National Fisherman

Strength in numbers

Sometimes we get so caught up in the politics of keeping people fishing that we forget to talk about the essence of it, what brings fishermen to the dock in the morning, whatever the weather, regardless of their aches and pains from the days or weeks before.

The Keep Fishermen Fishing rally this spring in Washington, D.C. (see our coverage in Around the Coasts on page 12 and a letter to the editor in Mail Buoy on page 8) was political in nature, but at the heart of it was the unification of fishermen who simply want to keep their lifestyle and livelihood on the water. The gathering was an all too rare collaboration between recreational and commercial sectors. And it garnered attention from an impressive group of state and federal politicians.

Though not every U.S. fisherman may agree with the cause behind the rally — to allow for some flexibility in the Magnuson-Stevens Act's rebuilding guidelines — many do. Their unity and positive momentum is inspiring.

We can pull together to push back against threats like the flawed science upon which Gulf of Maine cod quotas are based and Pebble Mine, which if built, would loom over the watershed of the largest wild salmon run in the world. We can decide that we will not hang our fellow fishermen out to dry when they face dire consequences. We will not merely shrug and reply, "What is there to be done?"

That is a question to which Hoopers Island, Md., waterman and entrepreneur Johnny Shockley has an answer. Shockley joined up with a local seafood dealer to launch Chesapeake Gold from his 38-foot converted houseboat of the same name. The company specializes in Chesapeake Bay oyster aquaculture and sales.

Shockley, a third-generation fisherman, is a man on a mission when it comes to tending his crop and urging other watermen to join his venture (or set off on their own) to keep alive the tradition of watermen working the bay and landing their catch on the local docks. Kathy Bergren Smith's story begins on page 20.

For a glimpse of unadulterated fishing enthusiasm from a lifelong Alaska fisherman, we turn to Dennis Sperl. The Petersburg, Alaska, beam-trawl shrimper found his muse in the form of incurable fishing fever. NF Senior Editor Linc Bedrosian's profile of the twice-published fisher poet starts on page 24.

If you find inspiration in more concrete (or steel) things, you might want to turn straight to Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley's cover story of four big boats being built or overhauled for Alaska fisheries (p. 30). Harvesters of Alaska's bounty are making waves. These significant additions to the fleets are being built on the West Coast as well as in Florida.

If we can send big boats into sustainable fisheries, then we must be doing something right. And if we can unify behind local, regional and national causes, then we can preserve the American commercial fishing industry, our working waterfronts and everything that is inspiring about this way of life.

— Jessica Hathaway

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.


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.

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