Continuing a tradition that began in 1975, I am honored to name the 2018 NF Highliners, representing U.S. fishing communities on the East and Gulf coasts. A Highliner is a career commercial fisherman who is also known for giving back to the industry, locally, nationally or globally. This year, we include in the ranks a lifetime achievement award winner for a career of service to commercial fisheries.

The NF crew is delighted to recognize Ryan Bradley of Long Beach, Miss., representing Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United; Bob Jones of Tallahassee, Fla., our lifetime achievement award winner, representing the Southeastern Fisheries Association; and last but certainly not least, Kristan Porter of Cutler, Maine, representing the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, as well as several other local and small-scale fisheries.

Each of these men has gone above and beyond to ensure a future for local and regional fisheries.

A fifth-generation Floridian, Bob Jones grew up in St. Augustine with little interest in the fishing industry. Then one day his sister fell into deep water at a dock and was rescued by a nearby commercial fisherman. Jones believes she would likely have drowned if not for that fisherman. That set him on a 55-year quest to pay back that fisherman and marked the start of a lifelong passion to protect the industry. Jones will retire this year, yet we know him well enough to predict that his efforts to sustain commercial fishing access in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeastern Atlantic are far from over.

Kristan Porter started fishing in middle school with his cousins and family friends. A few decades later, Porter’s robust portfolio of fisheries shows that he’s not scared of hard work. And spending most of his life in the remote Downeast Maine town of Cutler hasn’t kept him from being an active leader in the industry. Porter is new to his role as president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, following in the footsteps of fellow Highliner David Cousens, who led the group for 27 years.

Ryan Bradley may be our youngest inductee at 31, yet he has decades of experience on the water and years of industry leadership under his belt. Bradley started shrimping with his grandfather, Percy Bradley, at the age of 8, and was captaining by 15. In 2014, Bradley helped revive the inactive Mississippi Gulf Coast Fisherman’s Organization, leading the rebranded organization (now called Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United) as its executive director for the past four years.

Congratulations to the Highliner class of ’18!

Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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