Monday, January 24, 2011

A Day in the Life

Saving me the effort of typing it all up myself, South Coast today has an article on the recent history of fisheries management. It's a decent summary of what has happened and what has not happened, but I do think it fails to capture exactly what is going on on the docks. There is still a high degree of uncertainty for fishermen as the fishing year draws to a close. Recently several large quota holders expressed support for Catch Shares, while small owner-operators continue to struggle. Additionally smaller ports are losing out. According to data assembled by Aaron Dority from the Penobscot East Resource Center,
"...between 2009 and 2010, we’ve seen a shift in the types of vessels landing fish, and where those fish are landed. While we all acknowledge that new ACL’s needed to reduce catch across the board, small boats (under 50’) have experienced a far greater catch reduction (47% reduction of landings compared to 2009, as of Nov 30), while landings for boats over 50’ have increased 8%. Similarly, where those fish are being landed has changed. Maine (outside of Portland) is down 50% - I’m sure that much of that reduction is reflected in Port Clyde. New Hampshire landings are similarly down 50%."
This article, by Richard Gaines of the Gloucester Daily Times, talks in more detail about the lawsuit by the cities of New Bedford and Gloucester against NOAA, which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is trying to join. Curiously, a side note of this lawsuit is the Conservation Law Foundation's opposition to the Commonwealth joining the suit as well as opposing 'discovery' of emails between CLF and NOAA/NMFS. If one were a conspiracy theorist, one might wonder what they have to hide?

Well, some people think wind power is the driving force behind the desire to consolidate the fishing industry. One might think that fishing and wind turbines could co-exist. In Ireland there is a wind farm and you can walk and bike right around and between the turbines and listen to the sounds much like reams of paper being ripped apart as the blades slice through the air well overhead. Are we really the kind of country that can't find a way to balance competing needs?

Lastly, as the Coast Guard issues a frost warning this morning, one might keep in mind that fishing in New England in the winter is a hard way to make a living. I've been on boats in icing conditions, and its really amazing just how quickly a vessel can get covered in ice. One night returning from the North River in Scituate around this time of year on a small tugboat, an unexpected shift in the wind brought heavy increasing seas and heavy icing. The vessel quickly lost its smooth running style and started fighting the waves. We lost visibillity completely to the ice, and going up front to clear ice was out of the question as the seas mounted to 8-10 feet.

The vessel, a Duffy 31
quickly lost its smooth running characteristics and started heaving and lumbering through the waves. My mate on board and I struggled to make it to the lee of Nahant where the seas calmed enough that we could properly assess the icing. We were able to clear some ice, but with the wind NNE shifting to N then NNW, we were soon in calm seas on our way back to Salem Harbor. We'd taken such a beating it took several strong drinks to get the chill out of our bones. Nearly a month later my mate was still complaining that his knees hurt from the pounding we took that night.

As you enjoy your fish this week, spare a thought for the men and women who put their lives at risk to do the job they love to bring us the seafood we love. Enjoy and stay warm!

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