Written by Linc Bedrosian
January 3, 2013
There's plenty to like in the February issue of NF — our annual diesel engine spectacular alone is worth the price of admission. You can't wait to get your mitts on it, can you? I can't blame you.
But the story I like most is an Around the Coasts article regarding a fundraising effort by Alaska fishing industry members to help fishermen in northern Japan, who are still trying to recover from the devastating 2011 tsunami.
Ironic isn't it? U.S. fishermen willingly come to the assistance of devastated Japanese fishermen. But dithering Congressmen are shamefully slow to provide our fishermen with money to recover from fisheries disasters and the devastation that Hurricane Sandy wrought.
The Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission, a Juneau, Alaska -based organization that initiated the relief fund shortly after the tsunami devastated Northern Japan fishing communities and coordinated the donations. This year, contributions from 190 Alaska fishing and processing industry participants totaled more than $375,000.
The money will fund 10 projects:
• $5,500 to the Sendai branch of the Miyagi Fishermen's Cooperative for lifejackets that enabled 30 families to return to fishing;
• $136,500 to the Ishinomaki Fish Market for a three-ton capacity forklift and midsize truck, and a fish processing training simulator for the Miyagi fishery high school;
• $9,000 to Naburi Chiku to buy lifejackets and equipment for 30 fishing families;
• $38,000 to Mori Ju Gyogyo Corp for a fixed net and supplies for 10 families;
• $46,000 to Onagawa Uoichiba Co. for 60 storage tanks for up to 800 fishermen. This July 2012 photo, courtesy of Linda Ohama and AFIRM, shows work beginning in the fish port of Onagawa;
• $5,700 to Miyagi Fishermen's Association for two small fishing boats for 23 families;
• $64,000 to Haragama Kisen for required safety equipment such as lifejackets, ropes, helmets, and pumps, for 250 fishermen;
• $28,000 to Taro-cho Fishermen's Organization for air conditioners for a seaweed sorting plant for 50 fishermen — here's another Linda Ohama/AFIRM photo, of a seaweed packing room;
• $10,000 to Shin Otsuchi Fishermen's Organization to buy five electric dock winches that will replace hand-powered winches for up to 250 fishermen; and
• $30,000 to partially fund a request by Iwaki Fishermen's Organization, Hisanohama Branch, for rebuilding the destroyed Iwaki Fish Market, pending the community's ability to raise remaining funds needed to complete the project.
What this fundraising project demonstrates is the innate willingness fishermen have to help others. It's a remarkable trait, given that U.S. fishermen have suffered more than their fair share of devastation.
In recent years alone, we've seen our fishermen deal with hurricanes Katrina, Irene and Sandy (to name a few) that have wreaked havoc in U.S. fishing communities. And in 2012, we saw the Commerce Department issue disaster declarations for the Northeast groundfish fishery, Alaska's chinook salmon fishery, and Mississippi's blue crab and oyster fisheries.
Yet when Congress had the opportunity to include $150 million for fisheries disaster assistance in a $60 billion aid package for Hurricane Sandy relief, some lawmakers labeled the fisheries money as "pork." Congress meekly let the last day of the 112th session lapse and postponed voting on the spending bill until they reconvene in mid-January.
If a mayday call crackles over the VHF, nearby fishermen haul in their gear and steam to the vessel in distress as quickly as they can to help.
The tsunami in Japan was a different kind of mayday call, but U.S. fishermen answered it all the same. Congress should do likewise to help American fishermen.
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