National Fisherman

The Sorting Table 

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

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

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Top10MayEach 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 here's a handy list of the 10 most-read online news stories from the past 30 days. 

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By Maureen Donald

A major shake-up at the North Carolina Fisheries Association, one of the country's oldest trade associations representing the commercial fishing industry, has resulted in a new leadership team that includes a familiar face.

brentReturning after nearly a decade, 18-year association veteran Jerry Schill, holds the reins again as executive director. Brent Fulcher of B&J Seafood in New Bern and Beaufort Inlet Seafood in Beaufort, is the newly elected chairman of the association's board of directors.
According to Fulcher, seen at left, the timing is right for a revamped, revitalized association.

"There's a new energy evident within the industry," says Fulcher, seen at left. "People are realizing that we must work together in order to effectively influence our future. It's time for our industry to act as one, not as separate self-absorbed components."

jerrySchill, pictured at right, has broad experience on both the local, state and federal levels and says he is ready to get started — again.

"I sense a very different attitude in the industry today," Schill says. "Folks are ready to be participants and take an active part in the process, not simply sit back and complain about it."

"With Jerry's past experience I have no doubt this organization will be a strong voice for the seafood industry in North Carolina," Fulcher says. "We have made progress this past year with issues regarding the game fish bill and shrimp trawling. People want to keep that momentum going."

After a two-year absence, the association newspaper, Tradewinds, also underwent a transformation and began publishing again in April.

Photos: Brent Fulcher, chairman of the board of directors, and Jerry Schill, executive director, N.C. Fisheries Association; N.C. Fisheries Association

 

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By Leslie Taylor, National Fisherman Online Editor

As I'm relatively new to the commercial fishing beat, my visit a couple of weeks ago to the Portland Fish Exchange, the nation's first seafood display auction, was eye-opening for me. I had never really thought much before about the mechanics of the process that takes a fish from the hands of the fisherman who caught it to my grocery counter. 

I was at the Portland Fish Exchange in Portland, Maine, to shoot a video with National Fisherman Publisher Jerry Fraser about the advantages of fish as a protein option, particularly with the rising costs of beef and poultry. The video is embedded below.

The Casco Bay was shrouded in fog when we arrived at the Portland Fish Exchange at around seven in the morning to meet Bert Jongerden, general manager of the exchange. Because Jongerden has been general manager of the exchange since 2007, and also worked there from 1990-1996 as an operations manager, he has, as he said, "seen the rise and fall of our groundfish." He's seen groundfish landings go from 30 million pounds per year to about 5 million pounds per year. 

05.08.14 fishexchangeAs the fog burned off, we did some filming and Jerry and I chatted with the exchange employees smoking on the pier, waiting for the arrival of the fishing vessel Robert Michael. Approximately 70 fishing vessels sell their catch via the Portland Fish Exchange and what makes this market unique is that it's an all display auction. Seafood buyers don't just bid generically on fish, they can bid on a specific load of fish. So fisherman can get a higher price for fish that are in the best condition.

Using a block and tackle, the guys hoisted large blue buckets filled with pollock, redfish, cod and hake from the hold of the Robert Michael and dumped them down a chute into the sorting facility. The fish first landed in a basin where excess water could drain, then were pulled up a conveyer belt towards a team of Grundens-clad employees who culled the fish by type, quality and size.

05.08.14 fishexchangeThe fish were sorted into plastic tubs and iced. One employee manned the computer station, using what looked like a price gun you might see at a checkout counter to scan the barcode associated with each fish size and quality, then printed out labels for the tubs.

The tubs of fish were then whisked by forklift to the floor of the exchange's giant refrigerated warehouse, where they could be examined by buyers in anticipation of the day's auction. Auctions are held at 11:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and there are about 20 buyers who are quite active participants, Jongerden explained. 

The auction is now entirely run via computer. When groundfish were being hauled in at the rate of 30 million a year, a lot of companies would have a fish buyer based in Portland full time. But the reduction in landings has meant that most purchases are now done remotely.

It's a reverse clock auction, which begins with a relatively high asking price that is lowered until some participant is willing to buy. Buyers login to the Portland Fish Exchange auction system through a VPN connection and they begin bidding by depressing the space bar on their keyboard. The last person to pick their finger off the space bar will win the bid. 

What struck me was how much the whole process of conveying a fish from the sea to the plate of someone who did not catch it has changed with the implementation of new technologies. While it is a transaction that must have been a part of coastal communities since the dawn of civilization, VPN lines and pricing guns have made it a whole new ballgame. 

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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 here's a handy list of the 10 most-read online news stories from the past 30 days. 

Add a comment

Read more...


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 here's a handy list of the 10 most-read online news stories from the past 30 days. 

Add a comment

Read more...

Top10 febEach 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 here's a handy list of the 10 most-read online news stories from the past 30 days. 

Add a comment

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By Andrew Minkiewicz and Anne Hawkins

Last week, the lawyers at the Conservation Law Foundation used a posting on their Talking Fish blog (“Industry Lawyers Wrong on Closed Areas Science: An Open and Shut Case,” Feb. 18, 2014) to attack our Washington Lookout column (“Wishing doesn't make it so,” National Fisherman, March 2014, p. 8). They accused us of “sending the council… misinformation regarding the science in an attempt to weaken the habitat plan.” In line with previous Talking Fish articles, the CLF lawyers provided little insight into the issues at hand when they attacked the position of the Fisheries Survival Fund on the Georges Bank area closures.

The reality remains: The peer-reviewed scientific recommendations developed over 10 years by New England fishery stock assessment scientists and habitat experts agree that the current closures are not meeting the goals that the New England Fishery Management Council has set for groundfish habitat protection.

CLF claims to stand with science but continues to misrepresent the facts guiding important processes to update fisheries management according to comprehensive scientific evaluations.

  1. A huge majority of the areas under review were never closed to protect habitat — they were restricted 20 years ago to prevent fish mortality under a system of management that is no longer in use. In 2010, most groundfish stocks in New England switched to a catch-shares system that limits mortality by capping the number of fish that can be landed.
  2. Changes to these closures are part of an overdue process to incorporate the most up-to-date science in order to enable better, more effective fisheries management.
  3. There is no evidence that the massive year-round Georges Bank closure has helped the recovery of vulnerable groundfish populations like cod and yellowtail flounder.
  4. Under the catch-shares system, the current closures are counterproductive to the council’s habitat goals. These large closed areas increase fishing pressure on unrestricted New England habitats by displacing fishing from high-yield areas. This ultimately increases contact between fishing gear and ocean habitat. The council’s Habitat Committee stated in an analysis: “We find that for nearly all area and gear type combinations, opening existing closed areas to fishing is predicted to decrease aggregate adverse effects.”
  5. Areas that have been identified by current models as important habitat for groundfish stocks and spawning behavior will remain restricted. This includes the unique kelp habitat in the Gulf of Maine closure as well as the Whaleback area, which is the only closure that has been identified by the council as containing a cod spawning site.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the council will meet to determine preferred alternatives to the current closures.

The research cited by CLF does not support the organization’s recommendation to maintain the status quo.

  • The 2005 study by Murawski et al. that is highlighted in the Talking Fish article concludes, “These findings emphasize that year-round closures did not have universal positive impacts on the abundance and spill-over potential of all groundfish stocks.”
  • The referenced 2012 study by Dean et al. looks at the behavior of six tagged codfish in association with gillnets, though gillnet gear is currently allowed in many areas of the current closures.
  • CLF conflates unique habitat in the Gulf of Maine closure with the closures in Georges Bank. These habitats have various area-specific features, and the council has recognized the importance of analyzing each closure separately.

When the current closed areas were designated over 20 years ago, scant information was available to determine where important fish habitat was located. Today, with the help and support of the scallop industry, scientists are working with a peer-reviewed Swept Area Seabed Impact model to both locate areas that are vital to groundfish spawning and stock health, and offer solutions that minimize potential adverse impacts from fishing.

In the council’s SASI analysis, large portions of the current closures were not identified as meriting protection. The models also indicate that many areas previously considered Essential Fish Habitat are not ideally located for habitat protection. Adjusting the present closures according to up-to-date and comprehensive analyses will best protect important fish habitat while eliminating the unnecessary and ecologically harmful restrictions that are currently in place.

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By Susan Chambers

Sorting Table HI Purse seinersLike Hawaii-based longliners who will feel the sting of new rules from the December 2013 Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Australia, U.S.-based purse seine vessels are frustrated with rules that will force them to lose fishing days.

“We’re not talking about conservation decisions,” says Brian Hallman, the San Diego-based American Tunaboat Association’s executive director. “These were high seas restrictions for the [U.S.] purse seine fleet that were strictly economic issues.”

The association represents the entire U.S. purse seine fleet — about 40 vessels — that fish for skipjack and other tunas in the Western and Central Pacific on the high seas. Last year, the vessels fished a combined 2,588 days on the high seas and within the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Fishery managers were concerned about the impacts to bigeye tuna, which is caught in association with skipjack, the primary fish in canned tuna products. That concern resulted in limiting the U.S. fleet to a total of 1,270 days on the high seas this year.

NMFS has yet to determine the number of days the fleet can fish in the EEZ. But it still won’t be enough to make up for losses imposed on them at the commission meeting, Hallman says.

Some other countries’ fleets also will be regulated, but not to the extent the U.S. fleets will be. The Hawaii-based Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council notes that other Western and Central Pacific countries may not comply with the rules and the commission has no way of ensuring compliance.

Photo: U.S. purse seiners at dock in Pago Pago, American Samoa; NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

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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 we're starting a new feature where each month, we will 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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Page 2 of 4

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 10/21/14

In this episode:

North Pacific Council adjusts observer program
Fishermen: bluefin fishing best in 10 years
Catch limit raised for Bristol Bay red king crab
Canadian fishermen fight over lobster size rules
River conference addresses Dead Zone cleanup

National Fisherman Live: 10/7/14

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

 

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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