In Mixed Catch, NF Senior Editor Linc Bedrosian spotlights a wide range of commercial fishing-related news items from coast to coast.
Friday, 20 December 2013
We like a big, fat Christmas tree in our household. If it won't scrape the edges of the sliding door in the kitchen or tickle the family room ceiling, we don't want it.
However impressive and grand we think our tree may be, I'm afraid it pales in comparison to one in Rockland, Maine, home of the World's Largest Lobster Trap Tree, which stands 35 feet tall. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Trap Tree tradition.
Every year since 2003, Rockland Main Street Inc. has built the Trap Tree. Rockland Maine Street Inc., one of 10 Main Street Communities in Maine, is part of a national program that aims to sustain vibrant downtowns through historic preservation, economic restructuring, promotion, design and organization.
According to the organization's website, each year, volunteers build the Trap Tree using 152 traps that Brooks Trap Mill in Thomaston, Maine, constructs especially for Rockland Main Street, each one weighing 40 pounds. A special engineering plan enables them to build the tree to its lofty height.
They decorate the big fella, too. It's festooned with 480 feet of garland and 125 buoys that local lobstering families brought to decorate the first Trap Tree in 2003. The tree is lighted from the inside and twinkle lights wind through the garland.
And what do you use to top a 35-foot Trap Tree? A 5-foot fiberglass lobster, that's what.
The tree even comes with a present for some lucky lobsterman. Raffle tickets are sold for $50 each, with the winner receiving 100 of the traps used to build the tree.
But to me, the most impressive thing about the tree is not its size. It's the fact that the Rockland organization chooses to build a tree to salute its lobstermen. I'll raise a glass of eggnog to the idea of celebrating our nation's fishing communities, and I hope you will, too.
While you're at it, watch the volunteers build this year's tree in the RCN America Network video below. And whether your tree is tall or small, have yourselves a merry little Christmas.
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Fishermen can be superstitious. For example, they won't leave port on the 13th of any month. Nor do they set sail on a Friday. To do so would be to court disaster. And leaving on Friday the 13th? That would be tempting fate.
However, the three-man crew of the 58-foot Endorphin was already eight days into a fishing trip last week when trouble struck on — yep — Friday the 13th. The boat was heading back to Montauk, N.Y., that day when the boat's main engine died and the crew lost their generator to boot. Crew member Christopher Fallon told Long Island Newsday that they were without the generator, lights, food or heat for about 24 hours.
Fortunately, the crew's luck that day eventually changed. A nearby good Samaritan vessel arrived on the scene, and was able to keep Endorphin in contact with the Coast Guard. However, the good Samaritan boat couldn't tow Endorphin to safety because of the weather conditions; reportedly seas that afternoon were 8 to 13 feet with winds of 35 knots.
But a Coast Guard aircraft was able to drop supplies, including food, water, and a handheld radio to Endorphin, now stranded some 86 miles southeast of Montauk as seen in this brief Coast Guard video shot by Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta Disco on the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma.
Happily, Tahoma, which arrived late Friday night, was able to start towing Endorphin home; a rescue boat from the Montauk Coast Guard station relieved the Maine-based cutter upon arriving at Montauk Inlet. The rescue boat brought Endorphin and her crew safely to port ahead of Saturday's storm.
It may be awhile before Endorphin gets to go out again. Vessel owner Robert Fallon, Christopher's father, told Newsday the boat's engine must be rebuilt this winter. But when Endorphin does head out again, what are the odds that it will do so on a Friday?
Thursday, 12 December 2013
Here we are midway through December and the holiday season is in full swing. It's easy to get cynical about the rampant commercialism surrounding Christmas. But leave it to the commercial fishing industry to remind us it's the season of giving.
According to KTOO-AM radio in Alaska, SeaShare, a Seattle-based non-profit group that works with the seafood industry to deliver fish to soup kitchens and shelters nationwide, has donated 18,000 pounds of individually wrapped chum salmon steaks to the Glory Hole, a Juneau soup kitchen and shelter. The 2011 SeaShare video below shows how donated salmon are cut into steaks and individually wrapped for eventual delivery to the food banks.
The fish being donated to the soup kitchen is chum bycatch from the Bering Sea pollock trawl fishery. And while the pollock fleet has worked to reduce salmon bycatch substantially, it's been a sore subject in Western Alaska especially where king salmon runs are low.
But let's focus on the food bank donation, which is a great thing. Of the 18,000 pounds of salmon donated, Glory Hole will keep 3,000 pounds and will help distribute the rest to more than 10 other organizations, including the Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Food Bank, which will receive 5,000 pounds.
"That's a very generous donation," Southeast Alaska Food Bank manager Darren Adams told KTOO. "We can always use an influx of protein. We tend to get a lot of empty calories but it's always nice to get stuff like salmon and other meats that allow us to offer something healthy to our clients."
It's good to hear that bycatch is being utilized to feed people who really need it. It puts bycatch to good use rather than wasting the fish and dumping it overboard.
What would really be great would be if as part of the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization a provision was added that called for all bycatch to be donated and distributed to local food banks. That would truly be a gift that keeps on giving.
Thursday, 05 December 2013
By William B. McCloskey Jr.
Skyhorse Publishing, 2013
Hardcover, 400 pp., $24.95
You'll get a taste of "Warriors," the prequel to William B. McCloskey's previous novels "Highliners," "Brokers" and "Raiders" in our January issue. The "Warriors" excerpt that begins on page 26 focuses on fishing in the early days of Alaska's king crab fishery. But the novel is about much more than that.
The "Highliners" trilogy focuses on the story of Hank Crawford's journey from green cannery hand to respected fishing captain in Alaska, a tale that spans from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. Three important characters who appear in the three novels return as the main characters in "Warriors."
Crawford's future mentor, Marine Sgt. Jones Henry, Japanese officer Kiyoshi Tsurifune, and anti-German Resistance fighter Swede Scorden struggle to return to a normal life after World War II. Each man is wrestling with all they've endured during the war and want nothing more than to return to the fishing life.
For Jones, that means returning to Ketchikan, Alaska, to fish for salmon and king crab. Swede, too, settles in Ketchikan where he throws himself into work at a cannery, eventually becoming an executive. Kiyoshi returns to his family, trying to deal with the lost honor of his country's defeat, eventually helping his local fishermen get back on the water and becoming a seafood buyer. The three men's paths cross throughout the book, as Kiyoshi eventually becomes an ambassador for the Japanese trade.
But the fishing world is changing. Engines are replacing the sails on fishing boats that Jones and other fishermen have relied upon for years. A new union calls a strike during the height of salmon season. And an impending deal to allow the Japanese to fish Alaska waters angers many Alaska fishermen for whom memories of the war against Japan are all too fresh.
Each character's perspective on the war is enlightening. The passages about life in post-war Japan are compelling. So are those in which Jones wrestles with his war experiences; Jones just wants to fish and be left alone, and not have to think about what he saw in the war.
Against the backdrop of the changes in their lives and Alaska's fishing industry, each man must find a way to make peace with what they've experienced and with the changes coming to the burgeoning Alaska fisheries. All in all "Warriors" proves to be a worthy addition to the "Highliner" novels.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
For better or worse, when I think of Thanksgiving, I think of food. Football, too, but food popped into my mind first. Food, football, and the inevitable couch nap that follows.
Right now, though, I'm not thinking about turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato, squash and turnip and pies. Well, apparently I am a little bit. But I'm thinking about seafood, too.
I'm thinking about lobster and haddock and blue crabs and spiny lobster and red snapper, and oysters, Dungeness crab, salmon, and king crab and so much more. More specifically, I'm thinking about the folks who go out and catch it all. That means I'm thinking about you.
I'm thinking about how you brave the elements every day to bring back a delicious and nutritious source of protein, and how you and your family have been doing it for generations. I'm thinking of folks like Maryland watermen Guy Spurry and his 19-year-old son Austin, who are featured in the video below. They go oystering every day, even though it's becoming harder and harder for them to do so. But they do it because — just like you — they love what they do.
Fishermen love being out on the water so much that they're willing to endure ever-mounting piles of government regulations, tackle the challenges poised by environmental groups, recreational fishing organizations, fluctuating market conditions and the whims of Mother Nature. That's pretty remarkable.
Suffice to say I'm thankful for the work you do, year in and year out. You may think that because you work on the water, out of sight of folks on land that no one notices all that you do.
But you're wrong. We do. Here's wishing our nation's fishermen a Happy Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
As the late Andy Williams sang in his holiday classic tune, it's the most wonderful time of the year. That's because Pacific Marine Expo gets underway in Seattle this week.
Commercial mariners from Alaska to California gather at the CenturyLink Field Event Center each year to check out the latest in equipment, propulsion, builders, suppliers and new products as well as a host of timely and informative seminars. But that's not all; there's also a full slate of special offerings to enjoy — including the Author's Corner & Book Store, located at booth 631.
The Author's Corner & Bookstore, presented by Pro Star Publications, offers seating and a special section for book signings, discussions and more. That's former NF Highliner Clem Tillion chatting with author Vaughn Sherman about "Sea Travels" in the Author's Corner at Pacific Marine Expo last year. To check out this year's schedule of authors who will be on hand each day, click here.
You'll also find a pretty impressive selection of marine-related books. And that, my friends, is music to my ears.
Plop me in a bookstore and I will happily while away the hours in search of a good book. This time of year, I'm beginning the hunt for Christmas gifts for my fellow booklovers. However, that won't preclude me from picking up a little something for myself while I'm at it.
I've enjoyed success on both fronts at the Author's Corner & Book Store. You, too, can stock up on reading material for yourself and maybe snap up a present or two, all without ever having to leave the event center. Score!
And as long as you're in gift-shopping mode, you know a subscription to your favorite commercial fishing magazine will look good under the tree, too. Stop by booth 614, say hi to the NF editorial team and take advantage of our special show subscription offer. Get a year of National Fisherman for the most-excellent price of $10! Whether you get a subscription for a friend or yourself (or both), you can't lose.
See? It really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation met in Boston for a Nov. 4 field hearing concerning reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. There, they heard testimony on how the federal fisheries management law is devastating the region's groundfish industry, and calls to improve the act.
Thursday, 31 October 2013
It's a happier Halloween than normal here in Portland, Maine, and everywhere else in Red Sox Nation. Our beloved baseball team went from worst to first, capping a remarkable season by winning the 2013 World Series last night, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1. If only New England's troubled groundfish industry could undergo a similar resurrection.
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National Fisherman Live: 7/29/14
In this episode:
National Fisherman Live: 7/17/14
In this episode, National Fisherman's Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley talks with Mike Hillers about the Simrad PX Multisensor.