National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.



I think my dictionary is broken. Its definition of the word "harass" seems different from that of federal officials.

According to my well-worn copy of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition, the definition of the verb "harass" reads as follows:

"1 a: EXHAUST, FATIGUE b: to annoy persistently 2: to worry and impede by repeated raids"

But apparently the word has an additional meaning because a Cape Cod fisherman who last summer freed a humpback whale that was caught up in his fishing gear faces charges of harassing whales.

Robert J. Eldridge of West Chatham, Mass., faces a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine, a year in jail and a year on probation if he's convicted of the criminal misdemeanor. Yesterday he pleaded innocent on three charges of violations of the federal Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Hyannis, Mass.-based Cape Cod Times reports that Eldridge and his crew worked for 20 to 30 minutes to free the whale, which reportedly swam away unharmed. Eldridge later cooperated with a NOAA investigator, describing how the incident unfolded. The U.S. Attorneys office subsequently determined charges should be brought.

Perhaps, in this litigious age, federal officials are acting cautiously and to the letter of the law, especially where a protected species is concerned. Hence, a fisherman who tried to do the right thing faces a big fine and jail time for his trouble.

It'll be interesting to see how the case plays out in court. We'll keep the folks at Merriam Webster posted.

Inside the Industry

Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.


The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is teaming up with leading shark-tracking nonprofit Ocearch to build the most extensive shark-tagging program in the Gulf of Mexico region.

In October, Ocearch is bringing its unique research vessel, the M/V Ocearch, to the gulf for a multi-species study to generate previously unattainable data on critical shark species, including hammerhead, tiger and mako sharks.

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