Our House: A fishwife’s top 10 rants

Picture the short, round, gray-haired fishwife pushing her fishbox across the stage, dusting it off, and stepping up to the microphone. I’m on a rant, and I’m sharing, because sharing is caring.


Rant #1

Last year I was fed up with the Dungeness domoic acid closure and decided that we, the Dungeness fishermen, needed some public outreach. I worked with David Goldenberg of the California Salmon Council to take over the salmon booth at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston and turn it into a California Dungeness crab booth. Having a presence on the worldwide market is so important, and I can’t see why others don’t agree with me. The stuff some other countries call “seafood” stuns me. And people eat this junk. What’s worse is some people think it’s good! We need to have a marketing program in place. Other countries do it, why not the USA?

Rant #2

The week after Boston, we had the California Fisheries Forum in Sacramento. Usually the night before the testimonies, we the fishermen of the state, feed the powers that be. Sometimes I just want all the suits to follow the Old Man of the Sea around for two weeks. “Oh you’re tired? Oh you can’t keep up? Well now you know just exactly how your food gets produced. So come off your power trip cloud and join the real world.” You know the stuff you vote on? Well it affects real people in the real world with no pensions.

Rant #3

The next day we had our testimonies to the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. I don’t know who decided it was a good idea to give me a microphone, but I do try to represent fishing families. I had a very hard time keeping my mouth shut when Charlton Bonham, our director of Fish and Wildlife (side note here: Exactly how much did it cost to change the name on the stationary alone from “Fish and Game” to “Fish and Wildlife,” and exactly why?), spoke about how hard his team had it last year and how hard they worked through the domoic acid closure, how small their budget was and why he wanted to raise our landing taxes. Chuck it’s called, doing your job! And if you can’t balance your budget, do what we in the real world do — cut back. Don’t try to balance your $20 million budget shortfall on the backs of commercial fishermen.

Rant #4

And then it was time to come home for awhile and attend meetings here on the Central Coast of California. The Central Coast is under attack, yet again. The Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation are behind the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. If this gets the green light, it will join and pretty much link the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary. Enough is freakin’ enough.

Touting the proposed sanctuary as a tourist destination is just bull. Ask the people in Fresno or Bakersfield if they come over to the coast to visit the NMS. No. They come over to cool off and don’t even know what an NMS is. You want to do something productive? Clean up the beach, don’t toss your trash, bring back glass bottles instead of plastic.

When I attend meetings I am taking time off of my job that pays for health insurance. I know the fishermen are taking time off the ocean. We lose money every time there is a meeting in the middle of the day, while the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation have people who get paid to attend these meetings. And if you truly want to learn about the ocean again, follow the guys who spend their lives out there. Talk to them, don’t belittle them.

Rant #5

I’m so tired those ads in airports that blast “We speak for the spotted, three toed, sloth because they can’t speak for themselves.” Earthjustice or Oceana and the Hollywood crew. “Hey, like, let’s a have a party to show the world how cool and totally awesome we are to talk about the state of the oceans because, like, we’re fully qualified, because, like, you know, we once acted in a role with a wetsuit costume.”

You want to learn about the ocean? Again talk to someone who spends his entire life on the ocean making a living. These people observe everything and appreciate the little things even more. I can’t tell you how many pictures I’ve seen of little lost birds being given respite on a boat. Commercial fishermen do not set out to catch or kill everything in their paths. Every single fisherman I know believes in preserving something for the future. And Hollywood, I know as much about making a movie as you know about the ocean environment.

Rant #6

Incorrect information in the news. Yeah, we’re still dealing with the Crab Will Kill You domoic acid issue and the Fukushima radiation scare. Last night, our local news station had a story about a whale that had come from Mexico entangled in a piece of metal. The piece of metal of course had to be from a Dungeness crab pot. Except it wasn’t. It looked like a piece of metal from an aquaculture site. But it was a piece of crab pot in the media’s eye because that’s what they have been told (see Rant #5). Incorrect info gets out there and lives on and on and on. And that bad information does damage.

Rant #7

The entire disaster declaration for the California Dungeness crab season 2015-16. I understand the state closed us for “public safety.” No, I don’t want to make anyone sick with our crab. But when the government says we can’t fish and shutters our business from November to the end of March with no contingency plans, well that’s just asinine. I dare the state of California to close Walmart during the Christmas season for public safety. You know what I’m talking about, those people fighting over the dolls.

A hold full of Dungeness, Bodega Bay, 2013. Faces of California Fishing photo.

My point is the state wouldn’t dare close another business. Crab didn’t even give anyone diarrhea while a certain fast-casual burrito chain was killing people at the same time. And now here it is over a year later, and there has been no disaster funding. That’s not OK.

We made it through, but we’re older. Our deckhand son moved in with us, and he’s still here. He can’t afford to move out, as San Luis Obispo County is now the sixth most expensive place to live in the United States. It’s not OK to take away a man’s living and not have any contingency plan. But I’m not holding my breath for any disaster money. I’m just pissed that someone with a suit in an office made this decision without any thought to those it would affect.

Rant #8

The California king salmon season. We’ve had a drought, rivers too warm, not enough water, dam failures, fish in the hatcheries dying because of pump failures. And now Bodega Bay was all set to release juvenile smolt, and that program was shut down over a lawsuit by an environmental group. They were trying to put fish back into the system, not kill them. (Again, see Rant #5.) I’m tired of seeing fishermen pitted against farmers and ranchers. We all feed people, just in a different manner. We all need water.

Rant #9

People not knowing where their food comes from or how it gets to their table. A lady at Weight Watchers this morning said she didn’t eat red meat for environmental reasons. Of course I’ve seen her at meetings for the proposed National Marine Sanctuary. Every single food product comes from the environment and affects something. Except the plastic nacho cheese on nachos at football games. But I’m not sure that qualifies as food.

Rant #10

Man buns and the white paper towel bits that the guys stuff in their hoodies and I fail to find before the sweatshirts hit the washing machine. Enough said.

About the author

Lori French

Lori French is the founder of the Faces of California Fishing in Morro Bay, Calif.

  • Gary P. Joyce

    Hear, hear!!!!

  • DickyG

    Right On, Lori. We have been experiencing and ranting about similar management SNAFUs here on the East Coast for a few decades now. We need to keep our collective voice activated before there is no domestic “wild catch” Fisheries left. So thanks for your energy infusion and please, keep on keepin’ on.

  • Bruce Schactler

    Lori, I knew this was you before I got past the first sentence.I warned you to be nice if they gave you that microphone….hahaha
    We, as the US seafood Industry can take a step forward with marketing and development help by supporting bills in the US Congress that will put the directive funding authority for the Saltonstall/Kennedy Grant Program back into the hands of industry. S1322 and HR214 do exactly that by re-establishing the American Fisheries Advisory Commitee (AFAC). The AFAC will be made up of fishermen, processors, marketeers, growers and other “experts of the American Seafood Industry”. Rather than NOAA deciding what our needs are and who will be funded to address those needs, it will be done for industry, by industry through the AFAC. Look it up and call your delegation for support

  • liltrouble

    Good rant!

    Up here in Washington, I am always baffled how the non-treaty commercials are kept off the water on the demoic acid closures and the treaty tribes are stringing their pots in the same closed waters and selling for top dollar. Doesn’t make sense. That’s my rant¡

  • TK

    Wonderful Rant(s) Lori!

    “Exactly how much did it cost to change the name on the stationary alone from “Fish and Game” to “Fish and Wildlife”
    Terrific question and reminder that it is a director’s responsibility to stay within budget, not wail!
    The entire Fish and Game government agencies have forgotten why they really exist.
    Unfortunately, scary disaster scenarios are what many organizations use to pump civilians and government for funds. Every alleged green organization one can easily name, including Sierra Club, are in a funds donation business, with scant funds allocated for genuine education and/or research.
    So, keep ranting!

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