National Fisherman

Already missing the expo? We don't blame you! Take a look back at last week's fun. 


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National Fisherman’s Highli111115 HighlinerProgram 2015The 2015 Highliner Award program. Click for a full-size version.ner Award dates back to 1975 when then-West-Coast-based NF associate editor Robert J. Browning had the idea to recognize fishermen for their overarching contributions to the industry and their communities. In 2015, we welcome three new members to the club, and we have now recognized 120 Highliners since the award’s inception, along with a number of other industry contributors who have received special awards.

Have a look at our 2014 and 2015 Highliner classes, then learn more about our newest inductees in this piece from National Fisherman editor Jessica Hathaway. 

Download the 2015 Highliner Award Program.





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It won't be long until Pacific Marine Expo 2015 is in full swing! As we prepare for this year's event, we put together a slideshow of scenes from past shows. See anyone you know? Bring back memories of events you enjoyed attending? Let us know in the comments, and get excited — it’s almost here! 


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October's most-read stories seem fitting for the month of Halloween — ill-fated ships and spooky premonitions, lone wolves, and pilotless aircraft all made the list. As well, some deadlines with consequences and controversy surrounding a proposed East Coast marine monument. Catch up on all you may have missed last month. 

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Top10BLOGS graphicIn September, we took a second look at the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, explored cost-saving classification changes that may be coming, considered the consequences of closing Cashes Ledge for a national marine monument, and said goodbye to a West Coast fishery advocate.

Catch up on the commentaries you may have missed last month.


1. Mixed Catch: Inuit genes

2. Boats & Gear: Class out?

3. Mixed Catch: Cashes Ledge closure is unnecessary

4. Boats & Gear: Rescue team alert

5. The Rudderpost: The Zeke mystique

6. Boats & Gear: Sign up for safety

7. The Rudderpost: Do you fish wild?

8. Coastlines: Lobster roll rivalry

9. Editor’s Log: Only the strong survive

10. The Sorting Table: A mixed catch in August's top blogs

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The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously on Sept. 22 to rescind a limited-entry policy that would have resulted in the commission's revoking more than half of the state-issued oyster dredge licenses and hand scrape licenses.

In August, the commission approved the controversial limited-entry policy, which was heavily criticized by commercial oystermen, many claiming the criteria used would unfairly put them out of business.

2015 0930 chowning oystermenChesapeake Bay watermen hand-dredging for oysters. Larry Chowning photo.At the start of the Sept. 22 meeting, Commissioner John Bull stated there had been confusion on the part of the commission over the 20-day criteria used by the VMRC staff to establish the limited entry policy. The commission hoped to weed out latent licenses by eliminating those that hadn't been used for more than 20 days in the last two seasons. The policy adopted in August was more restrictive and affected more oystermen than the commission anticipated, he said. Colder than average temperatures reportedly kept many watermen ashore.

Bull indicated the basic intent of limited entry is sound in that more than 1,800 oyster harvesting licenses are held for use on public oyster grounds and the resource "cannot sustain that amount of effort."

Other commission members agreed that conservation measures were needed, but as the commissioner noted the current limited entry plan may not be the best conservation approach.

The commission recommended that the Shellfish Management Advisory Committee provide a long-term "effort reduction plan," and it was hoped that would be provided to the commission in the summer of 2016.

In the meantime, emergency action will be considered at the October commission meeting. Some of the considerations may be to reduce the oystermen's week to four days instead of the current five days, or reducing daily limits.

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Top10BLOGS graphicAugust’s top blogs were indeed a mixed catch — and one of our blog subjects has proven quite adept at dealing with those from a culinary standpoint. In addition to the kitchen, we covered new innovations in sponsoning fiberglass boats, tuna harpooning, lobster boat racing, and fishing around wrecks. Catch up on the blogs you may have missed last month.


1. Boats & Gear: Fiberglass sponsoning option

2. The Sorting Table: Iron men

3. The Rudderpost: Barton-Think

4. The Rudderpost: Counting down

5. Coastlines: Don’t wreck the wrecks

6. Mixed Catch: Chasing bluefin

7. Boats & Gear: Cast of characters

8. The Sorting Table: Getting chefs on your side

9. Editor’s Log: Well done

10. The Sorting Table: Cleaning the coast

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On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.

It was the costliest natural disaster on record, causing an estimated $108 billion in damages, and was one of the top deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, causing at least 1,245 fatalities.

2015 0826 sortingtable katrinaIn 2005, National Fisherman covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and spoke with fishermen who were fighting for their industry.“I have sunk in boats before with 80, 90 mile-per-hour winds, I never had to fight like I had to fight this,” said veteran New Orleans fisherman Pete Gerica in the November 2005 issue of National Fisherman. Gerica was in his home when the hurricane destroyed it. He towed his family through the flood and climbed into trees nearby where they remained for seven hours before being rescued.

Days after the hurricane hit, the Department of Commerce declared the entire Gulf of Mexico to be a fishery failure. Each gulf state lost millions of harvest dollars and only a fraction commercial fishery facilities were fully operational in the following years.

Fishermen were immediately concerned for the future and started to hatch a game plan.

“It’s going to take some time to piece it all together; we’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Ewell Smith, the director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, in that same issue.

The industry was ready to fight for their place in the market, while consumers were turning away.

“We are still begging American people to eat American wild-caught shrimp. Our industry is on its knees and we need the American people to help us,” said Robert J. Samanie, a Louisiana shrimp processor and member of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.

With the deck stacked against them, fishermen and processors were still optimistic.

“The strength of the commercial fishermen in the United States is more strong than a hurricane or foreign imports,” said Samanie. “Make sure people know we’re down, but we’re not out.”

As soon as business started to pick back up, many of those same fisheries were affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which spewed 210 million gallons of oil into the water.

In an area that some were starting to think must be cursed, fishermen began to rebuild their lives and once again got back to the water against all odds. They rebuilt their homes, boats, docks and facilities, getting back to what they do best as soon as they could.

Unfortunately, while fishermen were recovering, their markets were being slammed with a continuous flood of cheap imports. Now, 10 years after most people would’ve given up, fishermen are still at work.

We’re proud of the men and women who have stayed the course against all odds to continue providing quality gulf seafood from boat to throat.

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Before Katrina and before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gulf of Mexico shrimp was suffering in the marketplace from competition with volumes of farm-raised, imported product.

In 2004, the year before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in prime Gulf of Mexico shrimp territory, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board kicked off a cook-off in an effort to showcase wild American seafood. Little did they know what was really about to hit them. But their foresight set them up for recovery, long and slow though it has been.


2015 0813 CookOffAlaska chef Beau Schooler of the Rookery Café in Juneau holds the title of America’s Best Seafood Chef.In the aftermath of the spill, Louisiana tried to reclaim its markets. Fishermen and chefs played major roles in getting the word out, according to Ewell Smith, former director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board

“Before Katrina we had worked with chefs and did little PR pieces,” Smith said. “Then we created the Louisiana Chefs Council, and they became our ambassadors.”

The damage to oysters was an example of how wide-open communications channels to officials and the public at large helped address brand damage.

While some oysters were lost to oil, the overwhelming damage to the crop was from fresh water introduced to the ecosystem to combat the spill.

Today, there are more ways for consumers to know where their domestic seafood comes from, in many cases right down to the vessel and voyage.

The work done to offset the effects of the BP spill, economically, spiritually and emotionally, continues, although the crisis it caused is long gone.

Both chefs and fishermen have unanswered questions about the long-term effects the spill might have spawned, not in terms of seafood safety for consumers but the health of the resource itself.

Last weekend, Alaska chef Beau Schooler took the title of America’s Best Seafood Chef at the annual event. But Louisiana is never far behind. Chef Michael Brewer made seafood nachos and claimed third place. Second place went to Georgia’s Adam Evans, who prepared roasted (invasive) lionfish with Sapelo Island clams.

Read more about the Gulf Coast’s recovery in our September issue.

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Top10BLOGS graphicBycatch was the byword when it came to National Fisherman’s most-read blog in July 2015, but suspicious boat fires, illegally caught abalone, and seafood slaves all were hot topics. Catch up on the blogs you may have missed last month. 



1. Editor’s Log: Talking trash

2. Coastlines: Can’t burn them down

3. Coastlines: Death by Abalone

4. The Rudderpost: Seafood slaves work for us

5. Boats & Gear: Half a boat length is enough

6. Mixed Catch: Do we need more labels?

7. Boats & Gear: Pursing up 

8. Boats & Gear: Simple things

9. The Sorting Table: The fishermen know best

10. The Rudderpost: Sugar spills


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Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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