This past weekend marked 28 years since I moved to Gloucester, MA and started working on fisheries and ocean issues first as a Greenpeace ocean campaigner. Right out of the gate I could tell that this wasn’t a black and white issue - it wasn’t about fishing or not fishing. It was about who gets to fish and all the social, ecological, economic, cultural, and food access implications that come with that decision.
From the start, I saw the parallels between family farmers’ struggles and that of community based fishing people. Not surprisingly, some of the players entering fishing in the early 90s were the same as the ones pushing family farmers to the brink.
Tyson had just bought five factory trawlers to fish for pollock in the Bering Sea. I bought a couple of shares of Tyson then to keep track of them. They were proudly declaring “we’re not just chicken anymore” in their annual report.
Caterpillar had just bought a big chunk of fishing rights after walking into a bankruptcy court with a briefcase full of cash to grab some halibut and sablefish quotas that were privatized through Individual Transferable Quotas - now called Catch Shares.
I recall sitting around this living room with a few of my fellow Greenpeace colleagues thinking about organizing strategies to shed light on all this while elevating the voice of fishing communities wanting to fight the latest corporate capture of something that belongs to no one.
Our big idea was to pull together something like Farm Aid had done for family farmers. We called it FishStock!
Years later after I had already left Greenpeace and started working at NAMA, we joined the National Family Farm Coalition as its first non-fishing member organization. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the NFFC collaboration opened up a relationship with Farm Aid. I went to my first Farm Aid as an advocate in 2008 sheepishly sitting behind a table with the late Kathy Ozer and not getting too far because here I was talking about fish to an audience who’d come to hear about farms.