National Fisherman's Melissa Wood shares her stories as a writer and editor covering the U.S. fishing industry.
Thursday, 20 December 2012
If it's not recreational versus commercial, or gear type against gear type, then it's brother against brother. That was the case when deputies in Volusia County, N.J., charged Lawrence Lamee Jr. with battery and criminal mischief for allegedly ramming his boat into his brother's boat while fighting over the same fishing spot.
At first glance, I thought the story was silly (and a little crazy), but then I started to think about how fishermen often have to go up against each other — not just over fishing spots, but also over regulations that tend to favor one group over another. Does that conflict end up hurting the industry?
It's not good publicity when people get to know their local fishermen by a mug shot in the newspaper. According to the Dayton Beach News Journal, on Nov. 28. Lance arrived at the Blue Hill fishing spot in Oak Hill where Lawrence had already been fishing for flounder. When Lance asked Lawrence whether he planned to fish the front or the back, Lawrence answered "all of it" and told his brother he wouldn't be messing with him anymore. When Lance asked again, his brother responded by ramming his boat three times, disabling it and causing an estimated $2,500 in damage and spraining Lance's thumb.
The incident between the two brothers is an extreme example. At industry meetings quotas get cut, or new regulations are considered and then it's big boats versus small boats or trawlers versus the lobster guys. There's only so much to go around and rules are always going to favor one group over another.
The problem is that it distracts from the main issues. U.S. fishermen have a lot to contend with, like increasing regulations, and tight margins caused by ever-rising fuel costs and competition from cheap imports. Who's making sure that the fishing industry as a whole is getting fair treatment when fishermen have to fight for their own small slice of the pie?
This is one way the National Seafood Marketing Coalition might help. Alaska Sen. Mark Begich announced he would be introducing the legislation again last summer, but efforts like this can have a hard time finding funding in these economic times.
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is one organization that is trying tell a positive story about fishermen. When I was in Seattle a couple weeks ago I met Tyson Fick, ASMI's communications director, who said one of their goals is to tell more profiles of Alaska fishermen. We talked about potential story ideas for National Fisherman.
Of course ASMI would like those stories to be read not just by our readers but also by chefs, seafood buyers and perhaps most importantly, by the general public — consumers who can demand those fish be in stores and on their plates.
So here's the challenge: How do we tell more of these stories? When I went out for a day of fishing with N.H. fisherman David Goethel he said there's a lot of talk about fishing communities, but the onshore crowd doesn't know much about their local fishermen. Usually fishermen leave for work before the rest of the world gets out bed and don't get home until the onshore crowd is a couple cocktails into their evenings.
Instead of a national program, perhaps the efforts should be small and local. Would you feel comfortable with talking to a local reporter about what you do, and giving him or her an education about fishing that can only be learned by a day at sea? Or how about sharing your favorite seafood recipes with your local food blogger (we all have at least one now)? As a writer/journalist, I can tell you we are always looking for good stories to tell.
Let's make a New Year's resolution to get more of those good stories about fishermen out there.
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