I woke up on Saturday looking forward to a great three-day weekend. That is, until I learned that San Francisco’s historic Pier 45 (Fisherman’s Wharf) was on fire. Thankfully, through the efforts of the San Francisco Fire Department the fire, was contained to one building on the Pier. That only one firefighter was injured (a hand injury) is a blessing.
Then my thoughts shifted to my friends (fishermen and processors, alike) and a very horrible feeling took form in the pit of my stomach. My next thought was to reach out and offer to help in any way I could because we’ve been there, and we commercial fishermen are family.
You see, back in November 1987, our boat the Langosta II capsized at the harbor entrance of Morro Bay. That was one of the blackest days of our lives. Just the morning before, we had been at the top of the world when our first son was born. In less than 36 hours, we had a new family, lost our livelihood, and my dad-in-law.
So this past Saturday, I knew just exactly how other fishermen’s wives felt. While no one perished in the Pier 45 fire, lives were indelibly changed. Feelings of helplessness mixed with complete shock. Our boats are family members, and they had just taken a severe hit. In our world, boats include all the gear necessary to ply our trade. In our case, people (both known and unknown) stepped up to the plate. Other fishermen and friends came to help right the Langosta, bring in our crab pots, feed our cows, and pick our avocados. Another fishwife stayed with me and our baby the first week to help me navigate this new uncharted, unplanned, unimagined world. You can’t repay things like this, but you sure as hell can pay it forward and help others when something like this alters their world. I want other commercial fishing families to know they are not alone.
Seafood is a San Francisco staple. Fisherman’s Wharf is a destination. San Francisco’s commercial fishermen bring to market sustainably and locally sourced Dungeness crab, salmon and other species. They are the foundation of the San Francisco seafood economy. In 2018, 12.43 million pounds of seafood with an ex-vessel value of $20.22 million was landed into San Francisco. Dungeness crab accounted for 2.21 million pounds worth $9.33 million; chinook salmon contributed 451,774 pounds worth $3.86 million.
Fishermen are just one part of the seafood economy. Fishermen depend on off-loaders, processors, ice machines, fuel docks, marine mechanics, etc., to assist their businesses. These businesses are, in turn, dependent on San Francisco’s commercial fishermen. If San Francisco’s fishermen are unable to ply their trades because of gear lost in the fire, what happens to those businesses? What happens to all those families?
Gear can be replaced, pots can be rerigged, San Francisco’s commercial fishermen and women will once again provide San Francisco with the highest quality seafood; but they cannot do it alone. So we ask you, please help us help our fishing families rebuild and recover from one of their darkest moments.
Please consider sending your tax-deductible donations to:
Institute for Fisheries Resources
P.O. Box 29196
San Francisco, CA 94129
Please note Pier 45 on the memo
All funds will be turned over to the Crab Boat Owners Association, which will, in turn, distribute them amongst our impacted San Francisco fishing families.
Pay it forward.
Lori Vaccaro French
F/V Langosta II
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations