National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

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


Every issue of our magazine is an ode to commercial fishermen. And more than any other, our annual Crew Shots issue is devoted to life through your lens. This year, however, the theme of the ode to the fishing life spread itself naturally through all of our pages.

2014 1202 CrewShotsFor our Moment of Youth column, lifelong Bristol Bay fisherman Reba Temple writes an ode to her late father, Tom, and the family tradition of summering on a 32-foot drifter. On page 10 of the January issue, Robert Powell’s Dock Talk contribution is a literal ode — a fisherpoet's devotion to the Pretty Work of Chesapeake Bay watermen. I’ve been holding on to this piece for quite some time, much to Bob’s consternation (thanks for hanging in there!). But I’ve found that a story finds its way into the issue it’s meant to be in.

As I wrote in my Editor’s Log, Roger Fitzgerald’s In Search of the Simple Life is all about feeding the crew of days gone by. What happens when fishermen retire from Alaska to Washington? According to Fitz, they put the squeeze on apples over a fine kettle of codfish.

As we like to say, this is your life, and it would not be possible without the products that keep the industry humming. Boats & Gear Editor Mike Crowley’s compendium of the year’s best will help you throw off the albatross in place of something useful. It’s well worth a peruse for fishermen as well as anyone who might be looking to fill a fisherman’s Christmas stocking with something extra special (and possibly life-saving) this year.

Download your own PDF of all of our Crew Shots pages on our website (while you’re there, you can peruse PDFs of Crew Shots spreads since 2007).

As always, thank you.

While California’s salmon advocates are scrambling to shoot their salmon over dry riverbeds and into briny feeding grounds, the Pebble Partnership is aiming its guns directly at a world-class salmon fishery in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

2014 1125 BristolBayFinn Braund and Adrian Barhan on the Wild One in Bristol Bay’s Nushagak Point. Crew Shots photOn Monday, advocates of the salmon fishery in Bristol Bay received a major blow: A federal judge halted EPA’s ability to take further action against the mine until a lawsuit is decided. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland dismissed two claims in Pebble Limited Partnership’s suit but also gave the mining conglomerate time to rewrite one part of its complaint against EPA. The suit claims EPA was working as an anti-mine team when it studied how the mine would affect the Bristol Bay watershed and the world’s largest sockeye salmon run.

The Pebble team has filed two other suits, including a challenge to EPA’s authority to impose Clean Water Act restrictions prior to the partnership’s official submission of a mine plan.

The reason this fight is so important to the commercial fishing industry as a whole is because Bristol Bay has been well-poised to fight a drawn-out battle waged by a multibillion-dollar mining company. Not many fisheries would have the resources to fight the bottomless pockets of a massive international mining partnership.

This fight has been going on for a decade. But what’s significant about Bristol Bay’s battle is that it’s not funded by the owners of a single massive fishing company but rather by the collective efforts of hundreds of small-boat fishermen. The Bristol Bay season draws fishermen from all over the country. It is our fishery. It is your fishery.

EPA is fighting on behalf of the Bristol Bay watershed, and its work could set a precedent that will help protect your fishery from being obliterated in favor of another business, and all for the short-term prospect of dollar, dollar bills, and despite the prospect of a total loss of water clean enough to support fish habitat.

We spend so much time worrying about so-called overfished fisheries, it’s quite amazing that we would even be considering launching one of our most productive fisheries into harm’s way.

Reports from the ground are spectacular. It’s another beautiful, bright and dry fall day in Seattle as the crowds roll into the city, getting ready for Pacific Marine Expo.

2014 1118 BallardA visit to the Pacific Fishermen yard in Ballard, the heart of the West Coast fishing fleet. Jessica Hathaway photoBack in the office, we just wrapped our Crew Shots issue. We’ve been staring at your faces all week on the page, and now we get to see you in person.

We love to talk about all the great deals on the show floor, the roster of new products revealed over the next three days, the conferences that will spark changes in every corner of the maritime industry, the magic of the Emerald City and Fishermen’s Terminal. But the nexus of this show is you. And we’ve put together a full-throttle Expo with you in mind.

The Wednesday keynote this year is John Aldridge, the Montauk, N.Y., fisherman who survived more than 12 hours treading water after falling overboard from a lobster boat last year. Aldridge became a household name after The New York Times piece “A Speck in the Sea.”

The numbers are out for Bristol Bay’s projected 2015 returns, and like the Expo, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. If you fish the bay, don’t miss the conference on permit buybacks for the drift fleet Thursday morning at 10.

If you’re planning to build a new boat or overhaul, you are likely going to be on the show floor all three days, and our conference program will have offerings the whole way through, starting on Wednesday with an update on classification and load lines, as well as an hour on shipyard project planning. On Thursday, Terry Johnson will lead a panel discussion on a new Energy Analysis Tool that can help you plan and improve energy efficiency onboard. On Friday, get the full scope of the new safety and equipment requirements from a panel led by Jack Kemerer, the Coast Guard’s chief of Fishing Vessel Safety Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance.

And those are just the conferences. Don’t forget to stop by the National Fisherman booth to pick up a copy of our December issue, and be sure to check out our daily coverage of the Expo in our Show Daily, in print at the show and online.

Here we go again.

Yesterday NOAA announced that it will completely close areas of the Gulf of Maine to cod fishing for at least the next six months. It just so happens that those areas are frequented by the day-boat fleet out of Gloucester, Mass., a port that was already struggling and will again take the brunt of the regulatory shift.

The New England cod fishery continues to stand as the case study for keeping the Magnuson Act status quo or tweaking it to give managers more leeway to balance the protection of struggling fleets and struggling stocks. However, given the lack of transparency in the current process of cod management, it seems unlikely that even with broader options the managers would be inclined to give Gloucester’s small-boat fleet any slack.

According to a statement released by the Northeast Seafood Coalition, NOAA already is not maintaining baseline measures to protect the community: “Putting the lack of transparency surrounding the recent Gulf of Maine cod assessment aside, the measures being offered by the agency do not strike a balance between conservation and community interests as required under law.”

For years, New England fishery managers have said their hands are simply tied by the confines of the law. They must take more and more drastic measures to protect the species as long as its numbers are stalled out. And yet, cooperative research continues to contend that NOAA’s assessments are flawed and that its approach to cod management goes overboard.

The fact remains that no matter how strict the controls are, the NOAA data shows limited recovery. So it would seem that fishing is not the problem.

If we can’t point to fishing as the cause, then why are we continually restricting fishing as if those measures can solve the problem?

The only reasonable next step is to work with fishermen and scientists to better determine the actual health of the stock and uncover the source of its decline. Many fishermen blame the protections managers put on dogfish that coincided with a precipitous cod decline. The two species compete for resources, and dogfish have been shown to be far more prolific and resourceful than are cod fish.

And yet, as far as management goes, the answer is always the same: cut back on the fishermen who are already hardly fishing cod.

And now it appears we will have to ban fishing altogether and put more working fishermen out of business to prove to ourselves that fishing is not the problem.

The question is who will take the blame when the fishermen are gone?

14dec NF BGsafety 350pxTallOver the weekend, tragedy struck in many parts of Maine. The most disastrous fire in the state in more than 50 years killed five young people in Portland. A car accident claimed two men under the age of 20. The loss of the Cushing-based lobster boat No Limits near Matinicus Island left skipper Chris Hutchinson wondering if his two missing crewmen would ever be recovered.

In a state with a population hovering right around a million, these losses are felt deeply through many communities statewide. Like the fishing industry, our people are closely connected.

Unlike a building fire or a car accident, the scenes of which can be searched and analyzed repeatedly until the investigators think they have gotten all the information they can glean, the loss of a boat at sea often remains a mystery unless there’s a survivor.

In “Fixing fatal flaws” on page 44 of our December issue, which you can pick up at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle Wednesday-Friday, Nov. 19-21, Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley writes about the new Coast Guard safety regulations coming down the pike as a result of the reauthorization act of 2010.

The biggest advantage to the new regulations, which will include boat inspections, is that the requirements could be defined fishery by fishery to best suit fleets in different parts of the country. What happened on the No Limits remains to be seen. The skipper survived because he found his way to his life raft and managed to fire a flare when it counted. Although the new Coast Guard regulations would not apply to the No Limits (it being less than 50 feet and operating within three miles), the fact that the lobster boat had a full suite of safety gear is a result of a wave of change in the industry.

Let’s hope the new regulations continue to make these kinds of positive changes for commercial fishermen without exacting too heavy a burden on many struggling sectors. We can’t put a price on survival, but surviving includes being able to run your business in the face of changing regulations.

Last weekend, two New Hampshire fishermen who also star on National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna” helped to rescue the two-man crew of the Miss Sambuca off of Gloucester, Mass.

2014 1028 WickedTunaRead more about the captains of "Wicked Tuna" in our March 2014 issue.When Tyler McLaughlin, skipper of the Pin Wheel, and his first mate Stephen Field arrived on the scene, one of the crew members of the sinking boat was still onboard trying unsuccessfully to inflate a life raft. The other fisherman was already in the water. His survival suit was taking on water, and he had broken his sternum.

I have said many times that whether or not you like fishing reality shows, they draw attention to the dangers of the profession, as well as the reality of the way wild fish gets from the sea to the shore. While entertaining (and sometimes in a way that makes other fishermen roll their eyes), they also educate the mainstream viewer.

For the average person, these incidents are eye-opening and hopefully help them see fishermen and the seafood on their plate with different eyes.

I will never forget the first man-overboard scene I witnessed from the warm comfort of my living room couch. It was the third season of the “Deadliest Catch.” The crew of the Time Bandit helped to pull aboard a crew member from another boat. In the Bering Sea, survival times are frighteningly short, but hypothermia is a risk for every U.S. fisherman.

If you follow fishing news with any regularity, you know at-sea rescues are not uncommon. Time spent in the water often means the difference between death and survival. Today there was a press conference at 10 a.m. in Portland, Ore., to oppose the loss of Newport’s Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter.

The town of Newport got the emergency helicopter after the 1985 capsizing of the F/V Lasseigne in which three fishermen died of hypothermia in less time than it would take a rescue crew coming from the next available Coast Guard station to reach the fishing area. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another tragedy to bring back Newport’s rescue helo. Not every fisherman is as lucky as were the crew members of the Miss Sambuca to have a good Samaritan vessel within range to come to their aid.

No these fish won't be dressed up for Halloween, but over the last week, the bluefin tuna catch off of Massachusetts’ Cape Ann has been earning its wicked title. According to a story in the Gloucester Daily Times, an area of Jeffreys Ledge hosted roughly 75 boats early last week, with some veteran fishermen describing it as the best fishing they’ve seen in 10 years.

2014 1021 bluefinThe mighty tuna measures up. NMFS photoThe good news for us is that the Japanese market has softened a bit, so domestic fishermen are selling more of their catch to the American market. That means it’s even easier to satisfy your hankering for sushi-grade tuna without compromising your commitment to sustainable fisheries.

According to the results of a recent scientists' meeting of the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, that commitment may get even easier in the years to come. The most recent study of the Mediterranean bluefin stock indicates that management efforts have been successful. The stock may soon be recovered to sustainable levels, a remarkable feat.

Like many large-scale global fisheries, loopholes in the bluefin’s traceability leaves it exposed to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. ICCAT’s efforts to close those loopholes will be key to turning the tide of public perception. In the meantime, don’t be spooked to ask for Wicked Tuna.

Last week, Jerry Fraser and I both wrote about the potential loss of the Coast Guard search-and-rescue helicopter in Newport, Ore. As I mentioned, a public forum with the Coast Guard is scheduled to take place in Newport at 5:30 on Oct. 20 at the community college.

2014 1016 MH65The sun sets on a Coast Guard MH-65 rescue helicopter. Coast Guard photoHowever, the Coast Guard has announced that they are no longer planning to attend the hearing. What that means for the hundreds of commercial fishermen and other boaters in the area and their hope that they might convince the Coast Guard to reinstate the MH-65 remains to be seen.

As of Nov. 30 — the opening day of the Dungeness crab season — Newport and Charleston, S.C., are both on the Coast Guard’s chopping block as a result of budget cuts. The closure of the Charleston Air Facility will save the Coast Guard $6 million a year. Two other helicopters in the region will be reassigned, which reportedly leaves just three helicopters — one in the air and two on stand-by — for an area covering nearly 600 miles, from the North Carolina state line to Melbourne Beach, Fla.

We all understand tight budgets, but these cuts are putting lives at risk. Gone are the days of lead-lined boots that help you sink fast in the event of a sinking or fall overboard. We’ve changed the fishing culture to incorporate a higher expectation of survival, and that includes improving the use of Coast Guard-approved safety gear. Fishermen are increasingly responsible for their survival — as much as they reasonably can be — spending more of their own meager budgets on PLBs, inflatable vests and emergency lights.

We have to press the Coast Guard to ensure that these efforts toward improving fishing safety continue to make it worthwhile for fishermen to invest in their own safety. The Coast Guard must continue to do its best to fulfill the pledge that if a fisherman survives an event at sea, they might be rescued in a reasonable — and survivable — amount of time.

If you can, I encourage you to attend the forum in Newport. And please take a moment to sign this petition to keep the Newport helicopter.

You can also contact the Coast Guard by writing a letter to:
Adm. Paul Zukunft
Commandant (CG-00)
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 2nd St. S.W. STOP 7000
Washington, D.C. 20593-7000

As always, I am enjoying gathering your onboard photos for our upcoming Crew Shots issue. This year again we requested shots of your crew on deck wearing their PFDs or other safety gear.

2014 1009 CoastGuardNewportCoast Guard air crew from Newport, Ore., hoists a fisherman after his 28-foot boat sank on May 25, 2014. Coast Guard imageBut access to timely rescue is another key factor in crew safety. One week ago, the Coast Guard announced plans to close its air station in Newport, Ore., and transfer its MH-65 Dolphin helicopter 95 miles south to North Bend, Ore., as of Nov. 30.

According to state Rep. David Gomberg, the move would delay response times to Newport, Waldport and Depoe Bay by about an hour. This year the Newport air station responded to 40 distress calls via helicopter and saved lives in at least five cases. This area hosts nearly 250 commercial fishing boats, including many Dungeness crabbers, one of the deadliest fisheries in the country.

I know fishermen across the country are grateful for the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard who put their lives at risk to help the crews of at-risk fishing boats. This is in no way a criticism of the Coast Guard and the valuable work they do. However, this decision is literally a life and death matter for hundreds of commercial fishermen.

Tomorrow, Oregon’s delegation staff will meet with Coast Guard representatives in Washington, D.C., and there will be a public forum with the Coast Guard in Newport at 5:30 on Oct. 20 at the community college.

You can sign the petition to keep the air station open or write a letter to:
Admiral Paul Zukunft
Commandant (CG-00)
US Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 2nd St. SW STOP 7000
Washington DC 20593-7000

Jerry Schill stepped back into the center ring in April when he took back the helm of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, a trade association that represents commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors.

2014 0814 loggerhead copyA loggerhead escapes a fishing net through a turtle excluder device. NOAA photoSchill had stepped down in 2005 and had since held the position of interim executive director. But now that he’s back, he’s committed to reenergizing the voice of the association.

And that’s exactly what he’s done so far.

Just last week, the association (and the affiliated Carteret County Fishermen’s Association) filed suit against the state and federal governments for failing to enforce the Endangered Species Act in the protection of sea turtles.

The complaint states that while commercial fishermen have been required to adhere to a number of measures in efforts to protect sea turtles, the defendants have failed to take any action to prevent the illegal takes of sea turtles in the recreational hook and line fishery.

These lawsuits, not unlike the suit Gulf of Mexico snapper fishermen recently won, is one way the commercial fishing industry has of fighting back against the endless slate of NGO lawsuits that seek to hamper commercial fishing under the guise of straw-man protective measures.

If we want to preserve both healthy fisheries and healthy oceans, we have to accept the bottom line that we all have the same goal. We cannot have any sort of balance between healthy local seafood and healthy seas by allowing frivolous lawsuits to threaten fisheries, especially when the easy targets are the family-friendly small-boat fleets (the fisheries that provide the bulk of the seafood you find in your local stores and restaurants).

We have to decide what our values are, and despite what Oceana and many other supposedly altruistic organizations would have the public believe, the answers are not simple. We have to work together, and we need our management agencies to apply the rules fairly to all sectors.

Page 8 of 39

Inside the Industry

The American Fisheries Society is honoring recently retired Florida Institute of Oceanography director Bill Hogarth with the Carl R. Sullivan Fishery Conservation Award — one of the nation's premier awards in fisheries science - in recognition of his long career and leadership in preserving some of the world's most threatened species, advocating for environmental protections and leading Florida's scientific response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Read more ...

The Marine Stewardship Council has appointed Eric Critchlow as the new U.S. Program Director. Critchlow will be based in the MSC US headquarters in Seattle. He is a former vice president of Lusamerica Foods and has over 35 years in the seafood industry.

Read more ...
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