National Fisherman

The Sorting Table 

sorting table iconThe Sorting Table features stories from National Fisherman contributors and guest bloggers.

By John DeSantis

It was the first day of Louisiana's spring shrimp season, with a promise of clear skies and slack winds, and photographer James Loiselle and I were traveling on a sheriff's water patrol boat to better see how the catches of various boats were shaping up.

Along a stretch of bayou in Dulac, James spotted a committee of vultures (yes, that's what a bunch of them all together is called) uncharacteristically perched on the frames of some shrimp boats that had not yet headed out for the harvest.

I say uncharacteristically because there are vultures a-plenty in south Louisiana; they are not, however, seen with regularity at wharves and docks, having plenty of sugarcane fields and forested swamps for socializing and feeding purposes.

vultures1The sight of so many vultures on a boat gave me a quick shiver. And because the vision occurred on the first day of shrimp season, I was a little concerned about the symbolism. Vultures, thanks to their feeding habits, are associated with death after all. And so many have beat the drum for so long about the pending death of the shrimping industry and the bayou country's commercial fishing culture.

There was also the more direct concern about the portent potential, our own voyage and the safety of all those at sea.

James captured the image and I later did research on vultures in mythology and literature, including shamanic interpretations, and did I ever get an education.

The short answer was that yes, vultures are indeed seen as harbingers of death.

But for millennia they have also been seen as close to the gods because they have a tough task to do and get it done without complaining.

In some cultures they are symbols of rebirth and renewal, because their onerous task of scarfing up carrion is necessary to make way for the new, and for purification.

They are the embodiment, I determined after my research, of the phrase "it's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it."

And that, of course, brought my mind square back to the fishermen I have written about for so many years, people who know more than lots of other people how hard work can be, but how rewarding not just financially but also spiritually their labors are, and how so many people on and off their boats benefit from their sacrifices and their determination.

The more I thought of these things the more I realized how appropriate indeed it was for me to see vultures on a shrimp boat frame on the season's first day, and how appropriately those vultures could be seen as a particularly good omen for all those laboring on the water that day.

Photo: A committee of vultures perch atop the net frames of shrimp boats on the opening day of Louisiana's 2014 shrimp season. James Loiselle photo

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 8/14/14

In this episode:

  • More cod cuts expected if NOAA data holds
  • Louisiana importing oysters to meet demand
  • N.C. sets new sturgeon bycatch rules
  • BP appeals to Supreme Court on spill settlement
  • Senate releases new Magnuson-Stevens draft

National Fisherman Live: 8/5/14

In this episode, National Fisherman's Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley talks with Frances Parrott about the Notus Dredgemaster.

Inside the Industry

PORTLAND, Maine – The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has appointed Matt Jacobson as its new executive director.
 
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The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will convene its Red Snapper Advisory Panel Wednesday, July 30, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the council office — 2203 N. Lois Avenue, Suite 1100, in Tampa, Fla. 

Read more...

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