Getting old gear out of the water, and giving it new life
This winter, when he’s not fishing, Tom Smith will spend time in his backyard replacing some of the webbing in his nets.
The nets he uses to catch bluefish are 500 yards long, and he switches out a section of them every year.
“I actually enjoy it. It’s like winter therapy,” said Smith, of Orleans.
Later this winter, or maybe this spring when Smith is back on the water feeling the bite of the wind, he can take satisfaction thinking about someone being cozy and warm on account of electricity generated from his old nets.
Career fair reminds cadets about a non-traditional path to the sea
Mario Stark spends his summers helping run his uncle’s boat, the Hindsight, out of Rock Harbor in Orleans.
But now he is back at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and when he saw a booth the Fishermen’s Alliance had set up at the Academy’s bi-annual career fair he immediately walked over.
George Maynard, research coordinator at the Fishermen’s Alliance, started to explain about a new crew training program the non-profit is launching.
Stark smiled, having heard from his uncle how hard it is to find good crew -- with him back at school, even harder.
That lament is the main reason a group of captains approached the Fishermen’s Alliance and asked if staff could set up a training program that teaches aspiring crewmen about what to expect on the back of a fishing boat.
Superstitions aren’t about Halloween, but it’s a fun time to remember them
In celebration of Halloween, we reached out to fishermen to see if they have beliefs that may seem odd to landlubbers.
“OMG, fishermen are superstitious,” said Sandy Keese, who comes from a fishing family and has sons and a grandson who fish.
For example, no “bad” women aboard, which was reinforced when a woman she knew visited a boat, after which the fuel tank was mistakenly filled with gasoline rather than diesel.
The “no women aboard” superstition has persisted for centuries, supposedly because women make the sea gods angry or jealous. But at least on Cape few if any fishermen have paid that one much attention.
One wonderful result of having longevity in this fisheries world is that over time, many talented and committed people have made their way to our doorstep, accomplished a great deal while here, and then used those experiences to springboard into other fascinating jobs and positions within the broader fishing community.
We thought it would be fun to visit and revisit some of our friends and former colleagues, to find out what they’ve been up to since, well, you might say “graduation” from the Fishermen’s Alliance. Peter Baker, who, like us, has been fighting to protect herring for close to 20 years, is our fourth in a series of profiles that will appear here in the e-magazine on a regular basis.Read his storyhere.
There was a time when schools like the excellent Cape Cod Vocational Tech in Harwich had courses for aspiring fishermen, much as they do for aspiring builders, plumbers, and electricians. They taught about boats and gear, nets and line, safety and navigation. The Tech even had its own boat to bring students onboard for hands-on work.
Those courses slowed to a halt for a variety of reasons, mainly because demand decreased as the industry shrank. But here’s the Catch-22; without a good way for young people to pick up essential skills to join the fishery, and without reinforcement that fishing is a great career path, the industry will continue to decline even as opportunities to make a solid, sustainable, independent living come back.
To try to turn that downward spiral around, we’ve come up with a new program.
We’ve put together a five-course curriculum, focused on what it takes to be safe and productive on the back of a commercial fishing boat. Thanks in large part to our state Senator Julian Cyr, state Representative Sarah Peake, and the rest of the Cape Cod delegation, we’ve received $40,000 in state funding to get this program off the ground. And we have great partners to help us in teaching and training.
This year we hope to start with two courses, each with 12-15 people who might be recent high school or college graduates, or anyone 18 years or older who wants to become a crewmember on a local boat. Public school guidance counselors and vocational teachers will help us recruit. So will word of mouth – which is where you come in.
Here’s the basic course rundown:
Day one is all about the fundamentals of boating safety, taught by members of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Day two focuses on First Aid and CPR, taught by instructors from the New England Maritime in Hyannis, which has been offering accredited maritime training since 1991.
Day three layers in survival training, including capsizing survival, also taught by New England Maritime.
Day four brings in topics related to commercial fishing as we do it on Cape Cod, from the challenges of different gear types to basics like knot tying. Local captains are stepping up, committing their time to offer potential deckhands insights and wisdom gained from decades of experience.
Day five gets into hands-on fish handling and deck safety, again taught by members of the Fishermen’s Alliance.
When students “graduate,” they will receive a certificate acknowledging their success, support for purchasing essentials like foul weather gear, and join a social gathering with local captains which hopefully will become an informal jobs fair, a way to rub elbows and create a personal pipeline for good opportunities.
Of course five courses does not a fisherman make. But completing a course like this offers a big leg up, a way for aspiring crew to show they are serious and for captains to know a new hand has the basics. Then the education can continue; there is no better training for young fishermen interested in someday becoming captains and owners than to work with those who have accomplished that goal, who are proving that independent fishermen and entrepreneurs can still make it on Cape Cod.
Do you know someone you think might be a great candidate for this course? Do you have ideas on how we can broaden our outreach, appeal, and funding, to be sure we reach everyone who might be interested? Drop a line to my colleague George Maynard at
George@capecodfishermen.org, and we’ll get back to you.
All of us welcome the idea of a Blue Economy for the Cape and Islands as a great way to focus and frame our future. This training initiative, and what it hopes to accomplish, is as blue as it gets.
(John Pappalardo is the CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance)
On the Horizon
We have lots of exciting stuff happening.
We started a new media initiative, The First Blue Economy, with help from cultural councils across the Cape and The Chatham Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation. The initiative includes both videos - with help from Cape Cod Community Media Center - and podcasts which have begun airing on WOMR.
To listen to the first six - which range from an Oyster Flats class at Monomoy Middle School to the importance of eating local skate - click here.
Much of our work, including our efforts to explore how to give new life to old fishing gear (you can read about the effort elsewhere in our e-mag) is funded by members, individuals and community groups. Our traditional fishing industry continues to thrive as a vital contributor to Cape Cod’s blue economy because of people like them and you. Click here to become a donor. And thank you to our amazing list of sponsors; AllWays Health Partners, Ben & Jerry's North Eastham, Canyon View Capital, Cape Cod 5, Cape Cod Life Publications, Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham Fish & Lobster, Eastern Bank, evolutioneyes, inc., Fisherman’s Daughter, Gibson Sotheby's International Realty, Hog Island Beer Co., Marder Seafood, Nauset Disposal, Nauset Marine, New England Sales Solutions, North Star Marine Insurance Services, Rockland Trust Bank, Rogers & Gray Insurance, Seamen's Bank, Shepley Wood Products, TD Bank, The Black Dog, The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, The Nature Conservancy, UBS Financial Services and ZUDY.
Free stuff! We are trying to reach 5,000 subscribers for our e-magazine so are giving away a bag of swag. Since you are one of the enviable ones already on the list, convince a few friends to sign up and have them split the goods with you. We will pick a lucky winner from the next 50 subscribers. Subscribe here.
On the Water
Ever wonder how a boat, or a fish, got its name? Want the word on what people are catching --- or how to cook it?
This fall has been stormy, with some unusually wacky winds. That has meant unwanted time off the water for fishermen, and ongoing efforts to move and protect boats. Sometimes best efforts come up short, which happened earlier this month. That tough moment came with a beautiful one as Captains Nick Muto and Jan Margeson joined forces to get a commercial boat Lori B off the beach and back in the water. Watch this
video to see the recovery.
On the Shore
This community thrives in large part because of a constellation of non-profit organizations and engaged businesses.
After a successful initial year, WaterWORKS is back again on Tuesday, Jan. 8. WaterWORKS is a hands-on career day connecting high school students to Blue Economy career opportunities. Once again we are participating in the event at the community college where high school students get a glimpse of many Blue Economy jobs and career paths available to them through demonstrations, exhibits, interactive displays, and hands-on activities. There is still room for vendors.For more information, visit:bluecapecod.org/waterworks-career-day
Here’s a shout out to more than 100 individuals and organizations that supported us in our quest to help protect ocean herring and the Cape’s inshore ecosystem. Many residents, as well as conservation groups like the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, joined public officials such as town selectmen and the entire Cape State House delegation, to support regulations that call for stricter catch limits and a 12-mile regional buffer zone expanding to 20 miles off the Cape’s backshore. Now we are anxiously awaiting to see if the rules are enacted before the spring fishing season.
One of the organizations that helped us on our ocean herring campaign was the Harwich Conservation Trust. The non-profit is doing a lot to restore river herring runs, you can read about one of those efforts in their fall newsletter here.
On the Hook
We do a lot of reading, searching through thewide world of fisheries, and often find intriguing pieces to share. In the old days, you might call this your clipping service.
We are pleased to have a new partnership with Cape Cod Today and a column about our work will appear each month. Our first “Waterfront Wisdom” focuses on science Cape fishermen are doing in regards to halibut and what has already been revealed.Read it here.
The Massachusetts Shellfish Initiative has been gathering public comment in hearings; this article talks about one of those held on Martha’s Vineyard. Peopleinterested in participating in the development of a strategic plan focused on protecting public access to, and ensuring the sustainability of, the Commonwealth’s shellfish resources are encouraged to submit written comments until 5 p.m. Nov. 1. Click here to comment.
Interesting perspective from Raw Seafoods, this
blog by their vice president says the role of commercial scallopers investing in science to help the fishery is now being taken to another level with technology.