Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
I was having a conversation with someone the other day about China's one-child policy. He was saying, essentially, that the ramifications for not following the policy are so steep that only the richest Chinese families can afford to have more than one child, and the rest of the people live in fear of being jailed, fined beyond their means or the unmentionably worse.
The problem is that China uses the stick instead of the carrot to sway its citizens to comply. Instead of creating an incentive for the people to follow the policy, it simply punishes them for not following it. We manage fisheries (and many industries) the same way. Perhaps at one time it seemed justified to flail fleets with drastic measures. But we now live in a time of primarily flourishing fisheries.
It seems the species that still need some work are the only ones that get any press. I saw a headline this week, "Kings left out of Alaska's salmon boom." Four species are going like gangbusters, and we can only focus on the one that isn't. What gives? I'll tell you, it's the stick.
What this industry needs is incentives. With the right motivation, we can keep fishermen fishing for a real living wage while keeping the fisheries within acceptable levels of biomass and bycatch.
Instead of forcing fishermen to buy into a single fishery through a quota system (imagining that they would be proper stewards of the resource if they were specifically invested in it — the fallacy there being the assumption that they weren't stewards of the resource already), why not create incentives for them to move from fishery to fishery, and therefore, always have a healthy stock to fish?
Reducing effort doesn't always bring back a species. Sometimes environmental conditions create or reinforce a stock's depletion. But if fishermen have some other fishery to fall back on, then the fishermen will have the best chance of surviving in the long term, and so will their stocks.
And more than anything, we must recognize that the ocean is a complicated place. If we are going to punish commercial fishermen for everything that happens there, then we all might as well get used to the taste of fish farmed in inland ponds. Bad press is fodder for endless lawsuits and legislation from private groups and business owners who seek to take advantage of the mainstream image and alienate fishermen even further.
Sport-fishing interests last week did just that and are petitioning to ban setnets in urban areas of Alaska and hand over more king salmon quotas to recreational fishermen. Fishermen across the country faced and are facing net bans as a result of sport fishing interests appealing ostensibly to conservationists but in reality are attempting to reallocate commercial catches to recreational fishermen. Where is the conservation in reallocation of the same fish? It's not about conservation. It's about perception.
National Fisherman, NOAA, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and others are working to educate the public about what makes commercial fishing valuable to our national economy and to the health of its citizens as well as making the industry more user-friendly. Please join us for Profitable Harvest at Seattle's Pacific Marine Expo next Friday, Nov. 22, as we start to move this mission forward.
Thursday, 07 November 2013
The story of Alaska Longline's new fleet member is even bigger than the 136-foot Arctic Prowler. It's bigger still than Vigor Alaska's new 250-foot-long assembly hall in Ketchikan from which the Arctic Prowler launched in mid-October.
What makes this story so huge is more than the sum of its parts — the Arctic Prowler is the largest fishing boat to be built in Alaska, it was built in a state-of-the art facility, and it's one of the first American fishing boats to be built to class specifications.
All of these factors combined show that the companies invested in this project are setting the stage. Arctic Prowler may be breaking the mold, but in doing so, it's paving the way for more big things to come. And there will be more.
Join us for a celebration of industry boatbuilding and a keynote address from Vigor Industrial President & CEO Frank Foti at Pacific Marine Expo's Boatyard Day, Thursday, Nov. 21 at CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle.
Read the full story on the Arctic Prowler in the NF December issue, starting on page 36.
Tuesday, 05 November 2013
Everyone in our office is getting excited about Pacific Marine Expo, just two weeks away. This is setting up to be a huge show, from Boatyard Day and the Fisher Poets to the Fisherman of the Year Contest and daily prize drawings.
This year's Profitable Harvest program on Friday, Nov. 22, promises to be a great jumping off point for my favorite industry topic: educating the public about the American fishing industry. An informed consumer can raise the profile of the industry as well as the value of seafood.
Three panels of industry leaders will drive the conversation, starting with a presentation of ground-breaking research from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a discussion on improving community perception of the fishing industry, and wrapping with how to get the most from your boat with an expanded fishing portfolio. We'll also look at securing a legacy by bringing young people into the industry.
The program kicks off with a National Fisherman Breakfast with the Editors, but it's limited to the first 100, so sign up today!
The Expo and Profitable Harvest are all about focusing energy on this great industry. Join us to celebrate and keep the momentum going.
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
One year ago, Hurricane Sandy roiled through the Northeast. The remaining floodwaters lapped at the heels of a long-needed conversation about infrastructure, climate change and community survival. In the aftermath, we acknowledged that we can no longer pretend our First World status protects us from century storms.
Like many coastal regions, the area has lost a lot of its traditional waterfront uses to the allure of tourist income. The 20th-century evolution of seaside communities into resorts led to people wanting to live by the sea, instead of just visiting, said Rutgers Professor Emeritus John Gillis in the New Brunswick, N.J., Daily Targum.
“The shore has been completely altered,” he said. “Fishermen and the workers have disappeared. Now we have landlubbers on the shore that know the least about it. In other words, it’s what we call coastal amnesia — people who have no idea about the environment they are encountering and are always surprised about when things like Sandy come along.”
Though they are fewer and farther between, there are still fishing towns in New York and New Jersey. Some fishermen opted to ride out the storm in those harbors together but alone, each manning his own helm, tied to the same dock. They communicated via radio until the wind knocked out their antennas.
Like the aftermath of Katrina and the desolation that is Detroit, the voices of the survivors and the remembrances of those lost fades into the static of the 24-hour news cycle.
On this first anniversary of the storm, we have another chance to talk about what happened, how the recovery is coming and what we can do to prevent some of the catastrophic effects of another storm. Because there will be another one.
It took months for fishing docks to restore ice machines for their boats. A year later, 26,000 people are still out of their homes. Neighborhoods are still littered with debris. The people are resilient, but we can no longer rely on our internal or collective strength to survive these events and say we didn't see them coming. We have to plan and prepare. Today we look back, but we must keep moving forward.
Photo: Derelict vessels litter the shore of Great Kills Harbor, N.Y., in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Nov. 3, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.Add a comment
Thursday, 24 October 2013
In a video released this week, Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, La., declares that Corexit (the substance used ostensibly to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill) sank the oil so that it didn't wash up on the beaches and scare tourists away from the region.
The result was that the seafloor, where much of the Gulf Coast's sea life breeds and feeds, got covered in tar mats that are stifling the recovery of Gulf of Mexico fisheries. So was the decision to use Corexit a PR move that sacrificed the seafloor in favor of white sandy beaches? If so, then the second wave of attacks will come early next week at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in New Orleans.
There the Coastal Conservation Association will be up to its old tricks again, attempting to pull fishing quota toward the recreational side and away from commercial fishing. Right now the split goes 51 percent to commercial fishermen and 49 percent to recreational.
CCA would like to set a benchmark that allows current snapper numbers to stay at the 51/49 split, but as the stock grows, the split would be weighted in favor of recreational fishing by as much as 75 percent.
The most significant problem here is that commercial red snapper is managed by catch shares in the Gulf of Mexico. When fishermen agreed to the catch share program, they took a big hit in their catch. The promise and hope of catch shares is that the shares grow as the stock gets healthier.
Setting a benchmark at the current quotas simply destroys the entire premise of catch share management.
The CCA complains that recreational fishermen aren't getting their fair share simply because there are more of them. What they're missing is that commercial fishermen provide fish not just for themselves but for everyone. The Gulf of Mexico fisheries are a public resource and should be managed as such. Let's not sacrifice the gulf for the sake of tourism yet again. What will you feed your tourists who aren't sportfishing if you don't have commercial fishermen landing fish at local docks? A neighborhood playground isn't much fun after you destroy the neighborhood.
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Today's New York Times story on Alaska's row with Walmart is surprisingly well-informed. (That's no slant on the Times, but anyone who follows American fisheries knows mass media tends to grasp neither the big picture nor the nuance of the industry.)
The story covers how the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute decided to move away from Marine Stewardship Council certification and toward Responsible Fishery Management through certifier Global Trust (using FAO guidelines). One hiccup? As David Jolly writes, "Someone forgot to check with Walmart."
It's pithy, but it's wrong. No one forgot to check with Walmart. The insinuation that Alaska would overlook the importance of the world's largest retailer is in fact a little insulting, even if it's just a joke.
ASMI held extensive meetings with Walmart before they moved to RFM certification.
Reportedly, Walmart didn't believe Alaska would actually go through with it. Where they got that advice is up for speculation. But my guess is that seafood is not on the front burner for Walmart's corporate leadership, so they didn't spend much time wringing their hands over the possibility.
Not so in Alaska, where seafood is a top export commodity.
The fact is, ASMI tried to play fair. They did their best to give ample warning to all the retailers who buy their fish, so those buyers might have an opportunity to be educated on what MSC really means (or doesn't mean) for American fisheries and seafood consumers. ASMI didn't go looking to pick a fight with retailers. They tried to establish a dialogue, starting more than three years ago.
So when Walmart came down on the side of MSC this summer and announced their refusal of Alaska salmon in favor of MSC-certified Russian product, ASMI (and Alaska's political leadership) came out swinging, as well they should.
What ASMI has done by moving away from MSC is open the door for better marketing of all wild American fisheries, which are all managed for sustainability under our own federal statutes.
With half of the nation's wild fish coming from Alaska, ASMI has the power to break down some walls. I stand with them, because I have hope for a better future for America's fishing fleets.
Photo: Spawning and abundant sockeye swim upstream. Courtesy J Armstrong/University of WashingtonAdd a comment
Tuesday, 15 October 2013
Once again, a bill at the federal level attempts to cover all the bases and winds up quite possibly doing more harm than good.
The New England Fishery Management Council's Habitat Omnibus Amendment threatens to shut down even more fishing areas to the Northeast groundfish fleets — the commercial fleets, that is. Some of the same areas that reportedly will be closed to commercial vessels in an effort to protect spawning stocks (which have been shown to have migrated from many of these protected areas as a result of the same climatic shifts that sent the stocks north and east to the Canadian Maritimes and Scandinavia) will remain open to recreational boats, which hold nearly 40 percent of the haddock and cod quotas.
The Northeast Seafood Coalition's Jackie Odell says the Closed Area Technical Team showed up very late in the process of this amendment (which has been in the works for more than five years).
Time and time again, it takes years to develop an amendment, and then at the last minute, it's rammed through the process because time is running short. The quickened pace sends us blazing past red flags and critical questions because we just don't have time for nuance (or sometimes even for common sense).
This is no slight on our fishery management council members across the country. They have their hands full. It is no easy task to manage wild and farmed fisheries in any region of the country.
Nevertheless, we have to stop managing our fisheries in panic mode. Yes we have made tremendous progress in the revitalization of fish stocks, but it has largely been at the expense of fishing communities. There is a balance to strike, but we will only find it if we can take a step back and revise.
The science has shown that no matter how little we fish cod, the climate is not friendly to its "full" revitalization right now (however that may be defined). Not to mention the exploded population of dogfish (which is outcompeting cod), which we protected in a knee-jerk response to marginal science. We have since learned that we had it all wrong about dogfish. And if we had taken more moderate steps to protect the dogged dogfish, perhaps we could have caught that mistake before it was too late.
Let's not do that with fishing grounds. Enough already with dealing death knells to the Northeast groundfish fleet. What can we do to protect the community, the small-boat fishermen who are striving for a sustainable living?
Wednesday, 09 October 2013
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.
Monday, 07 October 2013
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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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!
Thursday, 03 October 2013
On 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.
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National Fisherman Live: 9/23/14
In this episode:
'Injection' plan to save fall run salmon
Proposed fishing rule to protect seabirds
Council, White House talk monument expansion
Louisiana shrimpers hurt by price drop
Maine and New Hampshire fish numbers down
The Golden Gate Salmon Association will host its 4th Annual Marin County Dinner at Marin Catholic High School, 675 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield on Friday, Oct 10, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.
The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative is introducing its Chef Ambassador Program. Created to inspire and educate chefs and home cooks across the country about the unique qualities of lobster from Maine, the program showcases how it can be incorporated into a range of inspired culinary dishes.