National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


You know you're invested when a story comes on the radio and you stop everything you're doing to listen and then raise your arms and cheer when a voice you trust comes over the airwaves.

If you guessed that I'm talking about this election season, then you must live in a different country than I do.

That was the scene in my kitchen yesterday morning when I heard coverage of the latest deadliest catch — Northeast groundfish — and heard the voice of one Jennifer Lincoln.

Of course, I was disappointed because the story was clipped for morning air time and primarily talked about the lack of safety compliance in the fishing industry being a result of the "cowboy culture" in commercial fishing. (You can read the full story here.)

I think that's certainly a component. But what I don't like is the go-to solution to the problem being to A) cut NIOSH funding for a national fishing safety program (led by Lincoln and her remarkable staff) that has proven their research saves lives in this industry and B) to promote mandatory vessel inspections by the Coast Guard that will dole out penalties for any boat not carrying the appropriate safety gear.

This is not a Coast Guard bashing session. Those folks often risk their lives to save fishermen (among others). They deserve props for dedicating their careers to public service.

But what so many regulators are completely missing is the fact that you can't change the culture first. You have to figure out ways to work with the culture as it is in order to effect change the fastest and most effectively.

One of the reasons fishing is so deadly is because fishermen don't wear PFDs on deck. Regulators often take the approach of closing this gap by fining people who don't comply. The NIOSH Alaska Field Team took the approach of reaching out to the fishing community to find out why they don't wear safety gear.

The answer, almost overwhelmingly? Because it impedes with the work they're doing. No kidding. Have you ever worn a life jacket? It's not comfortable. I would not want to work an exhausting physical job fighting my uniform.

Step two was to pass this information on to manufacturers of safety gear. Lo and behold, today there are many more options for life jackets and man-overboard alarms that fit the fishing lifestyle.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's how you get it done. That's how you save lives and make the deadliest catch less deadly.

If we focused primarily on improving gear and making sure fishermen got trained on how to don and employ that gear, we wouldn't have to worry so much about vessel checks because safety gear would become part of the culture rather than a new regulation you have to follow or else.

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 11/06/14

In this episode:

NOAA report touts 2013 landings, value increases
Panama fines GM salmon company Aquabounty
Gulf council passes Reef Fish Amendment 40
Maine elver quota cut by 2,000 pounds
Offshore mussel farm would be East Coast’s first


Inside the Industry

EAST SAND ISLAND, Oregon—Alexa Piggott is crawling through a dark, dusty, narrow tunnel on this 62-acre island at the mouth of the Columbia River. On the ground above her head sit thousands of seabirds. Piggott, a crew leader with Bird Research Northwest, is headed for an observation blind from which she'll be able to count them.

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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