National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

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

 

We all know the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly. It can be infuriating, but sometimes it works to your advantage.

For example, my husband and I never thought we made enough money to owe taxes. But this year, we got slammed with state and federal. We were scrounging every penny to buy our first home, so it was quite a blow.

Fortunately, all we had to do was file an extension and wait until after our big purchase to pay a lump sum or figure out a payment plan.

Here's where our atrophied system comes in handy for you: If you are a Louisiana resident and a commercial fisherman, a commercial-vessel-license holder, or a seafood dealer with recorded sales or purchases of seafood during the year prior to Katrina (yes, the 2005 hurricane!), then you may well qualify for federal fisheries disaster aid.

The best part is you can still apply for it! That's right, this government molasses is trickling into Louisiana's storm-stricken coast until Oct. 31, thanks to the state's Wildlife and Fisheries Department, which set aside $28.2 million.

If you think you might qualify, contact South Central Planning and Development Commission at P.O. Box 1240, Gray, LA 70359-9902, or call (800) 630-3791 or 665-1051.

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Our office was atwitter yesterday morning with the news that Linda Greenlaw had been arrested for allegedly fishing in Canadian waters.

Greenlaw (whose latest book, "Fisherman's Bend," is reviewed in the October issue) is a well-known fisherman-turned-author from Isle au Haut, Maine. Having survived the perfect storm of "Perfect Storm" fame, Greenlaw's name is super-glued to that of the ill-fated Andrea Gail as the last person in contact with the swordfish boat that went down with all hands.

When I heard she was swordfishing before her arrest, I was surprised. I knew that she had mostly been lobstering since her publishing career took off. (That's the idyllic life here in Maine: lobstering and writing. Where do I sign up?)

Greenlaw took a position on the swordfish boat when NBC approached her with an idea for an eight-episode series.

Little did she know then that she'd be the focus of another kind of drama.

What most of us are wondering is how far over that line could she have been to justify the Canadian Coast Guard taking her into custody in handcuffs?

An article in today's Portland (Maine) Press Herald explains very well why we were so baffled.

The explanation comes from maritime lawyer Michael Savasuk in Portland, who says the Canadian Coast Guard issues warnings and may get more aggressive if those warnings are ignored. However, according to the article, Savasuk "has never heard of fishermen being handcuffed as they're brought to court for a boundary infraction."

Did the Canadians know the trip was being filmed? Is this posturing from our friendly neighbors to the north? I would expect this (and worse) from Fidel's Cuba, but Canadians? Never.

Could it be that someone at NBC has strings to pull with the Canadian Coast Guard? At this point that seems the most likely explanation of this bizarre turn of events.

Stay tuned, though, folks. Greenlaw's hearing on the infraction is scheduled for the end of October.

Anyone know if they allow cameras in Canadian court rooms?

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Whether or not you're into politics and 24-hour news coverage, the chances are you've been inundated with the presidential race in the last few weeks.

If you're in Alaska, I'm sure it's been an especially wild ride (as Charlie Ess reports in the forthcoming November issue of National Fisherman). But let's talk about something besides John McCain's running mate.

If McCain wins (you remember him, right? The guy whose name is at the top of the ticket), he has promised to cut spending. An article in the Fairbanks, Alaska, Sunday Daily News-Miner illustrated McCain's well-known low tolerance for earmarks.

Sen. Ted Stevens is widely known for his ability to sweep federal money into Alaska on the grounds that the state is so young it needs more help than most. But McCain's stance on earmarks has put him at odds with the venerable senior senator. And it could put him at odds with the rest of the state (not to mention his running mate) come next year.

Gov. Palin has reduced the federal earmark requests originating from Alaska state government, but I wonder how her understanding of what's necessary for Alaskans will butt up against McCain's views of feeding-frenzy legislation.

But no matter where you're from, you have to laugh at some of McCain's pithy comments on Uncle Ted's requests.

In 2004, he objected to $250,000 for the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.

“Alaska is known for a lot of things, but being the hotbed or the birthplace of aviation is not one that I knew of, although over the years I have grown to be more and more aware of the critical needs of Alaska for federal funds for every conceivable purpose,” McCain said, as quoted in the News-Miner.

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In the yellowed and storied pages of National Fisherman's archives, I ran across a 1958 report from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on fisheries research difficulties.

The results of the 50-year-old report are fascinating to me in light of an article from the August 2008 issue of Fisheries, the journal of the American Fisheries Society. That article describes how habitat degradation and invasive species contribute to a severe decline in freshwater fish species. (See this week's Fish eNews for more on that topic.)

Most fishermen would tell you that fishing effort is not the only contributor to the decline of many species. U.S. fisheries are so severely managed, that it's fair to say if it's not recovering, then we ought to examine and tackle a broader spectrum of causes.

(Most industry proponents would say we ought to do that with each and every rebuilding schedule, and I can't say I disagree.)

What's so frustrating is that the Atlantic States commission was saying that 50 years ago. Here's an excerpt from the report, as quoted in National Fisherman:

"Perhaps the most serious effects of human activity, though they are not obvious at first glance, are changes produced by alteration of marshlands, for example, drainage and real estate development, deposition of spoil from channel dredging, deepening and widening of existing channels, construction of dams and other engineering works, diversion of river runoff for domestic and industrial use, and many other factors.

"More readily recognized are the effects of pollution by sewage and industrial wastes, which in their most obvious manifestations kill fish and other animals, but which may also have much more subtle and hidden effects upon growth, feeding, spawning, and other activities of marine life.

"If this question were simply one of protecting marine life, the solution might be relatively simple. It is complicated, however, by the rapidly expanding technological development of our civilization."

The report goes on to stress that we cannot deny technological development. However, with the growing green/efficiency boom, we know what the power of combined public and private effort can do to effect change.

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Trout LemonCaperSauceThis recipe for two is great with any texture of white fish, from flounder to shark. I tried it with a river trout recently and just about ate my weight. The flavors are all Mediterranean, so I paired it with a Caprese-style appetizer of mozzarella, tomato and basil on soft bread. Add a comment

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An article this week on the decline of shark populations is decidedly dour, which may well be justified in terms of the raw numbers.

However, as usual, the blame is squarely placed on the shoulders of fishermen.

To be fair, fishermen (both commercial and recreational) have taken lots of sharks in recent decades, but what this report omits is the fact that the federal government (which is now being praised for restricting shark landings) was promoting shark fishing as an underutilized species and handing out permits like candy on Halloween.

"Tired of not being able to fish your traditional fishery?" they said in the 1970s and ’80s, "Then go catch shark!"

Can we really blame fishermen for taking on a seemingly healthy and lucrative fishery that the government was promoting?

What's worse is the only quotes this article has from shark fishermen are about how little money they're making now. I'm sure they had plenty to say about that, but I would be shocked to hear that not one of them complained that the government led them into this fishery and is now cutting them out of it.

You might even say they are getting finned. Reeled aboard, stripped of their only means to stay afloat and tossed back to sink to the bottom. An illegal practice on sharks is alive and well when it comes to U.S. fishermen.

This is the kind of thing fishermen should write letters to the editor about. I invite you to write to us, as always. But more important, read the article linked above and write to these good folks: Medill News Service, 1325 G St. N.W. Suite 730 Washington, D.C. 20005; (202) 347-8700; s-angrand@northwestern.edu.

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Sen. Ted Stevens has been the talk of the town in Washington this week, and no doubt also in his home state of Alaska.

There is no doubt Stevens has dedicated his long political life to reaping benefits for his state. What seems to be questionable at this point is whether or not he accepted personal bennies without disclosing them.

I'm no Beltway Buff. I think politics can be very interesting, but I get pretty tired of the corruption on both sides of the aisle. What I have come to accept, however, is that you just don't get things done in Washington without scratching a few backs and greasing a few palms.

Isn't this true in most places?

Don't get me wrong: I think we have to discourage this kind of behavior as much as possible, but it's the way things have run in politics since "et tu, Brute." There is no loyalty in democracy.

The way I see it is if you're going to bring down a sitting senator who has served for decades and can't be too many elections away from retirement, shouldn't it be for something mind-blowing?

Worst case here is that he accepted home remodeling in exchange for the opportunity for some government contracts and he decided not to disclose it. The best case is that he forgot to disclose it, and Veco didn't get contracts directly because of it.

In a decade in which seemingly respectable elected officials in Washington have been accused of inappropriate philandering with underage pages and soliciting sex in public bathrooms, the Stevens case simply does not blow my mind.

I'm the last one to call him Uncle Ted. I've laughed with the rest of "The Daily Show" viewers as he described the Internet as a "series of tubes" and at various other temper tantrums on the Senate floor. But c'mon, guys. He's 84 years old.

I find myself recalling the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. It just feels like a huge waste of American money, and to what end? So we end up with a sound bite and a trite phrase or two?

So Stevens spent some lobbyists' money to fix up his house (which is not exactly palatial), and now the feds want to spend my money prosecuting him.

I say let the good folks of Alaska decide his political fate.

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If you've met Phil Ruhle Sr., you won't forget him.

I was introduced to him in November, when he and his co-researchers were receiving the World Wildlife Fund Smart Gear award for the Eliminator trawl at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.
072508 Ruhle
Today, the beleaguered New England groundfish industry is suffering another blow. Ruhle's boat, the Sea Breeze, capsized and sank in a storm off of New Jersey Wednesday night. Two crewmembers were rescued by the Coast Guard, but there is no sign of Phil.

Phil's raspy voice and big blue eyes always conveyed the concerns of his fellow fishermen. He was passionate about fishing, his family and the future of the industry.

Our paths crossed several times in the last year, as he worked to promote the Eliminator trawl and have it approved by the New England council. He is an old-timer who remembered the glory days of fishing and has worked his hardest to get us back there.
I loved listening to him, because while he was fueled by frustration, he was determined to do whatever it took to make things right for the next generation.

It has been an honor to know you, Phil.

Bright summer goes, dark winter comes, —   
  We cannot rule the year;   
But long ere summer’s sun goes down,   
  On yonder sea we’ll steer.

From "A Ballad of Sir John Franklin," by George Henry Boker

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Really, Exxon? Really?

Fans of "Saturday Night Live" may be familiar with the news anchors' segment "Really?"

The gag is that they make ridiculous statements based on ridiculous current events and then ask the scathing rhetorical question, "Really?"

In the Exxon Valdez case, it would go something like this: So you just got your court-awarded damages reduced to one-tenth of the original amount, and now you REALLY want to make sure you get to keep the interest you've accrued on funds that are not and never were rightly yours while your legal team kept the fishermen whose livelihoods you've ruined at arm's length? REALLY?

Is Scott Boras on the Exxon legal team?

If you're not a baseball fan (and I use that word in its original sense, because you would have to be a fanatic to follow Alex Rodriguez's contract negotiations), then you may not know that Boras was A-Rod's agent until recently. He's the one who got him the biggest deal in baseball history and then followed up with a hissy fit last year, which he pitched on the opening night of the Red Sox (read: A-Rod and the Yanks' biggest rivals) and Rockies World Series.

It was as if Boras couldn't stand to be out of the limelight, no matter how much it made him and his client look like complete jerks. (There are lots of words I would have preferred to use there, but I don't want your Internet filter to keep you from coming to our site.)

Sound familiar? Only in Boras' case, he was only taking money from Major League Baseball, where there's plenty to go around.

Meanwhile, the Exxon lawyers are doing their best to be the Anti-Robin Hoods.

The greed in professional sports is nauseating. Exxon's is downright sickening.

Cut the checks already.

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A great white shark was allegedly spotted from a beach on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts this week. The sighting resulted in two of the island's big, popular beaches being shut down.

One of them is South Beach, a sand beach known for its surfing waves. When I lived on the vineyard many years ago, it was common knowledge that great whites swam those waters. I understood it to be a surf-at-your-own-risk location. The south side of the island is fully exposed to chilly Atlantic waters.

But the island is in the midst of peak tourism, so beach closures aren't surprising. On the bright side, maybe folks will spend more time in the clam shacks, ordering local fare and funding island fishermen's diesel bills.

I take the sighting as just another sign that our ocean ecosystem is alive and well. It seems that the deep waters of New England are still able to support the largest of predators.

If only we could convince our management council of that.

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Page 29 of 31

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 7/29/14

In this episode:

  • Dismal Kenai king return prompts closures
  • State, feds unveil salmon restoration plans
  • Slow start for Maine’s lobster season
  • Va. oyster harvest up 25 percent in 2013
  • Fishermen tangle lines in snapper battle

National Fisherman Live: 7/17/14

In this episode, National Fisherman's Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley talks with Mike Hillers about the Simrad PX Multisensor.

 

Inside the Industry

PORTLAND, Maine – The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has appointed Matt Jacobson as its new executive director.
 
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The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will convene its Red Snapper Advisory Panel Wednesday, July 30, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the council office — 2203 N. Lois Avenue, Suite 1100, in Tampa, Fla. 

Read more...

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