Written by Leslie Taylor
For many years now, Willis Blount, the last offshore commercial fisherman still operating around Nantucket, once the center of the country’s whaling industry, has been having a tough time making ends meet. Although he has been supplying fresh fish to many of Nantucket’s finest restaurants and stores since 1975 — when he moved to the island from Rhode Island — he simply can’t overcome the changing economics of the fishing industry. The first of many problems is that he is permitted to fish only for so-called cold water species like cod, haddock, halibut and flounder, and the warming Atlantic Ocean water has pushed the supply of such fish farther north, beyond where he is allowed to fish for them.
For the last few years, he has been losing plenty — $25,000 to $50,000 a year. Past losses were covered by payments from the executors of his father’s estate, which is still being settled. But this year, the executors said the money had run out. On top of that, Mr. Blount’s insurance company told him that the Ruthie B had to be hauled out of the water, at his expense, to have its hull inspected, a task he had avoided for about a decade.
That was when someone suggested a Kickstarter fund-raising campaign to allow Mr. Blount to keep fishing. Kickstarter, of course, is the Brooklyn-based company that allows people to donate money over the Internet for projects of their choosing. (Investors in Kickstarter campaigns do not receive equity in the projects they choose to finance; Kickstarter itself takes about 3.5 percent of the money raised.) “We would have never, in a million years, thought of it on our own,” Mrs. Blount said.
When the Kickstarter campaign ended in May, the Blounts had raised $34,170 from 143 backers, which netted them about $29,000 after Kickstarter’s fee and other expenses. They are using the money to pay to have the hull inspected, to pay for fuel for Mr. Blount to pilot the boat back to Nantucket from Providence, where it had been inspected, and to pay for a down payment on the insurance.
Read the full story at the New York Times>>
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