National Fisherman

Each day, our editors scour news outlets from across the nation and the globe to find and share with you the most interesting and most relevant stories about commercial fishing. We update our site each morning with the latest news on regulations, sustainability and market trends — everything you need to make informed decisions about your business.

But we know it's not always possible for those who work at sea to check in with us daily. So each month we compile the 10 most-read online news stories from the past 30 days. Learn what your colleagues are reading and never miss a hot story with this handy list of our best-read content.

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When I tagged along with my brother Chris for last year's final salmon drift gillnet opening in Cook Inlet I had no idea it was the harbinger of this summer's commercial fishing venture — nor that it would reopen doors to something much deeper.

Our conversations during the long winter nights culminated in the favorable decision that I would be working the decks of the Chipmunk, the aluminum gillnetter he leases. Though fishing together seemed like any normal business arrangement between two brothers what transpired since we began picking salmon together has taken us to our foundational roots as two little Minnesota kids, infatuated with fishing.

I am the complacent one, happy in the moment and at peace with all in the universe. Chris, on other hand, enjoys the moment, but he's always bent on the propensity to go looking for better prospects in everything he does.

It made for a great mix as the calendar rolled through July and the search for a good hit of salmon was on. I stayed busy on deck and in the galley but managed to grab my cameras whenever I thought I could snag enough footage for a video. I slept in a hammock on deck the night of the July supermoon and filled my eyes and my SD cards with ethereal sunsets, green-blue waters, fish and all the other rich memories that accompany the life at sea.

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Consider this a shout-out to the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council members and others who traveled to the White House to make the case, if in vain, that the proposed expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to 700,000 square miles is misguided policy.

2014 911 Monumnet Map167This map illustrates the vast expanse of ocean that would be off limits to fishermen with the proposed expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Wetern Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council illustrationIn what was described as a "frank discussion," the nine-member delegation told the White House Council on Environmental Quality that the monument would penalize the U.S. Pacific islands and American fishermen while accomplishing little environmentally.

This is accurate. For one thing, the area is pristine, which forecloses on the notion of environmental improvement. For another, the fish the monument would "protect" are highly migratory. U.S. fishermen could pursue them outside the monument at hideous expense, or, more likely, they'll be harvested by the Chinese.

By the way, for those of you who do not regularly consume political news, "frank discussion" implies that the delegates expressed the truth bluntly and that the representatives of the administration, which included John Podesta, counselor to the president, didn't want to hear it.

No surprise there. Had the administration been inclined to consider the issue on its merits it would have in the first place consulted with the fishery council and stakeholders.

As Ray Hilborn of University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, observed last month, "The key question with respect to the expanded protections proposed by President Obama is, 'What will they do to aid solutions to the problems facing oceans?"

"I am afraid the answer to this is they will do nothing. Closing additional areas to fishing will have no impact on ocean acidification or ocean pollution, and the impact of these closures on overfishing will almost certainly be negligible."

Hilborn is correct, for what good it amounts to. The administration has pursued the "do it if it feels good" policy which colors so much of our environmental regulation today. And however well meaning, if uninformed, this policy is, the opposite result is certain to obtain in the western Pacific once China starts vacuuming things up.

Clair Poumele, a member of the Western Pacific council and director of the American Samoa Port Authority, said the monument would have a disastrous impact on the territory's tuna canning operations, which employ one-third of the population.

As Sean Martin, of the Hawai'i Longline Association observed, "This attempt at crafting an environmental legacy for our nation will ultimately prove to accomplish the opposite by disenfranchising our own fishermen and outsourcing domestic seafood demand to nations whose standards for environmental protections pale in comparison to our own."

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Most of us associate labor with unions, but that's much less the case now than it was a generation or more ago.


In New England, thousands of non-union employees at Market Basket supermarkets, through resolve and unity, forced the sale of the $4.6 billion chain to the CEO who only weeks before had been ousted largely because of his loyalty to those same workers.

Fast-food workers throughout the United States, who are also non-union, are attracting attention and growing support for their campaign for a higher minimum wage law. Typically these folks qualify for one government assistance program or another, meaning that the taxpayers in effect supplement the wages paid to the workers.

2014 909 Grant-Bundy lGrant Bundy of Bundy Seafood in Lafitte, La., off-loads shrimp at his docks. Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink photoThe federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

In Louisiana, shrimp prices are so low that fishermen (who are not guaranteed even $ 7.25 an hour) on Monday declared a moratorium to halt harvesting. "This is not a strike," said Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, of the stoppage, which ended Tuesday. In drawing the distinction, he may have been attempting to disassociate shrimpers from organized labor, which in the minds of many has outlived its usefulness as a result of workplace rules that counter productivity.

Guidry understands that when fishermen don't deliver, everyone – dock owners and processors as well as the boats and their crews – suffers, and is counting on getting all the players around the table and working things out.

Fishermen, of course, are not hourly wage earners. But their frustration with a status quo that seeks to disenfranchise them economically is much the same as any wage slave's frustration. As a result, they share the sense that it is time to take a stand.

Whether these folks are the vanguard of the ascendance of American labor in the 21st century, only time will tell.

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Pardon me if I politely decline to drink the fishery observer Kool-Aid. Fact is, I smashed the mug, into which someone had poured catch share Kool-Aid, in the fireplace long ago.


Observer programs are not inherently evil, but they're not inherently sensible, either. Billeting qualified scientists on fishing vessels is often impractical and never cheap, regardless of who is picking up the tab.

2014 0904 NOAA MarineObserverA NMFS observer checks the dimensions of a net and its catch. NMFS photoI don't quarrel with the collection of fishery-dependent data; it's just that observers are an expensive way to gather it. I realize that observers are scientists gaining valuable insights in the field. But much of the information is within the grasp of the average fisherman, so let the fishermen gather it at sea and the scientists deal with it ashore. To the extent that they collect biological data that would ordinarily be beyond the scope of a deckhand's duties we should think in terms of innovation and not resign ourselves to what a biologist's job has always been.

I am also skeptical of observers as compliance monitors. Call me naïve, but I am not inclined to view fishermen as lawbreakers or cheaters. Besides, we know where folks are fishing and with a modicum of shoreside enforcement we can be certain of what they're landing. That said, bycatch, particularly in some high-volume pelagic trawl fisheries, is an issue that needs to be addressed. Seasonal closures are one method of accomplishing this, but there are times when observers may represent another. At the scale at which the pelagic trawlers operate it may be easier to justify an observer's limited presence.

The answers to the challenge of fishery management will seldom be certain, but they need to make economic sense with respect to all resources, by which I mean the ocean's, the fisherman's and the taxpayer's.

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Each day, our editors scour news outlets from across the nation and the globe to find and share with you the most interesting and most relevant stories about commercial fishing. We update our site each morning with the latest news on regulations, sustainability and market trends — everything you need to make informed decisions about your business.

But we know it's not always possible for those who work at sea to check in with us daily. So each month we compile the 10 most-read online news stories from the past 30 days. Learn what your colleagues are reading and never miss a hot story with this handy list of our best-read content.

Add a comment

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The proposal that would create the world's largest marine reserve is a poor idea whose time, sadly, has likely come.

President Obama wants to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, so designated by his predecessor, from about 80,000 square miles to upward of 750,000.

Leaders in the U.S. Pacific Territories have spoken out against the plan, which would ban fishing, resource exploration, and other economic activities. So have the chair and co-chair of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, among others, as seen in the video below, but I expect their entreaties will fall on deaf ears.

Marine reserves are not inherently bad, but they must be justified by — and measured against — specific conservation objectives. "Greater protections of our beloved ocean," as cited by petitioners in favor of expanding the monument, is not an especially rigorous standard.

Indeed, in this case the precautions offered by a reserve are dubious. Conservationists describe the waters as pristine, which implies that any human activity that has taken place over the years has had no deleterious effect. And you're banning fishing... why?

The impacts on local fishermen as well as our distant water tuna fleet will be real and adverse. Islanders who oppose an expanded monument know very well it will mean economic losses to local fisheries and the stifling of the traditional Pacific Islands fishing culture that has sustained local communities for centuries.

Yet their voices are countered not with data, but with sentiment: "Together we can push for the fullest expansion and the fullest protection of one of America's natural wonders," writes Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

George W. Bush erred when his administration fashioned the monument, and Obama has erred in proportion. Unfortunately, the times and the tides are against us.

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Each day, our editors scour news outlets from across the nation and the globe to find and share with you the most interesting and most relevant stories about commercial fishing. We update our site each morning with the latest news on regulations, sustainability and market trends — everything you need to make informed decisions about your business.

But we know it's not always possible for those who work at sea to check in with us daily. So each month we compile the 10 most-read online news stories from the past 30 days. Learn what your colleagues are reading and never miss a hot story with this handy list of our best-read content.

Add a comment

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Zaca--slide1“Zaca” at the Pound Nets

 

The Tilghman Waterman's Museum on 3-mile-long Tilghman Island, Md., is showcasing the artwork of local waterman William E. Cummings. Now 87, Cummings taught himself to paint when he was in his 40s. When it was too rough to go fishing, he would go to the library and take out books on human anatomy or travel to museums in Washington, D.C. 

Cummings paints working watermen: oyster harvesters, pound netters and seine haulers. He saw these watermen becoming obsolete as his tiny island on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay changed from a working waterfront that was home to dozens of skipjacks to a retirement community. Cummings wanted to capture a way of life that is vanishing, said Hall Kellogg, executive director of the Tilghman Waterman's Museum.

The museum is selling limited edition canvas prints of several of Cummings paintings to support their mission of preserving the heritage of Tilghman Island's waterman community.

Start the slideshow >>


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Leave it to my wife Cheryl to dig a good story out of the woodwork. She came home from work one day last summer, exuberant to tell me about a boatbuilder she'd met.


"I think he's a story," she said.

We were having a glass of wine, contemplating what to have for dinner (moose or salmon) when she suggested we drive over to his place not a mile away from where she works. The next day found us touring Delbert Henry's large shop, Hylite Fabrication, nestled in the woods in Butte, Alaska. As we stood there, dwarfed by a 90-foot research vessel and talked with Henry there was no doubt he was a story, but we needed a commercial fishing boat in the picture to fit National Fisherman.

So you can imagine my exuberance when Cheryl came home in the dead of winter to report that he was building two new 33-foot Cordova bowpickers. A few weeks later I found myself back in his shop and ogling two completed hulls, custom built for Jeff Johnson of Peregrine Boats.

The decks and houses had just been added, and as I climbed up ladders, over bulwarks and down into engine rooms, I was taken aback with the workmanship. I have to admit I'm a sucker for clean integral fittings, and the air intakes for the engine room and attention to countless other details were nearly overwhelming.

The cabins were graceful. The entry and shape of the bows blew me away. Appendages at the corners of the sterns captured my curiosity.

Thank goodness I was armed with video gear. For nothing else could encapsulate it all. Henry was amenable to my filming, as was his congenial crew — and the owners. So I made two more visits to the shop to capture progress on the boats.

As the footage started filling a 500-gigabyte external drive, I started color grading, editing, writing the voice-over and dabbing with the music. At the same time I felt a growing apprehension about the footage from the sea trials.

This would be the action in the video and the epilogue of the finished product. I had premonitions of shaky shots from my kayak or a rubber raft as the boat raced past.

Leave it to Cheryl again. The day before I'd scheduled the shoot she'd found a YouTube video featuring another local treasure, Pat Martin and his fantastic aerial photography. On a whim I called him up. We hit it off, and were excited to work together.

So on a calm morning, Martin showed up to work his magic (Not only does he fly the helicopter drone but runs controls for camera angle, exposure, etc.). Cheryl shot stills, and we hopefully captured in the video below the essence of Henry's creativity in aluminum.

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National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 10/7/14

In this episode, National Fisherman Publisher Jerry Fraser talks about the 1929 dragger Vandal.

National Fisherman Live: 9/23/14

In this episode:

'Injection' plan to save fall run salmon
Proposed fishing rule to protect seabirds
Council, White House talk monument expansion
Louisiana shrimpers hurt by price drop
Maine and New Hampshire fish numbers down

 

Inside the Industry

NOAA and its fellow Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have announced the signing of a formal Record of Decision to implement a gulf restoration plan. The 44 projects, totaling an estimated $627 million, will restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

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The Golden Gate Salmon Association will host its 4th Annual Marin County Dinner at Marin Catholic High School, 675 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield on Friday, Oct 10, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

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