National Fisherman's Melissa Wood shares her stories as a writer and editor covering the U.S. fishing industry.
Thursday, 03 April 2014
Sometime before 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 12, Eric Eder fell from the 87-foot trawler Seeker into the Bering Sea. A 10-hour search by Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley, Jayhawk helicopter and nearby good Samaritan vessels was called off at 10 p.m. The water was 42 degrees.
Eric was 43 years old. He was a lifelong commercial fisherman and had recently moved from his hometown of Waldport to Redmond, Wash. His wife Adrienne was home with their two sons, a 5-year-old and 5-week-old baby, when their father passed away. Eric’s last time home was for the birth of his son, according to Taunette Dixon, whose husband, Kevin, is one of the two captains of the Newport-based Seeker though he was not on the boat at the time.
It’s a hard hit for the whole community, says Taunette. “He's just known as a super nice guy. I have never heard a negative word about him. He's a very kind and selfless man.”
I had heard the news about Eric’s death but only learned more about him recently when I came across a GoFundMe page created for Eric’s family. The page’s goal was to raise $8,000. As of this writing, people had donated $44,700. That’s when I knew I had to find out more about how Eric’s community has responded to this tragedy.
There are three ways to donate. The Newport Fishermen’s Wives is collecting donations and Oregon Coast Bank, a local bank in Newport, has set up an account for donations too. Taunette says unlike the GoFundMe account, which collects 5 percent for the service, all proceeds donated to the nonprofit Fishermen's Wives go directly to the family. I contacted Sandi Pankey, the administrator for the GoFundMe page, who told me the money goes to Eric's wife as it comes in. She also offered to send me the Oregon Coast Bank account number to donate directly.
Taunette, whose family has been in the fishing industry for generations, says she has never seen anything like this outpouring of support. “We’ve had other tragedies in this area, but this has been amazing. I think it's unique in the fact that he just had a baby, and I think that really tugs at people’s heartstrings.”
She told me for Eric’s family the loss is not only a huge hit emotionally but also financially. He made a good living on the water, and that's gone now. Often commercial fishermen’s wives stay home with their children because their husbands are gone for weeks at a time.
She also says his family has been overwhelmed with thankfulness: Nothing really helps but the support makes them see how much he was loved.
I can’t imagine what Eric’s family, friends and community are going through. This support for them shows the importance of healthy fishing communities and organizations like the Newport Fishermen’s Wives. Taunette says the group helps keep the community connected through events and education. Its fundraising efforts help local families who have lost someone at sea or in times when someone can’t work because of an injury on a boat.
We will all die someday, but when your job is the most dangerous one in the U.S., it’s nice to know your community will look out for the loved ones you leave behind.
Photo of the Seeker entering the Port of Newport terminal courtesy of Sharon Biddinger, simplydesignstudios.com
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