National Fisherman


Past is prime

By Jessica Hathaway

We are traveling back to the future with wooden and sailing boats and quantifying your rights as fishermen in this issue. Oftentimes, we plan a book (that's what we call each copy of the magazine) around a theme, and occasionally a theme reveals itself well into the process. While the topics covered in these pages may seem disjointed, they are held together by a thread that winds its way through this issue: the inclination to reach into the past for some modern-day inspiration.

14sept NF EditorsNote 320pxWideAs Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley's story on the Sal-C begins (page 26), her owner just wanted a classic wooden boat to go fishing every week out of Santa Barbara, Calif. But after a couple of years of loading the octogenarian boat's deck with crab pots and rockfish gear and conducting one major overhaul, Paul Teall opted to keep her afloat with 12,000 pounds of cement and wire and 35,000 staples.

Some fishermen are opting to stay afloat in this time of ever-rising fuel prices by rigging their boats with sails. Associate Editor Melissa Wood tells the story (starting on page 20) of a few West Coast fishermen who are using sails and other fuel-saving innovations to cut operating costs without requiring more hands on deck to manage the classic (and in some cases ultramodern) technology.

In Around the Yards, Larry Chowning, our Chesapeake Bay field editor, writes about the oyster boat Mobjack. The classic deadrise spent many years tied to a lawsuit and a piling at Smith's Marine Railway in Dare, Va., until oysterman Richard Green came to her rescue. Green, who hails from a long line of Chesapeake boatbuilders, is restoring the 72-foot wooden boat to work his leased oyster grounds in Virginia. Read the full story on page 36.

Freelance writer Nick Rahaim explores the origin of seamen's rights in his piece on deckhand contracts and legal authority. We may think of fishing contracts as a modern-day device that protects owners and crew members in our sue-happy culture, but as Rahaim describes, the legal history of mariners' rights dates back to the 12th century and the Rolls of Oléron, which our Supreme Court adopted in 1823. So if you think there's little precedent for your rights as a contract worker, you've got nearly 10 centuries of seawork to back you up. That said, the rules are still a bit tricky. Rahaim breaks it all down for you starting on page 22.

Teall's boat is still a wooden boat. The fishermen using sails to steam to and from the grounds are still modern fishing boats. The Mobjack will once again be an oyster boat, though she will slip back into the stream of an overhauled fishery. Crew members' rights are guided by modern laws and interpretation but seated in centuries of practice and precedence. What's inspiring is seeing that the old ways are still alive and well, even if they're being tweaked for today's fishing industry.

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Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Read more...

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

Read more...
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