Pilothouse log: Spill processing

Thirty years ago this spring, the Exxon Valdez took a wrong turn and changed the course of all of our lives. For some Prince William Sound fishing families, the disaster started a ripple effect that would change the region and their lives for generations.

This story was first published in the 2019 edition of Pilothouse guide. Subscribe today for digital and print access.

Bruce Buls, former technical editor for WorkBoat magazine and a longtime fisheries reporter, is based in Whidbey Island, Wash., and has been covering the Exxon Valdez story for decades. He wrote the 30th anniversary National Fisherman cover story for our March issue. But the saga has been so torturous and complex that we decided to split the anniversary coverage into two features. The second half you’ll find here on page 40. Bruce lays out the agonizing settlement process, how the oil giant used the corporation-friendly federal court system to whittle down its fines from a year’s profit to just a few days’ worth of profit.

And Exxon never lost any ground, unlike the fishermen whose lives and livelihoods were ruined as a result of negligence.

I can only hope that the timing of this anniversary will give some of the powers that be a moment’s pause in the rush to approve the permit for Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay. Fishery stakeholders were given a slight reprieve with an extended public comment period. Though this issue carries a July cover date, it should be in your mailbox well before the comment period deadline of June 29. You can submit your comments at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website or via mail. Visit our website or follow Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay on Facebook for updates.

Southwest Alaska was the first place I saw gyotaku — the Japanese art of fish printing. Not only is there a strong Japanese influence on Alaska’s seafood culture, but Alaskans also revere their wild fish the way the Japanese do.

I am delighted to share some of Christopher Dewees’ incredible collection of gyotaku as an excerpt from his book, “A Life Among Fishes,” which last year won two Indie Book Awards for Art as well as Science & Nature. Our selection from the book includes some background on the evolution of the art of gyotaku, step by step instructions, as well as reproductions of some of Dewees’ incredible prints. You’ll find it on page 18.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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