National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

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

 

While purportedly busting fishing myths in his latest opinion piece for National Geographic, Pew's Lee Crockett perpetuates one of the most damaging myths in fishery management today:

"Those seeking to avoid responsible management of our natural resources often attack the science underpinning the conservation measures…

"The reality is that we have some data for every federally managed fish species. This information comes from comprehensive at-sea government surveys, historical catch levels, basic fish biology, and local knowledge. Fisheries managers are using this information to set catch limits at levels that will keep those populations sustainable."

In fact, the reality is that even fishery managers — those people who work most closely with fishing data and fishermen — admit that we rarely have adequate data to make sound management decisions.

What's worse is that Crockett implies that anyone who complains about the lack of data for a fishery is simply trying to avoid responsible management.

This could not be further from the truth, at least when it comes to commercial fishermen. I wish Crockett would take the time to talk to the hardworking researchers and fishermen who work together on collaborative research all over the country to improve fisheries data. You don't even have to get your hands dirty to make a few phone calls to university researchers. (Read more about researchers and fishermen who are working to change the face of modern fisheries data in our October issue.)

It's frankly a shame that anyone would dismiss the need for better fishing data (especially a Pew fellow) by saying what we already have is good enough. Where would any industry be in 10 years if we decided that the way we do things now is good enough?

I don't know a single commercial fisherman who would look askance at the value of better research and data. The problem is there is simply not enough of it because historically the research dollars have not been specifically aimed at projects that answer fishing-specific questions.

I believe we are starting to turn the corner on this problem, but we need to stop blaming fishermen who demand better information on their livelihoods for trying to destroy the management system. It is their system, their government, and they ought to take an active role in it.

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We've got a great range of submissions for our annual Crew Shots issue, but I'm not sure if we've found our cover shot yet.2013 1008 CrewShots If you want to get your crew on the cover of National Fisherman, now's your chance.

I love seeing the range of expressions (mostly happy) of the nation's commercial fishermen onboard with their catch and their crew. Let's celebrate the industry by showing off the heritage, history and diversity of America's fisheries. (Check out past covers here>>)

Send your pics to me with Crew Shots 2014 in the subject line at jhathaway@divcom.com, or click here to submit online. The deadline is October 31.

Please make sure you include names of everyone in the photo (from left to right), the fishery, the boat, the home port and the location of the shot (if not the home port).

See you in the magazine!

Check out the slideshow of past Crew Shots covers here >>

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10 4GirlsOn August 18, Portland, Maine, hosted the last of the summer's Maine lobster boat races. The competition runs the gamut from ethanol-powered, flat-bottomed pure racing machines to a floating tiki bar. Don't miss the fireboat, flaming engine, tug muster and full-throttle races.

For a full roundup, read Michael Crowley's Around the Yards Northeast article "Lobstermen race for more than prizes" on page 36 of the November issue.

 

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On this first day of a federal shutdown, I have the ironic privilege of heralding a new federal program that promotes the American fishing industry — Seafood 101. The first time I heard about this idea from NOAA's Rebecca Reuter two years ago, I was intrigued and inspired by her enthusiasm.

2013 1001 SF101This seafood education effort kicked off last month in the Pacific Northwest at Seattle's Fishermen's Fall Festival with public outreach across media platforms and live events, culminating in an Oct. 6 supplement to the Seattle Times. (National Fisherman subscribers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest will receive the supplement with their December issue, thanks to a partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.) The offerings of Pacific Northwest Seafood 101 include recipes, cooking tips and demonstrations, information on local species and fishing seasons, as well as profiles of local fishermen in an effort to inform the public about local seafood.

Reuter, a Seattle-based communications specialist for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, is excited to "help showcase how government, business and community leaders are working together to achieve a sustainable, safe and strong fishing industry.”

In the last two years, fishing industry stakeholders (businesses and associations) from all over Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have thrown their weight behind starting the program in that corner of the country.

Reuter hopes (as I do) to expand the program to other regions of the country, which would make it a remarkable marketing tool for the entire American fishing industry.

“Seafood 101 is also a tremendous way to spotlight the economic value of the maritime and fishing industries and the diversity of career opportunities," Reuter says.

I could not agree more. I am proud to represent National Fisherman's sponsorship of a program that helps NOAA promote the country's success in fishery management and promote healthy, local and sustainable seafood. For more information, please visit our Seafood 101 spotlight page.

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Last week I saw a few Vimeo links to the World Wildlife Fund Canada's now controversial "We Don't Farm Like This" video.

The cartoon short opens with a bucolic scene of grazing pasture animals against a wide-open blue sky, set to the song "Happy Go Lucky Me" by Paul Evans. Then comes the far-off rumbling that looms ever closer and is soon revealed to be the devastating destruction of a trawl net, churning up the ground from deep below the soil, upending everything that was so recently so peaceful and serene.

2013 0924 WWFTrawlThe end of the video recommends that horrified viewers stick with Marine Stewardship Council approved fish to assuage their guilt over the destruction of that beautiful place. (The video has since been removed, and the MSC released this statement to distance themselves from the message.)

It's pretty typical fodder for those who like to bash the commercial fishing industry. You know, the people who provide the world with fresh fish for their supper tables?

But the fact that this sciolism would come from WWF, which has used very positive outreach and helped the fishing industry make great strides by sponsoring the global SmartGear contest, was disheartening to say the least.

I have to admit, I laughed (and groaned) when I saw it. It's preposterous and yet overly simplistic. First of all, farming is pretty far from the "natural" way to procure food. But we don't need to ditch all the advances of the recent millennia to feel good about the way we eat.

Not all trawlers use destructive gear. In fact, the World Wildlife Fund bestowed their very own SmartGear award on a group of researchers and fishermen who created the Ruhle (Eliminator) Trawl for the Northeast multispecies groundfish fleet. That fishery is not MSC approved, and yet it's apparently good enough for the WWF SmartGear award. But wait, don't buy their fish because it doesn't have a blue label? (Side note: MSC does certify trawl fisheries.)

Talk about confusing. And that's all propaganda like this serves to do: confuse the public about global and local fishing practices to sell an agenda. Scared? Confused? Just look for the blue label and don't worry about educating yourself!

Most American fishermen work on small boats. How would the good folks who run the stands at your local farmer's market like to be compared with massive, loosely regulated Chinese factory farms? I'm willing to bet their regulations and practices are vastly different.

I want to see the video where a wild pig wanders into a lobster trap and ends up on your plate later that day. That's how we fish. Or how about the moose that bites a line and gets hauled aboard a tractor after an hourlong fight to bring the beast to the deck? That's how we fish. Or maybe a net suspended from two planes that brings in a flock of geese, one for your Christmas table. That's how we fish.

In this country, it's wild and it's sustainable, unlike any animal from any farm you will find anywhere on earth.

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Yesterday, international mining company Anglo American made a $300 million statement: We want out of Pebble Mine.

This is big news for the anti-Pebble campaign, the focus of which is safeguarding the world's largest sockeye salmon from the potentially irretrievable damage of mining byproduct.

However, we must also recognize that it is not necessarily the death knell for the mine, as some assume a loss of partnership for Northern Dynasty would imply.

Anglo American is out of the Pebble Partnership, yes. It paid a $300 million fine to withdraw (on top of losing its shared costs of the $500 million investment to date), which is a significant statement to any potential replacement partner, yes. But there is still the matter of a vast deposit of copper, gold and molybdenum in the soil that surrounds Bristol Bay.

"This is a good day for Bristol Bay," said Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. "But it's important for our members to understand that Anglo's former partner, Northern Dynasty, is still in business and will continue to aggressively pursue the Pebble project."

Let's not forget that someone stands to make billions on this mine, and Alaska's political leadership is either supportive or not vocally unsupportive.

Two rounds of public comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's assessment of the mine resulted in more than 650,000 public comments opposed to the mine, an overwhelming majority.

That's a lot of people power. But I also understand the pull of precious metals. This is the time to get serious about ending the campaign to turn Bristol Bay into mining dust.

If you're planning to attend Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, please join us for a conference that I hope will lead the way to a Pebble-free future on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Century Link Field Event Center.

East Coasters have an opportunity to hear Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay representative Brett Veerhusen speak at the Boston Seafood Festival on Saturday, Sept. 28. He will also be manning a CFBB booth there.

On Oct. 9, CFBB's Ben Blakey and Ocean Beauty CEO Mark Palmer will address the Northwest Fisheries Association meeting in Seattle.

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I haven’t shopped at Walmart in decades. However, if I did make a habit of going there, I’d be on a break with the retailer over their short-sighted policy to refuse Alaska salmon on the grounds that it no longer carries the Marine Stewardship Council blue label.

Pburg salmonSeafood leaders from Alaska met with decision-makers at Walmart last week, and reportedly, the retail giant seems open to revising its policy. But why is this all coming up now? Alaska announced it was dropping MSC certification two years ago in favor of Responsible Fisheries Management standards, as developed by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute even previewed the decision with a press tour of some of their biggest buyers, Walmart included.

While I don’t like Walmart, there’s no denying that the retailer is where it is today because its leaders have vision. And it’s a successful vision by many accounts (depending on your definition of success). That's why I’m surprised that those same leaders didn’t get the message in 2011 that Alaska salmon is leading the charge to the post-MSC American seafood industry. Clearly nothing about Alaska salmon management has changed. And if one follows the history of MSC, its approval of Alaska salmon was as helpful to the ecolabel as it was to Alaska.

Now that MSC is the big name in global fishery certification, Alaska would like to part ways, amicably. They seem to have outgrown each other. But the megacorporations who partnered with MSC (and NGOs) to send the ecolabel to the next level aren’t too keen to see the future of sustainable seafood without their big blue anchor.

Here’s the thing about anchors: They serve you well in a storm. But when the weather clears, you have to reel them in to get to the next destination.

The skies are blue and clear over Alaska as well as the rest of this country’s wild fisheries, which are managed for sustainability year-round, coast to coast. If Walmart wants to be the great American retailer, it can start by selling great American seafood, any and all of it.

Photo: Boxes of salmon hoisted at the docks in Petersburg, Alaska, 1915; Frank and Frances Carpenter collection, Library of Congress

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We've all heard it before: We're fishing down the food chain. The oceans will be empty by 2048. Our problems could be solved with an end to (insert gear type) fishing.

But fishermen know the truth because they see it every day. There may not be as many monster fish out there as there were when any commercial fishery began, but they are still out there. In our October issue, columnist Roger Fitzgerald offers proof in the form of Pacific cod "bucketheads" in his story "Bye-bye to big fish?" on page 10. And some of our Facebook fans have offered up photographic evidence of their own.*

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer


A study released today suggests that curtailing fishing does not always solve the problems of stock recovery. Again, this is something fishermen and fisheries researchers have known for many years.

The study was headed by the National Research Council (part of the National Academies of Science) and members of the organization's committee that evaluates the effectiveness of Magnuson's stock rebuilding plans.

I saw committee member and University of Washington Professor André Punt speak at the Managing Our Nation's Fisheries conference in D.C. this spring. He presented some of this groundbreaking data, which shows that the 10-year rebuilding timeline is a good tool, albeit an arbitrary one. Punt et al help make the case for building in some flexibility to Magnuson guidelines, so as to protect fishing communities, especially those with small-boat fisheries.

Like any business, the smaller your operation, the more vulnerable you are to downturns. Unless we want to convert our fisheries to the Walmart model, we have to find a soft place for small-boat fleets to land when their stock goes soft.

Once we decide to make it a priority to preserve our working waterfronts and historic fishing communities, we open up endless opportunities. But until we decide to put our fleets first (or at least tied with the resource), our only choice will be to watch small towns shut down. As Fitz says in his story, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

*To view the slideshow in high-resolution, visit our Flickr page.

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Alaska news is all atwitter today over a state fair pumpkin disqualification that edged out what would have been a record-breaking entry somewhere between 1,290 and 1,420 pounds. That's a lot of pumpkin pie. Record holder J.D. Megchelsen's specimen was brought down by a thumb-sized hole that violated the fair's requirement for "structurally sound produce." The win went to Dale Marshall of Anchorage with a 1,182-pounder.

Not to be outdone by prize-winning produce, Southeast salmon fleets are causing a stir with their own Alaska whopper. The region's gillnetters, trollers and seiners are looking at a new record for pink salmon landings. They've caught 80 million pinks so far, and the season still has a few openings left. The previous record was 77.8 million, set in 1999. The seine fleet was fishing on limits for the first time in years because even the area's state-of-the-art processors could not handle the rush. The big pink numbers could even push the fleet over the record for all five species, which is just shy of 98 million.

13 08 28 HumpyI have to wonder what effect these numbers will have on the doomsday predictions about the effects of the Fukushima nuclear spill. Certainly, it's not good to wonder how much contamination there really is coming from the Daiichi reactor. But the fact is, when it comes to contamination, no seafood eaten in this country is tested more than our own domestic supply. And there is little doubt that scientists across the country are dedicated to studying the effects of the leak on anadromous fish. If you want to feel secure in your seafood source, eat American.

In yet more big news yesterday from the Last Frontier, Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy visited the state to talk about climate change and embark on a fact-finding mission for the proposed Pebble Mine site in Bristol Bay.

The EPA's final report on the mine is expected this fall, and the Pebble Partnership, the mine's parent company, is expected to release a mine plan soon. The biggest criticism among proponents of the mine is that the EPA launched an investigation of Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act before a mine plan was made public.

Reportedly, Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively was pleased to see a representative of EPA touch down on the site. Though it's hard to imagine that a visit to Bristol Bay could change anyone's mind about preserving its natural beauty and productivity as the source of the world's largest wild salmon run.

In Alaska, you go big or go home. In the case of Pebble Mine, let's hope it's both.

Photo: Pink (humpy) salmon, U.S. Fish & Wildlife

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According to Alaska Fish Radio, Sodexo is reportedly retracting its policy to supply only Marine Stewardship Council approved seafood.

The flap on this policy came when politicians and the public alike realized that meant the food supplier would not be offering a large swath of sustainable American seafood for its federal contracts (including the federal parks service and the armed forces) and would instead turn to a global supply of seafood sporting the MSC's blue label.

I wrote about this contradiction last week in "Persistent myths," and am thrilled to see that Sodexo has come to its senses.

Kudos also to Alaska Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, who pressed Sodexo to rethink their stance.

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Page 4 of 29

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live is a web video series featuring the latest fishing news, product information and industry analysis by our editors. In this episode:

  • Ruling favors commercial red snapper fishermen
  • Fishermen file suit over Texas oil spill
  • Florida gov. announces oyster recovery funding
  • Hatchery salmon were 36 percent of harvest
  • Maine's new elver rules delay season start

Inside the Industry

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is currently soliciting applicants for open advisory panel seats as well as applications from scientists interested in serving on its Scientific and Statistical Committee.

Read more...

The North Carolina Fisheries Association (NCFA), a nonprofit trade association representing commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors, recently announced a new leadership team. Incorporated in 1952, its administrative office is in Bayboro, N.C.

Read more...

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