Trying to predict what will happen in the future is tricky business (just ask any weatherman). That doesn't stop any of us — including your favorite commercial fishing magazine — from doing it, though, does it? An interesting example of prognostications for the lobster industry, made in 1965, appears in the Fishing Back When column, found on page 4, in our May issue.
Fifty years ago, NF Managing Editor David Getchell wrote an article about what the lobster industry would look like in the future. For example, Getchell predicted that lobster boat hulls would be made of plastic — fiberglass reinforced plastic, that is.
"The days of wood lobster boats are numbered," Getchell wrote. "It's only a matter of time before someone makes a mold of a Maine lobster launch hull and begins turning out fiberglass lobster boats in quantity."
Getchell also saw promise in a British manufacturer's plastic igloo-shaped traps, which were said to be durable, lightweight (about 25 pounds per piece), and take up far less room on deck than the wooden traps used back then did; however it wasn't known if the new plastic traps would out-fish the traditional ones.
Alas, the plastic traps didn't gain favor here. However, Getchell did note that vinyl-coated wire traps that weighed half as much yet fished as well as the wooden variety, were making inroads. Other predictions Getchell made came to pass, too. Hand hauling of traps gave way to hydraulically powered haulers, and diesel power replaced gas engines.
Not bad, Mr. Getchell, not bad. Getchell understood innovations were coming to the lobster industry. "Like it or not, and many of us don't, changes in huge measure are in store for the lobster industry," he wrote. "If it is to survive as a profitable commercial fishery, lobstermen must face up to the future — and the sooner the better."
The spirit of innovation that sparked changes in the lobster industry remains with us today in a variety of fisheries. And in the May issue's Dock Talk column on page 10, you'll learn how a robust yet user-friendly electronic data collection system is designed and being used to help Northeast scallopers avoid yellowtail flounder bycatch.
Then you can turn to page 32 to find out about ideas Alaska salmon harvesters have for chilling and processing their catch aboard the boat. Wrangell, Alaska, fisherman Tanner Smith's new 49-foot combination boat, Netted Dreams, is outfitted to be able either freeze his salmon or chill them in a refrigerated seawater hold, or do both. And Bill Webber Jr. of Cordova, Alaska, is designing bleeding and heading systems for processing salmon onboard gillnetters.
It may still be awhile yet before someone develops the personal jet packs and flying cars that were supposed to be a hallmark of the 21st century. But clearly the spirit of innovation is alive and well within the fishing community today.