Written by Jen Finn
A few good fishermen
Since 1975, whoever happens to be sitting at the helm of this magazine commits to the daunting task of naming Highliners from either the East and Gulf coasts or the West Coast and Alaska. It's a daunting task not because it is difficult to find worthy award recipients in the industry, but because the process of picking and choosing three people to honor for their life's work seems like too important an assignment to leave to one person.
That's why I never embark on this mission alone. The process occupies many weeks of phone calls and emails to people in all parts of the fishing industry. And yet, it's nothing compared with the decades of service each of our Highliners commits to America's fishing fleets. I am very proud to add the names of Robert Heyano of Dillingham, Alaska; Jerry McCune of Cordova, Alaska; and Robert Hezel of Clinton, Wash., to our growing roster of phenomenal fishermen.
Though those named are dedicated and successful commercial fishermen, the qualifications for becoming a National Fisherman Highliner include the propensity to give back to your fishing community and your industry. Between them, our three new award winners have logged nearly 100 years of service to this industry.
At a time when fishing legacies are threatened by the likes of Pebble Mine (the fight against which Heyano helped to lead) and federal legislation that is easily influenced by nongovernmental organizations with no vested interest in fisheries, we could use a few good fishermen to lead the way.
I applaud all of our Highliners for their service to the American fishing industry. I hope you enjoy reading their stories, starting on page 28.
In early October, Alaska Ship & Drydock (renamed Vigor Alaska in mid-October after the yard's parent company) launched another industry leader with the 136-foot longliner Arctic Prowler. It's one of the first modern fishing boats built to class specifications, the largest fishing boat built in Alaska and the first launched from Vigor's state-of-the-art assembly hall in Ketchikan. Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley's full story starts on page 36.
And there's more good work coming out of Alaska, but the story takes place in the Gulf of Mexico. Last summer the gulf shrimping industry was deeply saddened to hear about a 15-year-old shrimper who was crushed to death when he got caught in the winch drum on his family's fishing boat. When the crew from the Alaska Field Station of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health heard this heartbreaking story, they decided to take their winch E-stop device down South and see if it could work to save lives. What they found was a whole new world of fishing mechanics. Read the rest on page 42.
We can always talk fish politics, but sometimes it's nice to be able to tell a few good stories. Thanks to all of you who give back to make this industry what it is — a hard-working extended family.
— Jessica Hathaway
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