In Mixed Catch, NF Senior Editor Linc Bedrosian spotlights a wide range of commercial fishing-related news items from coast to coast.
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
How easily could you swim 2 miles? In an Olympic-sized pool (50 meters long), you must swim 16 laps (down and back) to complete 1 mile; could you swim 32 laps? The task becomes more daunting if you suddenly find yourself overboard in Mississippi Sound as Long Beach, Miss., shrimper Mitchell Sevel did Sunday night.
A rogue wave hit the 45-foot Kar-Lyn-Dawn, causing the 30-year veteran to slip and fall overboard. The boat continued on, and the noise of the vessel's generator prevented the boat owner in the wheelhouse from hearing Sevel yelling for help. The boat continued steaming along.
According to the Biloxi Sun Herald, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources says he fell overboard about 2 miles off Pass Christian. Sevel quickly decided that he had little choice but to start swimming if he wanted to survive.
Still, he worried that he wouldn't have enough energy to swim all the way back to shore. But thoughts of his wife, Lori, kept him going.
Hours later, Sevel found his way to shore in West Past Christian, Miss. He pulled the fire alarm at the nearby Henderson Port Condos for help and was reunited with his family by 1:30 a.m. Monday. You can see the couple recount Sevel's remarkable story in the Sun Herald video below.
That Sevel could fight the current in the dark of night, and the fear that likely accompanied being alone in a vast, cold ocean is remarkable. Those resiliency lessons his father taught him truly paid off.
Of course, Gulf of Mexico shrimpers, who in recent years have dealt with an influx of cheap imported shrimp, devastating hurricanes and the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, are a pretty resilient bunch.
Sevel is a lucky man. Would the rest of us be so lucky? If you and your crew aren't using them already, consider wearing PFDs. Safety experts say they extend your survival time in the water. And today's PFDs are manufactured to be far more comfortable to wear on deck.
Nor would it hurt to invest in a personal locator beacon that you can wear. You switch it on manually to alert rescue personnel of your predicament and position. Ones that allow GPS units to be integrated into the distress signal can help rescuers home in on your position even more accurately (within 100 meters). Safety gear like PFDs and PLBs can keep you alive should you find yourself, like Sevel, going for an unexpected swim.
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Tuesday, 07 October 2014
October is National Seafood Month, and it's a great opportunity to promote the U.S. fishing industry and the seafood fishermen provide. For example, according to NMFS Director Eileen Sobeck's Leadership Message on the agency's website, NMFS will be featuring stories on the site this month that highlight sustainable fisheries and the health benefits of eating seafood regularly.
Alas, while we have a whole month to spread the seafood gospel to consumers, there are other food-related holidays vying for the public's attention in October. A quick Web search of October food holidays yielded the following goodies at foodstoriesblog.com — and these are only selected examples from a rather lengthy list. For example, Oct. 4 was both National Taco Day and National Vodka Day.
This week, we get to observe National Fluffernutter Day (it's apparently the Massachusetts state sandwich) on Oct. 8, followed by National Moldy Cheese Day (I am not making this up) on Oct. 9.
Then next week, we can celebrate National Chocolate-Covered Insects Day on Oct. 14 and National Roast Pheasant Day on Oct. 15.
Rounding out the month are National Greasy Foods Day on Oct. 25, and Buy a Doughnut Day on Oct. 30 (not to be confused with National Doughnut Day, which occurs in June).
Quite a list, isn't it? I, for one, am glad all these food holidays occur during National Seafood Month. By the time people get done gorging on tacos, Fluffernutters, chocolate-covered insects, greasy foods and doughnuts, seafood is going to look awfully appealing to consumers. Certainly it's a wonderful source of protein, and omega-3 rich seafood offers a variety of health benefits.
But what sets seafood apart from other foods that are touted as being good for you? That's easy — it's delicious. You can have the carrot juice. Serve me up some scallops, shrimp or salmon, some haddock or halibut, heck, give me a nice tuna sandwich, just to name a few tasty choices. As tempting as it may be to savor some moldy cheese (and I fear we have some in the fridge at home), I think I'll stick with the seafood.
Thursday, 02 October 2014
This is always an exciting time of year for us here at the NF office, because this is when we get to introduce our readers to a new batch of Highliner Award winners. Congratulations to Gloucester, Mass., fisherman Russell Sherman, Bluff Point, Va., waterman Ida Hall and Madeira Beach, Fla., reef fish harvester Martin Fisher, who make up the 2014 class. Veteran NF writers Kirk Moore, Larry Chowning and Hoyt Childers contributed profiles of this year's Highliners to the cover story that begins on page 22 of the November issue.
The Highliner Award dates back to 1975, when then-West-Coast-based NF associate editor Robert J. Browning came up with the idea of recognizing fishermen for their overarching contributions to the industry and their communities. By my count, we've had the pleasure of recognizing 117 Highliners, plus another half dozen industry contributors who have received special awards.
When New England's groundfish management regulations were becoming increasingly strict in the 1990s, his fellow fishermen urged Sherman to advocate on their behalf, and he quickly immersed himself in the management process. Hall is a 40-year veteran harvester who works with watermen and state officials to improve the health of Chesapeake Bay and its blue crab stocks as well as fishermen's fortunes. Fisher possesses a passion for the industry that shows whether he's selling his catch at the St. Petersburg, Fla., Saturday Morning Market or working to promote the sustainability of the region's fisheries and fishermen.
I had the honor of calling Fisher to inform him that he'd been selected as one of this year's Highliners. He was surprised but excited to learn he'd been chosen, and very appreciative that NF was recognizing his work.
Informing a fisherman that he's been selected to be a Highliner was a new experience for me. What a pleasure to get to deliver the good news! That was truly a happy task.
But you can't help but feel good when you're around the Highliners. I've had the pleasure of attending Highliner dinners through the years, and I'm always struck by how much they love the industry, by their energy and by their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty to help the industry and their fellow fishermen.
They're an inspiring group of people to be around. I think Russell Sherman, Ida Hall and Martin Fisher will fit in with them quite nicely.
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
The second annual Seafood 101 program begins this week, celebrating not only Pacific Northwest seafood, but the centennial of Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle. Educating children and their families about seafood's numerous benefits is the theme of the 2014 program, which kicks off with the Fishermen's Fall Festival this Saturday, Oct. 4.
What better time to promote U.S. seafood than in October, which is, after all, National Seafood Month? The Seafood 101 program is a regionally focused education effort that began last year. It's once again offering a variety of activities that highlight seafood's health benefits and its value to the region's environment and economy. Program events will culminate at Pacific Marine Expo, slated for Nov. 19-21 at the Century Link Field Events Center in Seattle.
Seafood 101 aims to educate families about seafood's nutritional benefits. The program also demonstrates how NMFS, the industry and community leaders are working together "to maintain a safe, sustainable and viable fishing industry," says Seafood 101 co-organizer Rebecca Reuter, communications specialist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. "Seafood 101 hopes to achieve this through education programs, cooking demonstrations, tours of our port and fishing vessels plus other free activities."
A special 12-page Seafood 101 supplement ran in the Seattle Times on Sept. 28, and it will be published in the Anchorage Daily News on Oct. 5. The supplement, which features stories on the value of seafood and the fishing industry, will also be distributed to Puget Sound region classrooms as part of the Times' Newspapers in Education program. Last year's award-winning supplement was distributed to more than 44,000 students and nearly 1,000 educators in Washington state.
That's good stuff. We're all for programs that promote nutritious (and delicious), fresh, local, sustainable seafood and the efforts of U.S. fisheries managers and harvesters to keep fish stocks healthy. We're pleased to again be among the program's sponsors.
Want to learn more about the Seafood 101 program? Visit our Seafood 101 spotlight page.
Thursday, 25 September 2014
You knew it was just a matter of time before President Obama would forge ahead with his plan to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and he did so today. But thanks to the efforts of industry and management leaders to persuade the administration that the expansion as originally proposed would devastate U.S. Pacific Islands fisheries, the size of the expansion has been scaled back.
When the plan was announced on June 17, it would have expanded the marine monument from 77,000 square miles to 700,000. Almost immediately, the region's industry and management leaders spoke out against the proposal, stating that it lacked merit on a number of fronts.
The expansion would provide few ecological benefits and weaken efforts to curb illegal foreign fishing practices, they said. And the plan threatened to give foreign fisheries a big competitive advantage over U.S. harvesters in the region, who would be shut out of important and productive fishing grounds.
The region's fishing leaders believed so strongly in their message that they traveled to the White House to deliver it to administration staff. Given that the Western Pacific leaders hadn't been first consulted about the merits of expanding the marine monument and how best to do it, it didn't seem likely the message would be heard.
Maybe the administration did get the message. The plan that will go into effect has been amended to "better accommodate economically vital fishing industries for Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Islands," the Western Pacific Regional fishery Management Council announced in a news release today.
The revised plan will expand the monument to include the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones surrounding Johnston Atoll, Jarvis Island and Wake Island. However, it will not expand the existing 50-mile prohibitions on fishing around Howland and Baker Islands and Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef.
The revisions, council leaders say, will let U.S. fishermen continue working within tradition fishing grounds under existing regulations in 35 percent of the U.S. EEZ around the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands, and removes them completely in 65 percent of the EEZ.
"We appreciate the White House's compromise on a monument expansion that could have devastated the region's fisheries and communities without notable environmental benefits," says Kitty Simonds, the Western Pacific Council's executive director, in the news release. "We now look to see how this declaration will be achieved in practice, beyond paper and politics, and hope that the U.S. Coast Guard will use additional enforcement funds to patrol U.S. waters as a first priority."
Well, big ups, as the kids say, to the council for fighting on fishermen's behalf. And I tip my hat to the council and the region's fishing leaders for making the lengthy trip to Washington to voice their serious concerns with the original expansion plan. The revised plan may not be ideal to U.S. fishermen who fish there, but it's certainly an improvement on the original plan, and it wouldn't have happened if the region's leaders hadn't been so vocal and insistent that it needed to change.
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
The 60-day public comment period on the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to protect Bristol Bay's salmon population from the proposed Pebble Mine closed Friday, Sept. 19, but not before plenty of fishermen signaled their support for agency protection.
Bristol Bay fishermen and processors, Alaska's fishing industry as a whole, plus commercial fishing groups and businesses nationwide sent in comments supporting EPA protections for Bristol Bay. According to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, preliminary counts for the 60-day comment period show that more than 625,000 public comments were submitted in support of EPA protection, with Alaskans alone accounting for 20,000 comments.
Similar support has been seen during the multi-year effort to protect the region from large-scale mining, the association says. Upwards of 1.5 million comments in support of protecting Bristol Bay have been received during that time.
"A massive open-pit mine planned for the heart of the salmon-rearing headwaters of our nation's largest and most valuable salmon runs is not worth the risk," says Sue Aspelund, the association's executive director. "And based on these numbers, the American people clearly agree."
Well, then it must be time to declare victory, no? It's game over, right?
Not just yet. Now that the public comment period is over, the EPA will tally up the comments and then review them before issuing its Final Determination before Feb. 4, 2015. But according to the association, there's still work to do to ensure that the Bristol Bay resource will be protected.
Aspelund says the association is asking the agency and the White House to move as quickly as possible "to implement strong protections for the thousands of people who depend on Bristol Bay salmon for their income and way of life." According to the association, Bristol Bay's sockeye runs support over 2,800 family fishing operations and 14,000 jobs nationwide.
"We want to ensure our fishermen can continue their businesses without this threat hanging over them," Aspelund says.
And, there's still a lot fishermen and others can do to keep the pressure on this process, says Katherine Carscallen, the association's sustainability director.
"Communications to elected officials stressing the importance that EPA is allowed to carry this process through to finality is very important," Carscallen said on Sept. 22. "Because EPA has mentioned that late comments will be marked late, but still counted, we decided to keep our take-actions up through the weekend, but by the end of the day, it will be adapted to direct communication to the White House."
So everyone who wants to ensure that the Bristol Bay resource continues to receive the protection it deserves shouldn't light up a victory cigar just yet. If proponents keep up the good work that's been done so far, that satisfying stogie will be lit soon enough.
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Maine harvesters have been catching plenty of lobsters for a number of years now. But recently some rare ones have found their way into lobstermen's traps.
In late August, student lobsterman Meghan LaPlante and her father, Jay, caught a blue lobster near Portland. The lobster, which Meghan dubbed Skylar, was donated to the Maine State Aquarium in West Boothbay Harbor. According to The Lobster Institute at the University of Maine at Orono, the odds of catching a blue lobster are one in 2 million.
Further up the coast, lobsterman Joe Bates caught what appeared to be the rarest of all lobsters, an albino, about a week later off Rocland. The odds of catching one are one in 100 million. Incredibly, lobsterman Bert Philbrick appeared to catch another one a few days afterwards off Owls Head.
Alas, a lobster expert eventually determined that the lobsters were actually a very light blue — still rare finds, but not the elusive white lobster.
Then in September, wildlife artist Sarah Lane, co-owner of Bethel Bait, Tackle and More in Bethel, discovered a calico lobster in a crate of bugs brought from the Pemaquid Lobster Co-op in Pemaquid. The odds of finding calico-colored lobsters, whose shells are a mottled orange and black, are one in in 30 million.
The rare find, which Lane named "Freckles," was likewise donated to the state aquarium, which now has three blue lobsters and orange one in addition to the calico.
There are still other colored lobsters that can be added to their collection, though it won't be easy. The odds of coming across a naturally colored red lobster are one in 10 million, and like the calico lobster, the chances of catching a yellow lobster are one in 30 million. And the odds of finding a split-colored lobster are one in 50 million.
Robert C. Bayer, the lobster institute's executive director, says the blue and calico lobsters are the most common of the bunch. "There's a fair amount of the blue ones," he says. If a male lobster breeds with a blue female, all her offspring will be blue, too.
Bayer says he's often tried to figure out people's fascination with the colored lobsters. "They're beautiful, but maybe that's it," he says. "They certainly draw a lot of attention every year."
Tuesday, 09 September 2014
With the clock winding down on the period for submitting comments to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the proposed Pebble Mine, Bristol Bay salmon fishermen are proposing a novel way to encourage friends and family to add their two cents worth. They've encouraging participation in the Bristol Bay Dinner Party Challenge this weekend.
Here's the deal. You invite friends over for a simple dinner party this weekend and challenge three other friends to do likewise. All you have to do is throw a salmon-themed dinner that's coupled with a movie and a little education about the famous Bristol Bay salmon resource and why the proposed Pebble Mine threatens it, and you ask your guests to submit comments to the EPA by the Friday, Sept. 19 deadline.
The good news is you don't have to be Martha Stewart to host this shindig. The dinner parties can be big or small and as simple or complex as you please. Fire up some wild Bristol Bay sockeye on the grill, or maybe offer up some smoked sockeye, cheese and crackers. Make it a potluck dinner and invite your guests to bring their favorite wild salmon dish. It's all good.
Then after dinner, fire up the popcorn popper so that you and guests have the proper movie-viewing snack while watching "In the Same Boat," Elijah Lawson's documentary about the Bristol Bay fishing lifestyle and the salmon runs that the large scale mine threatens. There are other short videos like the one below that can also be shown, too.
And then to wrap things up, you invite your guests to fill out an EPA comment post card or submit them online. They can fill out the postcards as a group or even pen their own custom letter to submit. Comments must be submitted to the EPA by the Friday, Sept. 19 deadline.
Even better, the group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay makes hosting the dinner even easier. If you go to their website to sign up for the dinner party challenge, they'll provide you with a packet of resources that includes recipe cards and public comment cards.
You can download the documentary and other videos there as well as other educational resources and you'll find the link for your guests to submit their comments online. It seems like the least your guests could do after enjoying good food and getting a little food for thought, to boot.
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Thursday, 04 September 2014
Two top-notch icons of the U.S. fishing industry, New Bedford, Mass., and Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal take center stage in the October issue of National Fisherman.
New Bedford and Fishermen's Terminal are both cover-worthy subjects. So rather than select one over the other, we did something we've never done before — we developed two covers for the October issue, one featuring New Bedford, the other Fishermen's Terminal.
New Bedford embraces its fishing heritage, which dates back to the 1700s when the whaling industry held sway for some 150 years. The New Bedford Whaling Museum and work being done to preserve iconic buildings such as the Seamen's Bethel, built in 1832, and the Mariner's Home, built in 1787, are examples of the city's appreciation of its fishing past.
But the city also celebrates the industry's present day success. Led by its thriving scallop industry, New Bedford has been the nation's top fishing port by landings value for 13 straight years.
The annual Working Waterfront Festival, which this year takes place Sept. 27 and 28, helps the community celebrate New Bedford's past and present. The festival not only offers plenty of family friendly activities, but also educates visitors about commercial fishing and documents the stories of the people who make up the New Bedford industry.
New Bedford also works with forward-thinking resources like the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology to promote future success. For example, it's hoped that the same kind of video survey innovations that have helped the scallop fishery thrive can likewise lead to better days for the port's struggling groundfish fleet.
In Seattle, Fishermen's Terminal has plenty to celebrate, too — including a pretty big milestone. Home to the North Pacific commercial fishing fleet, Fishermen's Terminal is 100 years old this year.
Commercial fishing vessels didn't have a centralized location to call home before Seattle decided to build Fishermen's Terminal. Since it opened June 10, 1914, Fishermen's Terminal — originally known as Salmon Bay Terminal or Fishermen's Headquarters — had space for 100 boats, a two-story warehouse and a marine railway.
Today, Fishermen's Terminal moors nearly 500 boats, and offers a wide variety of services to commercial fishermen such as repair facilities for large and small boats and net mending areas. It's also home to the city's Fishermen's Memorial, a special place where friends and family of fishermen lost at sea can gather to remember their loved ones.
Like New Bedford, Seattle honors its fishing industry each fall. The 26th annual Fishermen's Fall Festival, slated for Saturday, Oct. 4, celebrates the return of the North Pacific fleet to the terminal and strives to increase knowledge about the importance of Fishermen's Terminal and the fishing industry to Seattle, while raising money for the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial Foundation. This year the festival will also feature a centennial celebration for Fishermen's Terminal. New Bedford and Seattle are two great examples of fishing communities that are proud of their past, embrace their present and looking ahead to try and ensure their future
Tuesday, 02 September 2014
Of Sea and Clouds
By Jon Keller
Tyrus Books, 2014
Hardcover, 336 pp., $24.99
Maine's lobster fishery is apparently fertile ground for novelists. Not so long ago, I reviewed "Vacationland" by Nat Goodale, which was an enjoyable read. "Of Sea and Cloud" by Jon Keller, also set in the Pine Tree State's most profitable fishery, is a darker ride, but no less of a page-turner.
Things get ugly in a hurry. Nicholas Graves has raised his sons, Bill and Joshua (known as Jonah), to be lobstermen. But when Nicholas is lost at sea, the mystery of his death sparks a chain of events resulting in a war between the Graves boys and Osmond Randolph, a lobsterman and former Calvinist minister, as well as their father's business partner for more than 20 years.
With Nicholas out of the picture, the powerful and unsettling Osmond, aided by his grandson and heir, Julius (a deeply unsettling guy in his own right), moves to push the Graves family out of the lobster pound Nicholas and Osmond ran at any cost. A trap war develops as Osmond sets lobster traps on the Graves family grounds mere days after Nicholas is lost at sea.
Jonah cuts about $5,000-worth of Osmond's traps. In retaliation, Julius sets his gear directly on top of the Graves' traps. And as the Graves try to figure out what happened to their father the war escalates from there.
But the story isn't solely about an ugly trap war. Keller worked aboard a Down-East Maine lobster boat for several years after graduate school, and during that time, he said in a Tyrus Books interview, he "began to see within the land and people something nearing on the epic."
"When I started writing 'Of Sea and Cloud,' I fell immediately into a voice that felt to me to echo this epic starkness — and more importantly than echoing, I hoped that the voice would resonate in and through the novel in the way the coastal landscape resonates in and through the Down-East world," he explained.
Keller said he he's lived in enough small towns to be aware of when a place is undergoing a serious shift.
"I'd call it a cultural unraveling, perhaps, and it results in loneliness and desperation that I hoped to capture in the book," he said. "It's the confusion that results when a sub-culture doesn't evolve as quickly as the culture that surrounds it. The technology has changed, the standards of living have changed, the world has changed... yet the way of life has not, and the result is a cultural tailspin, a potential breakdown."
Furthermore, Keller said the region's isolation doesn't protect it from a changing world as much as it exposes it. In the book, Osmond sees that global markets are going to affect the lobster industry and the aging lobsterman is desperate to protect his family and ensure that they will survive those changes.
Keller says "Of Sea and Cloud" is "a book that asks something of the reader, just as the coast of Maine asks something of those who inhabit it." It's a story that should be food for thought for 21st century fishermen, be they veteran harvesters or young bucks trying to make their mark on this historic industry.
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National Fisherman Live: 12/16/14
In this episode, Bruce Buls, WorkBoat's technical editor, interviews Long Island lobsterman John Aldridge, who survived for 12 hours after falling overboard in the dead of night. Aldridge was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Pacific Marine Expo, which took place Nov. 19-21 in Seattle.
NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.