National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

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

 

In a miraculous turn of events, Australia and Japan have called a truce at the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting, this year in Santiago, Chile.

The two countries have joined a small working group that will work to bridge the whaling gap.

Japan has volunteered not to hunt humpies in the Southern Ocean this summer (that would be winter to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Australia agreed, in turn, not to pursue international legal action in the hopes of reaching an international agreement on how to handle research whale takes.

It's no surprise that the Aussie government is now under full attack from some environmental groups.

I'm no gung-ho advocate for whale hunting. But I believe that strong-arm politics are rarely effective and thus must be used in moderation. What's the point of making whaling illegal if those who still want to hunt whales can just call it a scientific sampling? Effectively, it's not illegal.

For every controversial issue, there's at least one group whose life's work is to fight tooth and nail for each side. But at some point, we must put down the harpoons, get out of the Zodiacs and sit down at the table.

Will Greenpeace ever be able to abide any whale hunting? That's doubtful. But maybe, just maybe, opposing political factions can figure out a more reasonable system to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to partake in a limited whale fishery that does not threaten the species and reduces illegal takes.

At least the IWC is moving in that direction.

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The charter halibut bag limit controversy in Southeast Alaska sure is stirring the pot for charter boat owners and recreational fishermen. They all seem quite horrified by cuts to the charter boat angler's daily allotment from two fish to one, and claim they simply won't be able to survive if the ruling stands.

Welcome to our nation's fisheries management process.

How many times have commercial fishermen pled loss of business in the face of dwindling allocations, had the ruling stand anyway, and then gone out of business?

The standard retort is, "That's what you get for overfishing." Well, I could go on a long tangent about water quality, runoff, overdevelopment, cheap foreign imports and other factors of some species and market decline.

But what I will say instead is that a charter fleet is just as capable of overfishing their quota as a commercial fleet is. In some cases, they are more risky because their numbers are not always reported.

Maybe the charter guys should band together to establish charter IFQs. That way, the guys who go out of business can get bought out by the guys who have enough business history to stay in it.

I don't want to sound cold or eager to toss legitimate tourist business aside (I live in Vacationland, so I get it, believe me). What I would like to see is commercial guys taking advantage of recreational publicity to shed light on their own industry struggles.

What I would love to see is the recreational guys joining with commercial interests to keep everyone in business.

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Forget tilapia. Fish tacos are far more delicious with wild American fish. My husband and I cobbled together this recipe just in time for summer grilling.

1 pound mahimahi (also try swordfish, shark, tuna or any grillable fish)
8 small corn tortillas

Slaw
2 cups of shredded white cabbage (half a small head)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sour cream

Marinade
1/4 cup canola oil
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander

Toppings
Mango salsa (buy it or follow my recipe — see below)
Avocado slices
Onion slivers
Red bell pepper, diced or sliced
Cilantro
Lime
Hot sauce (I like green Tabasco on these)
Sour cream

Toss the cabbage in the lime juice, vinegar and sour cream. Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for at least an hour.

Marinate the fish up to an hour, then slice into equal pieces and grill.

Dscn0077Spritz the tortillas with water and toss them on the grill, about 30 seconds on each side.

Assemble your tacos with fish, slaw and your toppings of choice.

We had these with Mexican rice and refried beans topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese and a simple green salad.

Mango salsa
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, minced (keep the ribs and seeds for extra spice)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup red onion or scallion greens, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Drizzle of olive oil

Let the jalapeno, garlic and ginger soak in the lime juice in a medium bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Then toss it all together and enjoy.

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It seems the only thing sustainable about oil is its expense.

I must admit I breathed a sigh of relief this morning when Marketplace reported that oil had dropped to just shy of $126 a barrel. I never thought I'd be daydreaming about the heady days when everyone was shellshocked after it passed the $50 mark. (That was less than four years ago.)

But when it comes to fuel prices, as bad as it seems over here, it's always worse in Europe.

In protest of the cost of diesel fuel, French commercial fishermen have been blockading ports and refineries for weeks<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_west/7425616.stm">; and in Madrid, they're handing out free fish while they're tied up to the docks.

Welsh fishermen say that between the French blockades and the cost of fuel, they're on the brink of total collapse.

Plenty of American fishermen are tying up to the docks because the price of fresh fish has not overtaken the rising cost of oil.

So what can we do at this point, besides cross our fingers and hope for the best?

Even if there were some sort of revolution in efficiency and/or alternative fuels, the cost of switching over would be overwhelming to most small-boat fishermen or any small-business owner.

The fact is, there is no quick fix for this problem. Protests aren't going to solve the problem (though I can't blame the Europeans, who are paying at least double what we are for the same product), and tying up is certainly not a long-term solution for any fisherman who has to make a living.

I have to wonder if the government stepped in to offer subsidies and tax breaks, would they be a little more careful about the influx of farmed seafood imports?

I guess I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope.

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The day after Christopher Tobey, a lobsterman from Kittery, Maine, drowned after his boat capsized on Mother's Day, the reader comments in our Portland paper's online edition exemplified the disconnect between fishing culture and some of the folks on the fringes of fishing communities.

Most comments left condolences for Tobey's son (who survived the capsizing by swimming with the other crewman to a nearby island), other family and friends. But more than one person mentioned the perils of fishing in "bad" or "dangerous" weather.

Here's the thing, there was a small craft advisory for Mother's Day, but certainly no gale warning or thunderstorms. Christopher Tobey, who was 46 and had been fishing since high school, no doubt had fished through many a small craft advisory. On top of that, Tobey and his crew were fishing a special order for Mother's Day. What small-town fisherman is going to say no to that?

Since I started working for this magazine 2 1/2 years ago, I've learned a lot about the tenacity of fishing communities. But it never ceases to amaze me how many people out there have no idea what the daily life of a fisherman really is — even folks who live in fishing towns.

In these media-saturated times, it rarely hurts to speak louder and more often.

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This week on "Deadliest Catch," the fellas caught a little Fo'c'sle Fever.

Capt. Keith Colburn (the Wizard), who I now refer to as Cap'n Cup-O-Noodles, spoke loudly and plainly to his brother, Monte, a deckhand and relief skipper.

Those outbursts are a little painful to watch at times, but it's definitely good TV. The more perplexing act of aggression was that of deckhand Matt on the Hansen brothers' boat, the Northwestern.

When I saw the clips of Matt punching a cod, I figured he was letting off some steam after a verbal confrontation with greenhorn Jake. But when the show came back, the clip revealed that he is apparently just kind of, well, let's just say it looked like he was punching cod for camera time. Is that really the best you have to offer, Matt?

My opinion of him was confirmed when Matt went for Jake's throat. If there's anything riskier than rolling around on an icy deck in the Bering Sea, it's letting your emotions get the best of you and rumbling with fellow crewmen on said icy deck. (Not to mention Jake made Matt look even more pathetic as he tossed him onto the deck one-handed.)

It must be tough to be stuck in close quarters with a guy who is possibly a threat to your position in a lucrative job. But as the old hand, not the greenhorn, Matt should know better.

Hats off to Edgar and Sig for managing the situation without being namby-pamby about the dangers of crab boat combat.

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It's hard to believe, in this economy, that some folks in Alabama are pushing to buy out gillnet fishermen. And yet…

Fortunately, the ban stalled in the state Legislature yesterday when Senate republicans tried to replace the bill with a version the House passed last year. That version would make the gillnet buyouts voluntary and provide funds for a five-year study on the effects of the nets on local fish stocks.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. In the grand scheme of fisheries management, five years is a blip on the radar. And a study, perhaps followed by a mandatory buyout, seems like the least we can do to be sure that we're eliminating jobs — not to mention a way of life and family legacies — in order to preserve fish stocks.

Otherwise, we're firing folks in a bad economy because one group feels like it's the right thing to do.

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I was impressed with the turnout at Saturday's Maine Fishermen's Forum in Rockport.

I don't know if it was the Maine lobster boat racing session first thing in the morning that brought in the crowds, but many fishermen braved a nasty winter storm and greasy roads to take part in the forum at the Samoset Resort. Thanks to all of you who participated in the sessions and stopped by our booth to check in.

The most interesting session for me was the discussion on Friday of Marine Stewardship Council certification of the Maine lobster industry. The feeling in that room was that Maine is going forward with a full assessment of the industry and working toward certification. (A presumably positive pre-assessment has already been conducted.) Add a comment

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Who doesn't love to see Ben Stein declaring the abundance and deliciousness of Alaska wild seafood?

The first time I saw the ad for the new Wendy's fish sandwich, I thought they said it is made of North Pacific pollock. My husband corrected me — they said cod, honey. I would have sworn I heard pollock, but in the end I didn't care who won that argument. (For the record, it's cod. And this is going to be his favorite blog entry of mine, maybe forever.) Add a comment

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After all the tuna talk of the past couple of weeks, I gave in to my sushi cravings.

I shared a bento box at my favorite local Japanese restaurant, which included a smattering of nigiri sushi (slabs on rice), maki-zushi (rolls), sashimi (slabs), a scallop dish, salad, tempura and miso soup. Add a comment

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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. 

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