Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 19 December 2013
This week, Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Travis Obendorf died after he was injured while assisting a disabled fishing boat in Alaska's Bering Sea near Amak Island.
I write often about the sacrifices fishermen make for their work and the fact that they put their lives on the line every day to bring food to our tables. Members of the Coast Guard put their lives on the line to bring fishermen home when no one else can.
Obendorf was serving on the Coast Guard cutter Waesche, which was helping to evacuate nonessential crew of the 166-foot catcher-processor Alaska Mist on Nov. 11 before the cutter towed the fishing boat to safety. Obendorf was injured during the evacuation and was air-lifted first to Anchorage and later transferred to Seattle, where he died after surgery and surrounded by his family.
“Petty Officer Obendorf’s selfless actions directly contributed to rescuing five mariners in distress. His willingness to assist others, even amidst the dangerous environment of the Bering Sea, truly embodies the Coast Guard’s core values,” said Waesche’s commanding officer, Capt. John McKinley. “Travis will be sadly missed.”
My thoughts are with Travis Obendorf's family and friends as they navigate a difficult passage this Christmas and new year. Many thanks to the Coast Guard for making the ocean a safer place to work.
Photo: Coast Guard cutter Waesche crew evacuates nonessential crew members from the disabled catcher-processor Alaska Mist on the Bering Sea near Amak Island, Alaska, Nov. 11; U.S. Coast GuardAdd a comment
Tuesday, 10 December 2013
I read the opening lines of New York fisherman Mark Lofstad's rescue at sea story with a familiar sense of wonder and fear. What must it be like to recognize that you're in the situation of having to place a distress call? How long must the minutes feel as they tick by when you're awaiting rescue that may or may not come in time? These are the questions I ask myself when I read any survival tale.
With the help of other fishing boats, the Coast Guard came to the rescue for Lofstad and his crew on the F/V Tradition. If only the feds had the same sense of urgency to rescue the entire industry and with it an American tradition that has been set adrift in many ways.
I know some advocates of finfish aquaculture say their business models will offer fishermen a job to turn to when their fisheries can't support their livelihoods anymore. But some of those same businesses consistently contaminate the waters that support wild fisheries.
And as we look down the barrel at FDA-approved Frankenfish salmon, we can no longer deny the brave new world we face. The final frontier isn't out there, in the endless ether of the universe. Rather it's microscopic — contained in the perils of a petri dish. But its possibilities are no less immeasurable. We hold the future in our hands.
Tradition has been set adrift, but it's not underwater, yet. The question is whether rescue will come in time.
Illustration: Artist's rendering of a successful rescue at sea; USCGAdd a comment
Thursday, 05 December 2013
Anytime we mention our Crew Shots issue, we get an outpouring of positive feedback and an influx of new photos.
I'd like to keep it that way. The health of our fisheries and working waterfronts is at stake every day. As Congress continues the process of examining, holding hearings on and reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, your livelihoods will be on the chopping block.
Our January issue features a Dock Talk written by Jim Kendall, a board member at the Center for Sustainable Fisheries, explaining the center's mission to preserve "our nation's fishery resources through conservation measures as well as promoting economic development for the fishing economy through the use of science."
Dr. Brian Rothschild, president and CEO of the Center for Sustainable Fisheries, Montgomery Charter Professor Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology and 2012 NF Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, was our keynote speaker at Pacific Marine Expo this year.
In his speech, he recommended rewriting the Magnuson Act so that its enforcement could more accurately target problems in fishery management. Rothschild said that when the act was implemented, it was widely believed that all 10 national standards would be enforced equally. But since then, National Standard 1 — preventing overfishing and maintaining optimum yield — has been enforced as the top priority.
Not only does Rothschild want to rewrite the act to whittle down the National Standards from 10 to five, but he wants to focus on improving the science used to manage fisheries. Better data would provide managers with a clearer picture not only of the state of fisheries but of the socioeconomic effects of fisheries on their communities.
It's an idea whose time has come. For more information, please visit the Center for Sustainable Fisheries and continue to follow our coverage here and in the magazine.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
When I was growing up in Georgia, I always enjoyed Thanksgiving. But it wasn't until I moved to New England and began to celebrate the holiday at a sprawling Colonial home with massive fireplaces, bittersweet wreaths and snowy walks that I began to understand the feel of the holiday. The classic New England dishes suddenly made sense, though I would never celebrate without my mom's famous pecan pie.
I've been enjoying Thanksgiving at the same house for many years now, catching up with family and always meeting a new friend or welcoming a new member of the family. That's how I feel every year when I find myself in Seattle for Pacific Marine Expo. While the show is a whirlwind for many of us, I just love the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones, ogle the engines and find out what's new in gear.
The Expo closed on Friday after a bustling three days on the show floor, in conference sessions and after hours at a plethora of industry events. I've been to eight Expos, but none compares with this year. The Pacific Northwest and Alaska are absolutely booming with fishing, boatbuilding and outfitting. Check out our slideshow for images from the show floor.
On Wednesday, Brian Rothschild, president and CEO of the Center for Sustainable Fisheries, delivered a groundbreaking keynote address on reforming (rewriting) the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Thursday's Boatyard Day was thoroughly entertaining, beginning with roundups of the year's best fish boats and workboats and ending with a fantastic address on the future of West Coast boatbuilding by Frank Foti, president and CEO of Vigor Industrial.
Friday began for me with a three-hour Profitable Harvest conference that yielded critical information for growing your business in this changing industry. The show floor, meanwhile, swayed to the poetic stylings of the Fisher Poets, followed by the Fisherman of the Year contest. Reid Ten Kley took the top prize again this year.
We hope to see you again next year. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
The editors of National Fisherman and WorkBoat welcome you to the 46th annual Pacific Marine Expo. Make sure you hit the floor running this year, because the show is bigger than ever. For three days under one roof, you’ll find a bounty of boats, gear and events designed just for you.
Today’s conference sessions include a keynote address from fishery scientist Brian Rothschild, ABS initiatives in safe shipping and a roundup of fishermen’s wives on how to stay grounded in the fishing industry.
Stop by booth 614 to say hello and take advantage of our show subscription special — just $10 for a year of National Fisherman!
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.
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National Fisherman Live: 1/13/15
In this episode:
Council hosts public hearing on Cashes Ledge
Report assesses Chesapeake water, fisheries
Warmer waters shake up Jersey fishing
North Pacific observer program altered for 2015
Woman aims to crowdsource lobstering career
National Fisherman Live: 12/30/14
In this episode, Michael Crowley, National Fisherman's Boats & Gear editor, interviews Chelsea Woodward, an engineer working with the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office to design static guards for main drum winches used in the side trawl fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is still seeking public review and comment on the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management Conformance Criteria (Version 1.2, September 2011). The public review and comment period, which opened on Dec. 3, 2014, runs through Monday, Feb. 3.
NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.