around the state, not necessarily fisherman, gathered to discuss their values and what it means to live in Alaska. The conversations always included salmon.
“We are salmon people,” wrote Harrington. “In our research and engagements with Alaskans about salmon in their lives, one word comes up again and again — lifeblood. People find salmon so vital to their lives that to be separated from it would cause irreparable harm.”
The book, edited by New England transplant Nancy Lord, is an anthology of salmon stories. A young wildlife photographer staked out on a river on an island in Southeast Alaska, waiting for his chance to photograph his first bear. A 63-year-old woman in Wasilla remembers a 68-pound king salmon she caught on the Kenai River in 1983. A lifelong Alaskan’s conversation with a pediatrician when she asked if her three-month-old son could start eating salmon. Stories about “love at first chew” and family trips to fish camp.
“Salmon, for our indigenous cultures, were — and are — of course much more than food. Social organization, seasonal patterns, technologies, art, customs and beliefs, rituals, trade, warfare — all of these and more were built in part on relationships to salmon,” writes Lord. “Today, as narratives in this volume will show, Alaska Native cultures maintain a deep and abiding connection to salmon and to values that developed alongside the shared use of salmon.”
These are beautiful stories about the fishing life and what it means to live in Alaska. The book also includes photographs by Clark James Mishler that “capture some of the faces and places that are, here in Alaska, made of salmon.”
Whether you’re an Alaskan familiar with these tales or a fisherman from a different region, you’ll enjoy learning about the culture and just how much a fish can mean to someone.
University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks
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Written by Samuel Hill
Monday, 11 April 2016
Last week, the New Bedford Standard-Times published an article exploring the possibility of mandatory drug testing on commercial fishing boats.
The article revolves mainly around an interview with New Bedford veteran scallop captain Rick Lynch, a former alcoholic and heroin user in long-term recovery. Lynch was 16 when he started working for fishing boats in the late ’80s when he says, “There was cocaine running around, there was heroin everywhere… All we did was drink.” The reporter writes that “Lynch has been around long enough to fall into a few bottles, or needles, and climb back out again.”
I think it’s really important to recognize that Lynch is lucky to have recovered from these bad habits. He says he’s 15 years sober and has been a captain for 14. A lot of people aren’t able to do that. A lot of people aren’t that lucky.
The interview took place in October, but surfaced at the Standard-Times in March after drug raids aboard New Bedford fishing vessels that led to eight arrests.
Lynch floated the idea of mandatory drug testing in the interview.
The arguments against it came rolling in. It’d be too expensive. Fishermen don’t need more regulations. It’s an invasion of privacy. Fishermen come and go too often. “I believe we would lose 100% in our small fleet,” wrote one reader when the story was shared on National Fisherman’s Facebook page.
This is obviously a complicated issue, but the argument comes down to one thing: Drug testing for maritime workers can save lives.
We all know commercial fishing is one of the most hazardous professions in the world. While I don’t have any stats or studies in front of me, I think it’s safe to say that it becomes more dangerous the more hard drugs there are onboard.
I don’t think testing has to be state or federally required. Fishing boat owners and captains could take it upon themselves to do what they can to fight the drug epidemic on the waterfront. They’d be saving lives onboard.
One source in the article notes that the drug arrests and deaths also tarnish the reputation of the fleet as a whole. While public image isn’t exactly the frontrunner in this argument, they have a point. Turning a blind eye to a rampant drug problem doesn’t reflect well on your sustainable, fresh, local product.
Doing a little research into the Standard-Times reporting on this, I came across an article on heroin and AIDS ravaging a generation of fishermen in New Bedford in 1996.
Do we really want to go back to that?Add a comment Add a comment
Written by Samuel Hill
Monday, 28 March 2016
Fishermen tend to keep safety high on their list of priorities.
But with the sheer number of rules and safety suggestions out there, it can be difficult to keep everything together. While you might think you have your safety plan down pat, just remember — it’s never just one thing that sinks a boat.
One hole in your emergency plan or a single piece of failing equipment could put in motion a much more dangerous scenario.
Just last week, the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership and Fishing Partnership Support Services, introduced a comprehensive guidebook for dealing with at-sea emergencies. It covers everything from vessel inspections before you leave the dock to who you should call after you’re safe on shore post-trip.
The manual is called RESCUES, an acronym for the title of the manual: Responding to Emergencies at Sea and to Communities Under Extreme Stress.
While the manual covers a lot, the most important piece may be the section that doesn’t have much to do with being out on the water. Chapter 4, titled “The Aftermath,” aims to help prepare individuals, groups and entire coastal communities for a crisis affecting members of the commercial fishing industry, such as the sinking of a boat or the search for crew members lost overboard at sea.
“The idea is that, when a crisis occurs, folks in our fishing ports will be able to consult the manual and know right away how the Coast Guard and other authorities are responding — and where they can turn for reliable information and support,” said J.J. Bartlett, president of Fishing Partnership Support Services, in a press release.
Bartlett said, the manual describes “how families may access services and resources that exist to help them during these terrible situations and for long afterwards.”
The chapter covers topics like how to deal with telling the families of lost crew members, talking to the media about an accident, recovering a vessel or body from sea and planning a memorial service. Insurance, legal and counseling are also discussed at length in the chapter.
“To me, RESCUES is about peace of mind,” said Angela Sanfilippo, president of both the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association and the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, in a release. “Many of us who have been involved for years in helping fishermen and their families are in the last years of our working lives and it is good to know that the knowledge and insights we have gained are now gathered in one place for the benefit of future generations.”
On a reflective note, she added, “Working on this manual brought back painful memories of when a fisherman or an entire crew died at sea. That was very hard for us. At the same time, we relived those moments when a fisherman was saved from death because of a smart and courageous rescue. We were heartened by the realization that more lives were saved in the past 40 years than were lost.”
You can fight tooth and nail to make your boat and operation as safe as possible, but something might still happen out at-sea. Whether you’re new to the industry and need a guide, are a veteran looking to brush up on your safety knowledge or have recently suffered a loss, you can check out the manual for free online.
The manual was created in partnership with MIT Sea Grant and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.Add a comment Add a comment
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Pat Fiorelli, the long-serving public affairs officer for the New England Fishery Management Council, will step down at the end of July.Read more...
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced last week the sixth round of grant awards from its Fisheries Innovation Fund, a program launched in 2010 to foster innovations that support sustainable fisheries in the United States.
The goal of the Fisheries Innovation Fund is to sustain fishermen and fishing communities while simultaneously rebuilding fish stocks.Read more...