National Fisherman


Coastlines 

SamHillSamuel Hill is associate editor for National Fisherman.

 

 

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that shrimp processed in plants using forced and child labor in Thailand was on the shelves in U.S. stores.

Tacking on to a string of investigative stories on slavery in the Thai seafood industry, AP reporters describe the experience of Tin Nyo Win — or Number 31 as he was called — and his experience working in the Gig Peeling Factory. There he was forced, along with his wife, to rip the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States.

2015 1216 shripFor 16 hours a day he was forced to work. If he did not, he was beaten.

In recent months, Thai businesses and government have promised to begin cleaning up the country’s $7 billion seafood export industry, which is reportedly filled with cruel and unethical treatment of workers.

But AP reporters were able to track shrimp from this factory that enslaved hundreds of workers to Thai exporting companies and tracked the producer globally using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports.

According to those records, the shrimp that resulted from slave labor made their way into major stores and retailers in the United States, including Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants like Red Lobster and Olive Garden. They also entered well-known seafood and pet food brand products, like Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast.

Many of those businesses immediately issued statements condemning the labor practices described in the AP report, some noting they had been assured by their supplier, Thai Union, that their shrimp was not processed by slaves.

Meanwhile, Thai Union admitted it didn’t know the source of all its shrimp.

The company promised to exclusively use in-house labor starting Jan. 1.

AP reports on Thailand’s seafood industry have led to a dozen arrests, millions of dollars' worth of seizures and proposals for new federal laws in the past year. The problem is, cleaning up an entire industry full of corruption is going to take time. We can read the PR statements for days on end, but that doesn’t mean anything is being done to stop these terrible practices quickly.

U.S. consumers don’t have the political power to stop these injustices, but they can affect those companies through their purchasing power. Despite these stories of slave labor being told more often and more prominently in the media, there is still a disconnect for consumers.

As fishermen and other members of the industry, it’s important to share these stories with people who might not be so in touch with seafood news.

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Unfortunately, National Fisherman didn’t run a Crew Shots issue back in the ‘80s, so reading through the archives to put together the Fishing Back When section wasn’t as fun as looking through the new issue.

2015 1202 FBWscallopsafetyInstead of flipping through the fun photos from crews across the country, I stumbled upon a story in the January 1986 issue that focused on Florida’s struggling calico scallop fleet.

The fleet was dealing with a fluctuating market, unpredictable production and the regular fish politics, but they were also plagued by accidents at sea. In the first seven months of 1985, 13 boats in the fleet capsized. Stability issues ran rampant.

A team from the Florida Institute of Technology completed a two-year study on the fleet to figure out what was happening on these boats. One of the problems was that most of the boats used in the central Florida scallop fleet were old shrimp trawlers purchased from Gulf shrimpers when the industry was critically depressed. Those vessels were safe for shrimping because shrimp would’ve been stored below deck. The hulls hadn’t been modified to take on the large deckloads that came with scalloping.

Shoreside facilities required the catch to be carried on deck for off-loading and efforts to find an alternative means had not been successful.

These scallopers filled the decks, too. Most captains and crew said excessive loads were necessary to make any money. It turns out that these vessels were bringing in plenty of sand with them as well, adding to the weight on deck.

“It’s overfishing,” said Eddie Moore, a vessel owner with eight years of experience in the industry. “If you bring up sand, you just have to limit your load, like it or not.”

In the end, experts decided that human error was the source of the problems. There wasn’t anything happening that wasn’t avoidable.

“Nowadays, these guys punch on the autopilot,” said Moore. “That’s what I see as the main cause for more accidents.”

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Gordon Pliche, manager of the Fishing Vessel Safety Task Force, agreed that the men on the boat are ultimately responsible.

“The situation is that many, many operators of these vessels don’t even know the most basic rules of the road as they apply to maritime operations,” he said. They’re great at catching scallops; it’s just that the people using the boats do not seem to understand the way they must use a vessel that hasn’t been designed for their fishery.”

Using a vessel designed for another fishery could save you a buck or two, but you have to know how to handle it. In this situation, men were pushing their boats beyond limits in a very dangerous environment.

The study led to new Coast Guard guidelines and education programs that corrected the stability issues in the long run.

What this fleet learned the hard way about stability has likely saved fishing lives in the last 30 years.

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This year was my first time at Pacific Marine Expo and I was determined to hit the show floor running and soak up everything the show had to offer.

PME15 showfloorI’ve been working with National Fisherman for several months now and have gotten a feel for the industry, but traveling to the West Coast and being smack dab in the middle of the fishing family is a whole different world.

Walking the show floor, it was rare I made it down an aisle without witnessing a reunion of two old friends, an association representative pouring their heart out over a fishery or that hardened handshake that only exists between a salesman and seasoned captain. There were nothing but happy faces throughout the event center, although most of those might have been a result of the free drinks each day at the beer garden.

Keith Colburn, captain of the F/V Wizard and one of the leading men on “Deadliest Catch,” shared his stories on safety, explaining that PFDs were always mandatory on his boat. Despite his profanity-laced barking on the show, Colburn genuinely cares for his crew. Only the riveting, dangerous clips are used for air, of course.

Several members of Chix Who Fish, a community of female fishing advocates, sat on a panel to discuss the group’s origins, drawing in quite a large and supporting crowd. They talked about their experiences collaborating with Grundéns and testing their new line for women. Fishing is seen as a man’s game in a lot of eyes, so it was wonderful to see these tough ladies get so much support from the audience and to hear their stories.

Having never been on a working fishing vessel myself, watching the Fisherman of the Year contest was the most exciting part of the show. I don’t think I’ve seen hands move faster that the fisherman who took the stage on Friday afternoon.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Highliner dinner, where National Fisherman presented a new class of Highliners with awards and shared their accomplishments. I got to sit with 2014 Highliner Russell Sherman and hear one of his survival stories firsthand, which was equally exciting and terrifying. It felt like being a part of industry history to watch Highliners of years past rise from their seats to welcome the incoming class.

The editorial team is back in Portland, Maine, now and the majority of has gotten a full night’s sleep since running around for three days in Seattle. On our flight back home, I was relieved to get back to my apartment and relax for the day. But now that I’m rested, I’m all ready to get back to the show next year.

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If you think your fishing skills will stack up against the best in the nation, put them to the test in National Fisherman’s Fisherman of the Year competition.

FishermanOfTheYear image009The deck of a fishing boat, no matter the size, is a complex and demanding workplace. This contest forces fisherman to bring their sea-skills to the showroom floor and compete for the title, currently held by Bristol Bay fisherman Eike Ten Kley of the Iliamna Fishing Co.

Competitors will test their abilities in net mending, knot tying and rope splicing before the winners of those heats race to see who can slip into a survival suit the fastest. The winner of each of the three first-round competitions will take home $100. The race winner will take home another $100, a National Fisherman fleece vest and other prizes. All contestants take home a t-shirt.

Join us in the keynote area at 1 p.m. on Friday to fight for first place or be a spectator at one of Pacific Marine Expo’s premier events.

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You definitely won’t want to miss this year’s keynote speaker.

Keith Colburn, captain of the Bering Sea crab boat Wizard and longtime lead on Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” will be taking the stage this year to share his advice for success in the fishing industry’s hypercompetitive business environment.

CaptainKeith ColburnColburn got on a one-way flight to Alaska in 1985 with $50 and a little fire in him. His thirst for adventure landed him on the deck of a fishing boat, and he has been in the business ever since.

On top of being a fisherman, Colburn is also a classically trained chef and spokesman. He attributes his success to a strong work ethic and solid core values.

Join us and Keith Colburn in the keynote area at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

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When you’re on the floor of Pacific Marine expo, be sure to take a break from scoping out new gear and connecting with industry leaders to relax and visit the Fisherman’s Lounge.

New to the expo this year, the lounge will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day in the East Hall and is the go-to spot to celebrate the cultural aspects of the fishing community.

2015 111 showdaily movieScreenshot from a POV video of commercial seine fishing in Prince Williams Sound. Commercial Fishing Film Festival photo.Come see a film from the Commercial Fishing Film Festival to get a look into other fisheries and see how other vessels operate. There will be a handful of maritime art and photography exhibits on display, including Jana Schuy’s collection archive of photos from her time in Stika in the 1980s (featured in the December issue of National Fisherman on page 10). To see what the sea was like even further back, the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society will be on hand with items from fisheries past.

If you’ve been around the docks long enough and have a story to tell, drop by the Fish Tales booth to share your favorite fishing story. We will record it and then share the collection of stories online after the show. Your story can be about anything — your best catch, craziest storm, first day as a commercial fisherman, etc.

The Fisherman’s Lounge will be the perfect place to have a little fun away from the booths.

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While curating the Fishing Back When section for the December issue of National Fisherman, I read a story about Hurricane Rita, the destructive storm that ravaged the Gulf Coast, picking up where Hurricane Katrina had left off just a few weeks before.

2015 1104 coastlines hurricanBecause the damage from the hurricane was mainly from water instead of wind, it caused much more damage to the seafood industry’s shoreside infrastructure.

Hurricane Rita is often described as a forgotten storm, as it was not as covered in mainstream media as Hurricane Katrina was. But fishermen surely remember.

“We got socked in the jaw and then kicked in the gut,” said Dulac, La., shrimp packer Robert J. Samanie.

But even immediately following the storm, fishermen were hopeful.

“Your true commercial fishermen, they’re getting back together right now to go back to work,” said Samanie.

Story after story of fishermen helping each other get back on their feet was reported in the months after the storm. That fishing family motif that everyone in the industry always talks about shined through the otherwise awful hurricane season the gulf saw that year.

George Barisich, president of the United Commercial Fishermen’s Association, was made homeless by Hurricane Katrina, but was helping to direct supplies to families in need.

Cindy Johnson of Bayou La Batre, Ala., wife of fisherman Doug Johnson, was delivering supplies to the coast just before Rita and was brought to tears by the destruction that had already happened.

“It was like traveling through a nightmare,” she said.

But, as they say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And this is especially true of fishermen.

Johnson recalled moving to Alabama over 20 years prior and not being a fan of the smell coming from the oyster, shrimp and crab plants and the docks. But she remembered something her grandfather used to say about the smell of his pig farm. It was a money smell.

And that money smell is coming back to the Gulf Coast, despite all the hardships that fishermen have gone through.

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If you’re focused on fish, you’re probably more interested in the sea than the sky. But recently more and more fishermen and scientists are sticking their head in the clouds to learn more about the ocean.

We’re talking about drones. While mini-helicopters might make you think of children’s toys, higher quality copters are becoming popular for research.

2015 1028 killerwhalesThese photos are helping scientists monitor the health of orca whales. In this photo, you can see that the female at top appears skinny and in poor condition, the female in the middle appears healthy and well-nourished and the whale at bottom is pregnant, her body bulging aft of the rib cage. NMFS photo.NOAA researchers just recently captured some stunning photos of some orca whales in the North Pacific.

"[In] previous attempts to photograph from the air, we’ve been in manned aircraft, like helicopters, so we’ve been a lot higher," NMFS marine mammal biologist John Durban said on a NOAA podcast released last week. "This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of behavior in this kind of clarity.".

Using small, unmanned drones makes it easier to get close to the water. With higher quality photos, scientists can more accurately measure whale growth and health.

A New York Times story on the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet and its potential effects on sea levels featured beautiful stills and video from drones, allowing the reader to get a first-hand look at climate change. Drones didn’t play a hand in research here, but NYT journalists thought their first major drone assignment was successful..

“In this extreme environment, both harsh and stirringly beautiful, the New York Times used a drone to report the assignment, opening a new path for readers to experience our stories. Flying a camera-equipped drone over this terrain resulted from many months of work,” wrote photographer Josh Haner on the experience. “While we cannot yet fly drones in the United States without an FAA exemption and a licensed pilot at the controls, the largely unpopulated country of Greenland proved to be an excellent, if challenging, first drone assignment.”.

The places we can reach using drone technology is amazing. The fact that scientists can now track the location, size and health of certain species almost remotely is an incredible development.

Research aside, some fishermen have been experimenting with using a drone to fishThis angler attached bait and tackle to his quadcopter and actually managed to catch a fish while controlling the drone on land. I doubt one of those personal drones can hold up more than a single fish at a time, so it might not be a good option for your commercial vessel. Who knows though? The uses for this technology seem endless and there are a lot of users experimenting with them right now.

If you don’t have the tools to do serious research and the one-at-a-time fishing method doesn’t work for you, at the very least you can get some great photos and video of the work you do on your vessel and your catch.

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2015 1021 coastlines redditJulie Rose (left), research ecologist for NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Milford Lab, and Suzanne Bricker, physical scientist at NOAA's National Ocean Service. NOAA photos.In celebration of National Seafood Month, NOAA scientists Julie Rose and Suzanne Bricker took to Reddit on Monday to answer questions from the community about shellfish, which they dubbed the “unlikely heroes” of the nation’s bays. The Ask Me Anything thread received comments from fishermen, environmental consultants, fishery biologists and consumers from around the globe.

Rose and Bricker recently contributed to a study of nitrogen removal by shellfish farms. The team is currently exploring how shellfish farming and restoration could be incorporated into existing programs that manage nutrients in coastal waters, ways to pay shellfish farmers for the nutrient removal services they are providing, and the economic benefits that shellfish provide to coastal communities. Using data collected from field and lab studies, shellfish farmers and models, they’ve found that shellfish, being filter feeders, can improve water quality by removing excess nutrients from the water when they eat plankton — the same excess nutrients that are causing huge problems in coastal water quality.

According to Rose and Bricker, who answered questions jointly, one of the biggest hurdles in their research is getting the data at the appropriate time, making accurate analyses and model simulations, and coordinating the help they receive on the federal, state and local levels.

They had a wide variety of questions thrown at them and answered nearly all of them — from explaining the difference between bivalve shellfish and shrimp and lobster, to discussing how filter feeders could help specific bays. Some questions were answered in full, but the scientists linked to a collection of NOAA and outside sources as well.

The whole thread serves as an introduction to the complexities of shellfish and their potential uses. Give the website a look and chime in if there’s a topic you’re interested in. While the Q & A portion is complete, you can still speak to users in the comments.

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In 1985, exactly 142 years from the day the ill-fated Isidore set sail off the coast of Maine, an Ogunquit fisherman pulled a chunk of rudder out of the ocean that he believed was a part of the ship that crashed just off the York coast.

Digging deeper into the story and the legend, while combing through the archives for our Fishing Back When page, I discovered an especially eerie side to this sinking. A lot of the crew members had a bad feeling about the ship before it set out; and as it turned out, they should’ve trusted their gut.

2015 1007 IsidoreA feature on the legend of the Isidore wreck was included in the Nov. 1985 issue of National Fisherman.On Nov. 26, 1842, fisherman Tom King dreamed he was standing on the deck of the Isidore looking toward the shore, where he saw seven coffins laid side-by-side on the beach. He called out, to no one in particular, asking what the coffins were for. According to the legend, “For the crew of the Isidore,” was the reply he heard.

That same week, other members of the Isidore’s crew encountered bad omens while preparing. Dogs howled outside the home of John Crowder for three nights in a row. Paul Grant also dreamt about coffins.

On Nov. 30, these three men, along with 12 other crew members, boarded the Isidore for her maiden voyage to New Orleans from Kennebunk, Maine. That night the crew faced one of the worst snowstorms to hit New England that century, and the crew perished eight miles from their port of sail.

Some retellings of the legend say only seven bodies were recovered — seven bodies for the seven coffins King had seen in his dreams.

There doesn’t seem to be a single member of the crew who felt safe getting on the boat that day.

According to the tale, crew member William Harding stood on the deck of the ship hours before it set sail and said to a bystander, “I wish she was 1,000 miles at sea and I on shore.”

Some say it was the captain’s fault — that he was cursed. According to some accounts, his first ship also went down on its maiden voyage. There are reports that his wife demanded her burial plot be planned away from his because he was so unlucky.

Others say the boat was doomed from its creation. They had a tough time getting the Isidore into the water the day of her launching, a terrible omen for any superstitious fisherman.

No one really knows what happened at sea.

In 2011, Ken Young turned the rudder over to the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit after it had sat it his home for more than 40 years.

Young said he never considered himself an expert on the wreck or a superstitious person, but when he found the rudder and learned more about the legend in ’85, he had some words of wisdom to share with National Fisherman.

“Some people just don’t understand the sea,” he said. “They don’t understand that you have to respect it.”

Who knows whether the ship was destined to be destroyed or was just caught off guard by the storm. Was the captain fatally unlucky or just made some bad judgment calls about weather conditions?

Whatever you believe, do your best to be prepared, stay safe and respect the sea.

respect the sea.
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Page 3 of 19

Inside the Industry

The Northeast Trawl Advisory Panel working group is scheduled to meet Aug. 2 in Boston to discuss using commercial fishing vessels to supplement current stock assessment surveys conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

Read more...

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...
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