National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

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

 

As I mentioned in my current Editor's Log; for the magazine, this is the time of year when we hit the road in search of fishing shows and fishermen's input.

This weekend, I'll be in Ocean City, Md., attending the Maryland Watermen's Show, officially known as the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's and Aquaculture Trade Exposition. I love this show, and can't wait to visit with Larry Simns, NF Highliner, the Watermen's president and the subject of a wonderful new book, which is featured in our February issue.

This year, in addition to the usual shows, I'll be attending two conferences I've never been to before: the National Working Waterfronts & Waterways Symposium and Managing our Nation's Fisheries.

I'm very curious to see how communities and fishermen are discussed at these two programs, which are not necessarily fisherman-focused.

My hope and my goal as editor of this magazine is to speak for the fishermen and your communities to people who can and must make a difference simply by recognizing their value.

Successful management of our nation's fisheries and preservation of working waterfront communities should not be approached through punishment or restrictions. It should be a task focused on getting the most out of every resource without selling fishing grounds to develop other natural resources (Snowbirds included).

The Obama administration has a great opportunity, as Jane Lubchenco exits stage left, to redefine leadership at NOAA and NMFS. Lubchenco was hailed this week in a Natural Resources Defense Council blog as a champion of science. That may be, but when it comes to fishing, the science — as long as we've had it — has never been a more pathetic tale.

I don't think Lubchenco would like that to be her legacy, but there it is. I hope the next chief can improve on the condition of fishery data rather than burying the truth about current management practices in a pile of statistics manipulated to skew the disastrous results of catch shares into a rosy picture of economic success.

My fingers are crossed, but I can't hold my breath on this one.

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Dear Congress,

The people (your bosses) are tired of you. We are tired of the bickering, the pettiness, the posturing and the strong-arming.

We want to see you working, not stroking your egos or those of your major donors.

There are significant groups of people in this country who are in desperate need of help, and your response has been to let them flounder. These people may not be your constituents, but one day your own people very well could be in a similar predicament.

No region of this country is safe from disaster of any kind. The longer you hold Sandy recovery funds at bay, the more you risk disgusting the majority of voters.

This bill is not about you or your party. It's about people who are homeless as a result of a natural disaster — and many others who are struggling to keep their homes and their boats as a result of playing by the rules the federal government established for their fishery and getting bupkis in return for more than two decades.

And what has delayed action done? So far, it has not served to reduce the Senate-proposed bill, as the House Republicans initially intended. House leaders were pushing to cut fishing disaster relief funding (for Alaska king salmon and New England groundfish) from the Senate-proposed $60 billion bill. They countered with a $24 billion bill.The Senate eventually approved a $60.4 billion bill last Friday. The House approved $9.7 billion in emergency funds to the federal coastal flood insurance program and is expected to get around to voting on the rest of the bill next week.

Lest we forget, this storm hit the East Coast at the end of OCTOBER last year. The best-case scenario at this point is that it will have taken the House nearly three months to get around to releasing aid funds. That is unacceptable.

And ultimately, House Speaker Jim Boehner (R-Ohio) is conceding to the Senate's proposal. Or is perhaps seeing the light that sometimes pork is not pork, it's just the business of running the country. Most of the funding in the relief bill is earmarked for storm recovery and disaster prevention in other regions of the country. It's not hard to come to the conclusion that it was put there to secure Republican votes in the Senate.

So what was the point of delaying?

All I can see is that the modern model of national politics is a mangled, limping mess that insists it's fine, when it really needs to be put out of its misery. Once upon a time, members of Congress collaborated with a mutual understanding and respect that despite disagreements on the details, negotiations have to come to the middle, because that's where the majority of Americans are.

Can someone get that message to Congress? Maybe we should suggest sector management for the House of Representatives. We'll call it Vote Shares. There will be fewer of them, but they'll get paid more and be easier for us to control. What a deal!

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We love unveiling a new issue every month.

Our work goes straight into your hands, and we always hope it means something to you. This is a small but widely varied industry. The one thing that we all have in common is appreciation for the people who make a difference for more than just themselves.

Some do that in small ways, like an innovative boatbuilder who designs a new kind of boat and creates it out of two would-be-retired seiners. (See Splitting pairs about a Virginia menhaden seiner.)

Some do that in big ways, like NF Highliner Larry Simns, who has held the title of president of the Maryland Watermen's Association since 1970 and recently released his memoir, co-written with Robert Rich Jr. (See the Editor's Log and the full story in the magazine.)

Then there are those who just get an early jump on things, like buying their first boat at age 12. That's what Maine lobsterman Alec Peasley did and is now building his third and biggest boat. (See Around the Yards.)

More than anything, I love to hear a good story. There are a lot of challenges in our industry right now, and I refuse to bury my head in the sand about them. But today I'd like to focus on what's going right.

Let's ring in the new year with some cheer and then get down to work.

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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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Page 11 of 32

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.
 
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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.

Read more...

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