National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

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

 

Some days it's hard not to succumb to the feeling that the world is a very dark place. And in Maine in the winter, that is enforced by a meager 9 hours of daylight — just enough time to get to work and back.

Add to that the impending doom along New England waterfronts as we desperately search for a way out of a groundfish catastrophe that could mark the end of hundreds of years of fishing history in many small ports on our coast. And the recent disappearance of the scalloper Foxy Lady II, whose gear and rescue pod washed ashore several days after her scheduled arrival home.

Yet I try, every year at this time, to start looking back at the things that make me grateful for what I have and how I can improve my life and the lives of those around me in the coming year. (Props to my folks for my virtues, few as they may seem at times!)

For one, I am humbled to be in the position of improving awareness of fishing safety. I don't dedicate my life to it like Jennifer Lincoln (NIOSH Alaska), Jerry Dzugan (AMSEA) or Rodney Avila (New Bedford-Mass.-based safety coordinator, former fisherman and NF Highliner). And I didn't make a huge contribution to one community, like Randa Szymanski did in Haines, Alaska. But I do what little I can to put people in touch with the right people and help the industry adapt to much needed cultural changes.

Right before we headed to Seattle for the expo this year, I got a call from a guy who is selling a safety product that's new to the U.S. commercial fishing industry.

He wanted to come to the show and get a feel for the industry's possible interest in a product like his.

In other industries, an editor getting a call like this sends the guy packing to the advertising reps and never wants to hear from him again unless his product wins an award or has some legitimate reason for reaching the editorial section.

But the size and nature of our industry makes these kinds of calls an opportunity to make a difference. Yes, there's a business component to it. But more than that, it was a chance to help someone roll out a new safety product.

National Fisherman has been promoting safety at sea since long before I got here. One of our traditions, the Fisherman of the Year contest, includes a survival suit contest. Though we don't hold an official contest on the East Coast anymore, Rodney Avila and Jerry Fraser (our publisher and longtime emcee of the races) held two heats of survival suit contests at a fishing expo in New Bedford this summer.


The winner of the second heat, seen here, is Shawn Machie, skipper of the 90-foot scalloper Apollo out of New Bedford (and of the History Channel's "Nor'Easter Men"). He slipped into his suit in just 29.3 seconds, besting first-heat winner Laurie Botelho of Fall River, who finished in 40 seconds.

Can you beat those times? How about on a rolling deck? There are no guarantees in life, and more than just a small dose of luck in every survival story. But without practice, you can almost guarantee that you won't make it into a survival suit in a true emergency. Try one on today. Make a resolution to best Shawn's time in 2013.

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These days New England groundfish fishermen are on quite a roller coaster ride.

First, a week ago, we learned that the loudest voice behind the catastrophic (for the Northeast) catch shares system, NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco, will be stepping down from the agency in February. That most certainly was a rare zenith for the fleet.

Then acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank ordered federal regulators to return more than half a million dollars in unjust fines collected under the much-maligned NOAA Office of Law Enforcement.

But now Senate Republicans are threatening to keep fishery disaster relief money out of the Hurricane Sandy relief package. The groundfish fishery was declared a disaster this fall. The relief money for the fishery would be $150 million, which was slashed from a $60.4 billion package.

And lastly, today fishermen start down the long, hard road that as near as anyone can tell will deal the fishery its last blow. Between catch shares and climate change, fishermen who have spent decades cutting quotas and fishing effort with the promise that one day it would all be worth it now face quotas so disastrously low, they would have no way to make a living and no hopes that their prospects will look up anytime soon.

Analysis of the stocks is ongoing, amid disputes over the validity of trawl survey methods. And there's no telling what the results will be and what effect they will have on quotas in the near future.

Today the New England Fishery Management Council voted 15-2 to delay until January the deep cuts to catch limits.

Fishermen are hoping for a Hail Mary pass on the stock analysis. Otherwise, it will truly be the end of the world as they know it.

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Friday in Portland, Ore., the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission approved Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposal to ban gillnets on the Columbia River's main stem. Part of the plan also allocates 5 percent of the commercial sector's 40 percent quota to recreational fishermen in 2013 and another 5 percent in 2014.

What is the purpose of increasing the recreational allocation to 65 percent and decreasing the commercial allocation from 40 to 35 percent? I'm confused as to how that is part of a conservation measure.

The Coastal Conservation Association claims gillnets are not selective enough. However, gillnets are improved year over year in fisheries all over the country. Fishermen shift depth, mesh size, net length, soak time and even attach pingers to make their nets unattractive to unwanted species.

What the CCA is basing this information on is a mystery to me. Yes, there is some bycatch in any fishery — including recreational fisheries. Meanwhile, we know that recreational fishing landings leave huge data gaps. I suppose ultimately the cuts don't matter that much, since commercial fishermen say they are unlikely to find enough fish in off-channel areas to fill their more modest quotas anyway.

“The Columbia River belongs to everyone, and the fish in it are a shared public resource that belongs to everyone,” Clatsop County Commissioner Dirk Rohne said at a rally last Thursday, according to the Daily Astorian. “Everyone should have the same right to enjoy Columbia River salmon, and that is a service the gillnetters provide for all of us.”

Nationwide, we are moving closer to privatized fisheries, from delivering the fish out of the hands of commercial fishermen, whose efforts feed the public at large, to delivering quotas to fewer and fewer boat owners, which leads to the Wal-Mart model in commercial fishing — behemoth stakeholders enjoying less competition.

Neither of these management developments makes fisheries easier to manage.

To the people of Oregon, I say only this: When you're eating Alaska and California salmon next summer, you will know whom to thank — commercial fishermen from states that allow for innovation in commercial fishing as an alternative to shut-downs.

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It sounds like the spawning grounds for Frankenfish are expected to dry up in January.

Massachusetts-based Aquabounty is crying foul over Food and Drug Administration delays in the company's approval process for genetically modified salmon.

Welcome to the world of fishery management, Aquabounty!

OK, OK, so they're dealing with the FDA. But it's the same deal, isn't it? Add a comment

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The National Fisherman crew closed out another great show in Seattle this week. The floor was packed with fishermen, new products and great giveaways.

On Wednesday I was honored to present our second annual Boats & Gear awards at Pacific Marine Expo's Boatyard Day. Randa Szymanski won our Lifesaver Award for her efforts to raise money to buy inflatable bibs for every commercial fishing boat in her hometown of Haines, Alaska. The effort far exceeded expectations to honor the memory of Haines fisherman Richard Boyce. Add a comment

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First things first. It's almost Thanksgiving. But as soon as that holiday is wrapped, I will be gearing up not for Black Friday but to head west to Seattle for the 45th annual Pacific Marine Expo.

It's all happening from Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 27-29, at Seattle's Century Link Field.

My team and I always strive to bring something extra to the expo, and this year is no exception.

As usual, we will be covering the show floor gathering stories for the National Fisherman Show Daily. So if you see us coming at you with a camera, don't hide! Add a comment

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Welcome to the new National Fisherman website.

The whole National Fisherman staff has been working feverishly to launch this site to be able to bring you the best of the commercial fishing universe online.

Our new site allows us to feature video, photos, blogs, news stories and so much more from every coast and around the world. Add a comment

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Hurricane Sandy lived up to her name earlier this week. Add a comment

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The controversy in Canada this week is over a proposed seal cull in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Add a comment

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There's no task more daunting and more rewarding than naming our annual Highliner Award winners. I often feel unqualified to decide who should get the award among fishermen who have worked for decades in this industry. But I try to do my homework and talk to dozens of people who serve all aspects of the U.S. commercial fishing industry. Add a comment

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Page 11 of 31

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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