Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 11 July 2013
It is striking how much influence recreational fishing groups can have over local decision-making when they put their minds to it.
Today, commercial fishermen in Oregon are reeling from another move to eliminate gillnetting on the main stem of the Columbia River. Gov. John Kitzhaber is likely to sign legislation that would ask the Fish and Wildlife Commission to establish an exclusion zone at the mouth of Youngs Bay, a popular recreational fishing spot.
Lawmakers are backing the bill, which was approved in the Oregon House and Senate early this week, at the request of sport-fishing interests (including the national Coastal Conservation Association).
The problem with these types of measures is that they run the risk of eliminating traditional jobs while oftentimes doing very little to better manage the resource.
In 1995, a group of sport-fishing guides in Maine convinced state legislators to close a fish ladder on the St. Croix River, preventing native alewives from returning to their historic spawning grounds.
The reason? The guides argued that the alewives were outcompeting the smallmouth bass, a popular sportfish. The most intriguing part of the story to me is that smallmouth bass have been in Maine for about 150 years, but would once have been considered an invasive species. The alewife, on the other hand, is native to the state and upriver in Canada. What's worse is that research shows the two species coexist peacefully.
This is the first season in 23 years that the fish ladder is open, and alewives are free to swim to their spawning grounds again.
What can we learn? First, that two apparent adversaries can coexist peacefully if we take the time to look at the details instead of being distracted by those who fan the flames of fish politics. Second, that just when we think we've done things the right way, we figure out we got it all wrong.
The cascading effects of our decisions occur in a landscape that is inherently chaotic. If we are not prepared to act quickly (because the chances are that any move we make will have unintended consequences, either good or bad), then perhaps it would be best for us not to act at all.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Tuesday, 09 July 2013
Over the Fourth of July weekend and into this week, I've heard about several somewhat unusual commercial fishing deaths. It often feels like they come in waves. Independence Day in Alaska proved especially deadly.
Early Thursday morning, the Pauline II caught fire at the Alaska General Seafoods dock in Egegik, killing Harberg Paul, 56, and injuring his younger brothers, Joe, 50, and Paul, 55. Later that morning, Wisconsin fisherman Lewis Byerly, 55, died after getting caught in the anchor winch of the 62-foot Anna Lane just outside of Ninilchick in Cook Inlet.
Joey Paul (no relation to the fire victims), 25, of Dillingham died Thursday evening after he fell into the drive shaft area of the engine room on a commercial boat in Chignik Lagoon.
But perhaps the most perplexing for now is the loss of crewman Michael Grindle, 40, this Sunday aboard the 107-foot herring trawler Osprey out of Gloucester, Mass.
Early on Sunday morning, crew members contacted the Coast Guard when Grindle collapsed following what they believed to be a severe asthma attack. At that time, the boat was about 65 miles from Chatham on Cape Cod.
The Coast Guard notified the crew that they would not be responding to the emergency with a helicopter for emergency transport and instructed them to perform CPR. The crew, which did not have a heart defibrillator, pumped their fellow crewman's chest until Grindle's pulsed dropped away, within about 15 minutes.
A Coast Guard helicopter could have reached the boat within two hours and a hospital within another hour. The Coast Guard's reasoning for not responding with emergency transport is based on statistics that show a person undergoing chest compressions without a defibrillator will survive for an average of just less than an hour.
The pause in compressions to hoist Grindle to the helicopter would have complicated an evacuation. “There would have been no benefit to the victim to actually conduct the med evac,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Myeonghi Clegg told the Gloucester Daily Times.
The Osprey steamed home over the next 12 hours, arriving in Gloucester late Sunday afternoon. The death is being investigated as an unknown medical condition.
All of these losses serve to remind us of the dangers of fishing. Falls overboard and lack of preparedness for downflooding and capsize may be the biggest threats statistically, but working on the water and around heavy machinery is inherently dangerous.
Our thoughts are with the families of those lost and injured at sea.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Tuesday, 02 July 2013
As editor of a commercial fishing magazine, I hear a lot of great stories. And quite often, those stories are told by captivating storytellers. But it's rare that I get a chance to meet someone who wants to tell the story of fishermen in stunning pictures.
That's what we found in photographers Jay Fleming and Fred Stocker. Jay contacted me out of the blue, and when I opened his attachments, I was simply blown away. I had already been working with Fred Stocker on the idea of a photo essay on the watermen of Chesapeake Bay. Sometimes things fall into your lap at the right time, and you just have to seize the opportunity.
I love the opportunity to promote the work of commercial fishermen in different parts of the country. I hope you'll enjoy it, too. Here's a PDF of those pages if you can't wait for your issue to arrive in the mail.
But these days fishermen don't just work hard on the water. There are threats to wild fisheries all over the country. One of the biggest threats looming right now is genetically modified salmon, also called Frankenfish.
East Coast stakeholders have been working hard to revitalize critical habitat for Atlantic salmon. And while Alaska salmon is certainly healthy, that fishery has seen its ups and downs, most recently with a king salmon slump.
But all of that could be moot if the Food and Drug Administration approves the sale of genetically modified salmon (the first GM meat available in this country), particularly if it's allowed to be sold without a label clearly stating its origin.
Many (if not most) salmon eaters are health-conscious consumers. They love wild salmon not just for the taste but for the remarkable health benefits. I know I would not want to eat Frankenfish, but how would I know if I had the real deal without an labeling requirement.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee recently adopted an amendment sponsored by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would make labeling mandatory for GM salmon.
Alaska Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) has a compelling Northern Lights column in our August issue that speaks to the heart of the troubles with Frankenfish. Find her piece "Put the freeze on Frankenfish" on page 8.
As always, thanks for reading.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 27 June 2013
Ahead of an International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting, a fierce debate has been raging about the quality and standards for bluefin tuna assessments.
Yesterday marked the opening of a three-day meeting of ICCAT's Working Group of Fisheries Managers and Scientists in Support of the Western Bluefin Tuna Stock Assessment.
On June 18, Pew Charitable Trusts released a fact sheet titled "The Best Available Science on Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna." With all due respect to Pew, my faith lies in the dedicated careers of scientists like Steve Cadrin (UMass School for Marine Science and Technology), Molly Lutcavage (UMass Large Pelagics Research Center), Walt Golet (UMaine) and Ben Galuardi (UMass Large Pelagics Research Center).
This roster of four highly respected researchers wrote a response to Pew's fact sheet.
"In summary, the PEW factsheet is a subjective selection of information, lacks scientific credibility and appears to be agenda driven. Fishery managers should be aware of the uncertainties involved in Atlantic bluefin tuna biology and stock assessment and should consider the alternative hypotheses identified by the [Standing Committee on Research and Statistics] process, the 2012 Bluefin Tuna Stock Assessment Session and the 2013 Bluefin Meeting on Biological Parameters Review."
If a coalition of esteemed scientists and dedicated researchers told me I was lacking scientific credibility, I'd certainly reconsider my position.
Unfortunately, right now, the realm of research on Atlantic bluefin represents two disparate opinions. On the one hand, older stock models suggest the population should be much larger than it is; on the other hand, the low model suggests that bluefin's natural population in the western Atlantic is close to today's estimated levels.
The fact remains, however, that we have a 2012 stock assessment that is widely considered to be the best available science, though scientists acknowledge that our understanding of Atlantic bluefin population(s) still has gaps. We are working to close those gaps as a preference to closing a sustainable fishery.
After all, where is the glory in "saving" the bluefin from extinction simply by marking fishermen for the same fate?
As a member of the responding scientific coalition, Steve Cadrin, president of the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists, recommends that fishery managers carefully consider all scientific theories in their decision making. That's sound advice with a transparent agenda to promote the fairest and broadest applications of science in the management of the nation's fisheries.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
The crew of the Aleutian Beauty caught a whale of a fish longlining in the Bering Sea early this summer.
Karl Rasmussen sent us this photo of a blackcod he hauled over the rail.
Unfortunately, the boat's scale was on the fritz, so the best they could do was guess at the weight (60-70 pounds?), but they clocked the size at just shy of 51 inches.
Alaska Department of Fish & Game says blackcod "have been recorded to reach sizes of 44 inches but are typically less than 34 inches in length."
"When it came to the rail I didn't know what it was," Rasmussen says. "I was a half second away from shaking it off the hook. Thank god I didn't."
Rasmussen is reportedly off the Bering Sea detail and has moved on to Bristol Bay. Up next: record sockeye? May you bring good fortune to your next season, Karl!
Do you have pics of mega catches? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
I've been following Corey Arnold's photography feed on Instagram this week (he is guest-pirating the New Yorker magazine's account). It's been the next-best thing to being in Naknek ahead of Bristol Bay's setnet salmon season.
The Environmental Protection Agency extended the comment period on the Pebble Mine watershed assessment another month to June 30, which means the Bristol Bay salmon season will be in full swing before the comments close.
Perhaps this is an opportunity to promote every possible aspect of the Bristol Bay fishery so everyday Americans can see what it means to the entire community that the world's largest sockeye fishery is open there every year.
One look at Corey's documentation of the preseason sums it up: the money made by fishing has a deep reach into the surrounding Alaska communities and far beyond.
He has published photos of diners, hotels and the Naknek processing facility; from airplanes and airports; of seasonal workers who support the industry and seasonal fishermen preparing for the fishery. And this is all before the season begins.
Corey himself lives in Oregon and refers to Bristol Bay as his favorite time of year. He has other sources of income, but fishing the bay is not just a way to make money. Salmon season on the bay is a way of life, albeit just a snapshot of life in a short six weeks out of every 52.
The people who fish there come from all over the country. The fruits of their labor supply the world with wild salmon. And just like the feared approval of Frankenfish (genetically modified salmon) could lead us down the slippery slope to a trend of genetically modifying livestock, the risks we take with Pebble set the stage for the management of natural resources across the country. So if you think Pebble Mine would have no effect on your life, the chances are you're seriously wrong.
Check out Corey's snaps on Instagram and be sure to comment on the Pebble Mine watershed assessment if you want to preserve Bristol Bay and the future of wild salmon in America.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 06 June 2013
The Night Orion Fell
By Abigail B. Calkin
Fern Hill Press
Softcover, 239 pp., $18.95
If you read Oregon dragger Larry Hills' first-person story of survival in the July issue of National Fisherman ("Lost and found," p. 26), you'll have a nearly blinding example of why they say truth is stranger than fiction. Larry's is certainly an unbelievable tale of survival against all odds.
Tired from four days of fishing short-handed, beating a winter storm home, across the bar, to Garibaldi, Ore., Larry and his deckhand got pinned to the net reel on the haulback — first his deckhand, Dick Cooley, and then Larry as he tried to come to Dick's aid. They wound around the winch, getting more and more strapped and pinched under the wires until the gear fouled and snagged. That's when Larry realized Dick had been killed in the entanglement and that he himself was stuck.
And then came the storm and Larry's 40 hours of hell waiting for rescue.
But what happens on the boat is only one part of any fisherman's life. Abigail B. Calkin writes "The Night Orion Fell" with painstaking and page-turning detail that brings the reader home with Larry to this small fishing town, his family and the people who rescued him — from the Coast Guard to the medical staff that helped him with his long recovery.
Every year, we publish our annual Pilothouse Guide as a reference piece and in reverence of the stories of old from West Coast and Alaska fisheries — the unique perspectives of the Alaska Fishermen's Journal. It seems especially fitting to me to pair that with a survival story. Larry's account not only serves as a warning to stick strictly to safety measures onboard, but also as a testament to the human spirit. Larry willed himself to live so he might see his wife and young son again. But of course there's no surviving this predicament without a white-knuckle Coast Guard rescue. With smarts, will and support (and perhaps a few doses of good luck) a fisherman can get through the year safely and successfully.
From the shore, we wish you well — all season, all year.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Tuesday, 04 June 2013
Last week a little survey popped into my inbox, and I got very excited to fill it out.
This does not happen often (the excitement, that is).
However, this survey is about a whole slew of new and exciting aspects of seafood marketing that I pretty much can't believe is happening right now. The best part? You get a chance to submit your opinion, too.
The Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee is looking for input from people just like you on the possibility for a federally managed sustainability certification for U.S. seafood.
Some say this just makes perfect sense. NMFS already has all the information because they manage the fisheries. Why not tack on certification while they're at it?
This is a fair point. NMFS certainly has far more information on fisheries than most of the independent groups out there promoting traffic-light seafood lists. But does it make sense to saddle federal workers with yet more red tape?
When I put on my rose-colored glasses, my vision is that a certification system like this could help data-poor stocks become data rich (or at least data middle-class). If they go through the certification process, they will have to be studied and analyzed, which could generate critical information. Perhaps more importantly a national certification could help seafood retailers market U.S. seafood, thereby raising the demand and prices of our domestic products. Improved education, recognition and demand could slowly ratchet down the amount of seafood we import (most of which we don't test or manage for handling or quality).
What I would not want to see is well-managed fisheries being punished for factors beyond their control. The fact is, all of our fisheries are managed for sustainability. So can't we just label them as such? As far as I'm concerned, a federal sustainability label does not need to be encumbered by a certification process. Our management speaks for itself.
When I look at the American portfolio of seafood, I see that we have a bounty to offer. Why we're not promoting it as such is a true failing on our part. Perhaps some sort of certification program could help us close that gap. I'm certain some better marketing would.
If you would like to have your say, fill out the MAFAC survey today!
Written by Jes Hathaway
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
As the month of May comes to a close, we are also closing in on your last chance to let the Environmental Protection Agency know how you feel about Pebble Mine.
As of May 31, just three days from now, the comment period for the EPA's second draft assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed will come to a close.
"So what?" some will say.
The "what" is the future, not just for Bristol Bay salmon, wild salmon or even wild fish the world over. The "what" is the right of the people (not the government — state or federal) to decide what resources are most important to their community for the long term. The people who live and fish in Bristol Bay asked the EPA for help. This is not a case of big government telling the state what it can and can't do. This is a case of locals and fishermen fighting to protect their livelihoods so they can pass down this way of life to their children and grandchildren. If we value copper and gold over families and traditions, then we've certainly lost our way.
It is true that the headwaters of Bristol Bay hold a large deposit of copper. It is true that someday someone will go after that copper. But until there's a process for extracting it that doesn't leave the world's largest sockeye salmon run in the prospect of peril for the rest of time, then perhaps the renewable (and highly valuable) resource of salmon ought to take precedence. With an annual value estimated at $1.5 billion, Bristol Bay's salmon run is arguably more valuable than a metals mine, for now and for the future.
If you would like to know more about Bristol Bay, including directions on how to make your own comment, please visit our spotlight page.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 23 May 2013
I've spent a lot of time diving into the archives of National Fisherman in my seven years with the magazine. I remember reading about the national enthusiasm behind creating new food products out of seafood. Think: Sea Dog, the hot dog with healthy Omega 3s!
When I was reading these old volumes, I wondered what happened to those products and the enthusiasm behind U.S. seafood. Part of the answer is that the 1954 Saltonstall-Kennedy Act established the funds that were devoted to these exciting new seafood products and marketing ventures. Over time, those grants were slowly turned over to fishery science research and data collection projects.
This week, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Farm Bill that would create a National Seafood Marketing and Development Fund. (Click here to download a PDF of the amendment.)
Seven states have sent legislative resolutions of support to Congress in favor of a national marketing fund for seafood — Alaska, California, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon and Rhode Island.
On a federal level, NOAA has taken some interest in creating a national sustainability label for U.S. seafoods. It's looking like the right time for more and better marketing of American fish and fisheries.
The fund would roughly mimic the fishery management council structure by establishing five regional seafood marketing boards, and each board member would serve no more than three three-year terms.
The beauty of this marketing fund is that it would establish cost-sharing grants that help committed seafood industry marketers (those willing to pony up some of the dough) get some traction without having to bear 100 percent of the costs.
As Bruce Schactler, director of the National Seafood Marketing Coalition says, the fund is merely taking back a small portion "of the Saltonsall-Kennedy funds that have always been intended for industry grants for the 'promotion and development of seafood products.'"
Cheers to that, Bruce!
If you're interested in seeing this fund come to fruition, call your federal representatives today, and keep the amendment alive in the Farm Bill.
Page 12 of 36
NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.
We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.Read more...
A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.
Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species, allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.Read more...