While the world went wild over the influx of great white sharks in our coastal waters and the dangers of ship strikes and entanglements to migrating whales, we apparently forgot to worry about where humans really sit on the vulnerability scale in our vast oceans.

But fishermen haven’t forgotten.

I’ve made a habit in my role at NF not to chase ambulances (or Coast Guard helicopters, as the case may be).

Stories of fishing tragedies often go viral — accidents, sinkings, mysterious disappearances, loss of life, and the occasional bizarre survival story. And that’s where one Massachusetts lobsterman found himself last week.

What a lot of people don’t know about commercial fishermen is that many love the lifestyle because it keeps them away from people. They’re not in an office, hanging by the water cooler for a whole host of reasons, and forced socialization is one of them.

But even the most extroverted, attention-seeking celebrities have admitted to struggling to cope with the crush of attention that comes from going viral — even for a good reason.

So what can we expect of a fisherman or any average American whose story goes public with a huge splash?

It’s shocking to be exposed like this out of the blue. I have found myself talking to fishermen and fishing families who have gone through this kind of public exposure, and oftentimes, their stories have the same bottom line: We didn’t know how to handle all of this press and pressure while we were just trying to cope with a major life event.

When I reach out to fishermen and their families, my goal is to listen, not to get the scoop. Maybe that’s a failing of ambition. Maybe I’m in the wrong job. But my priority is the people and the stories you have to tell that are bigger than this one moment in time when your world seemed to be falling apart.

I know lots more people in this industry and in our coastal communities who feel the same way and act on it. Support for fishing families is remarkable in times of need, and we have long memories.

If you share a viral fishing story on social media, I encourage you to match that social share with a contribution to a fishing community organization or a GoFundMe to raise support funds for families recovering from tragedies. Maybe do the same with every comment on a viral story, if you can.

We won’t solve people’s curiosity by refusing to talk about sensational things. It’s just not human nature. But we can help by putting our money where our mouths are and giving something back.

If you share this story, please post it with a link to your favorite fishing charity or organization!

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 16 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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