Jesse Rose had been catching monkfish for years, but none of his friends ate it. He couldn’t even get his father to give it a try.
“I’ve been pushing free monkfish, handing it out,” said Rose, captain of F/V Midnight Our.
It took the accomplished captain a little while, but now his father loves monkfish. He just needed the right recipe.
Not everyone has a commercial fisherman for a son, lucky enough to be introduced to “poor man’s lobster” and assorted recipes, which is why the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance has just published “Pier to Plate - A Cape Cod Recipe Book, Celebrating Local Seafood and the People who Harvest it.”
An old fisherman stands by the trap dock in Stage Harbor, looking to the heavens, hat in one hand, mooring chain in the other.
“He was Romanian, had been a priest and was in his 90s,” said Jamie Bassett looking at the black-and-white image of a bearded man, Martin, in oilskins.
“He collected cans and went shellfishing.
“The chains hearkened to a hard life. The chains were a metaphor. It was artistic I thought,” said Bassett with a chuckle at his younger self.
Bassett, now known for his fishery startups Chatham Kelp and Shellfish Broker, was an aspiring photographer a quarter of a century ago.
Born and raised in Chatham by his grandparents, working on the water, he had a talent for taking pictures. He had traveled around the world taking photos and when he was around 26 started to work for a “super successful” advertising and fine art photographer, Harry De Zitter.
Nelson Brace loved photography and fishing boats. He also loved creating a community. He did that in his volunteer work and by starting a Facebook page, Commercial Fishing Boats of New England, which collected and celebrated photos of commercial fishing boats.
The images were beautiful, and the camaraderie and swapping of fishy knowledge added patina. Brace also went out of his way to help others, for example when I called and asked if he had any pictures of fishing boats traversing the Cape Cod Canal. He did, and wanted to donate the images from a group of photographers that worked together: Photogs Я Us.
“Just name the group,” he said.
Here are some of the photographs he sent along; fishing boats using the canal to fishing grounds (New Bedford to Gulf of Maine, for example), Cape vessels going to New Bedford, captains steaming to their homeport in Sandwich Marina, a host of reasons.
The photographs are meant to show the importance of a canal often taken for granted, but they also show how Nelson Brace helped capture and share an industry that is important to all of us.
Brace passed away earlier this month. We are thankful for the community he helped create, that continues to grow.
We’re kicking off a new initiative here at the Alliance, and at first glance the focus might surprise you but the longer you ponder, the more sense it makes:
We are going to offer as much help as we can to improve dredging for the harbors and ports in our communities.
·Without access to the sea, our fleet has no chance. Good dredging is like highway maintenance, crucial access for the economy and the movement of people and goods.
·This is not just a fishermen’s issue. All boaters need open channels. Every town relies on harbors functioning well. The Blue Economy turns a different color without dredging.
·Barnstable County has a dredging program already in place that has seen dramatic improvements over the past year or so. It is a big public works success, saving towns a lot of money, self-sustaining based on reasonable fees charged. We want to support and expand the program.
·Organizing community support for better dredging protocols will create the necessary pressure and profile to improve policies and funding. And there’s plenty of room for more support at both state and federal levels.
·We’re convinced that good dredging projects, properly located, do little or no environmental harm mainly because areas that need dredging by definition are dynamic, shoaling, shifting – not locations that by and large encourage fish or even shellfish density.
·Then there’s the great secondary benefit, using “spoils” piped out of the channels to replenish beaches and hold onto shoreline without having to “armor” the coast with rock walls that usually accelerate erosion at their edges.
Sounds like obvious public benefit, but all kinds of issues shoal up when it comes to dredging:
·State and federal permits can take forever, even when it’s a simple renewal of an existing approval.
·There are what people call TOY restrictions. No fun and games here, Time Of Year closures can make it impossible to get multiple projects done given a small window of time – and sometimes the supposed reason for the TOY restriction is because winter flounder, for example, might be spawning; no one has seen spawning winter flounder in our harbors for decades.
·Come summer, when the beaches are crowded, it’s also not a great time to start pumping sand above high tide. Not only do people hate having their beach blankets buried, but sometimes sand coming off the bottom doesn’t smell so great for a little while.
·The county has two hydraulic dredges as opposed to mechanical dredges. They do great work, but there are situations in which hydraulics don’t apply, you need to dig up the muck and dump it on a barge rather than piping it out. Investing in a mechanical dredge is something the county could do, pay for itself and provide better service. No way that scales for individual towns.
So no surprise that when the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, working with the UMass Boston Urban Harbors Institute and our team, surveyed every port in the Commonwealth to identify the most important issues harbormasters and fishermen say they face, dredging came back as number one, up and down the coast.
Last year the county dredges were busy. They worked in 10 Cape towns, 16 projects, cleared roughly 150,000 cubic yards of sand -- the most ever in a year. There’s plenty of controversy between Eastham and Orleans over whether sections of their shared coast should be dredged, but generally speaking these projects are not controversial, they are celebrated, and necessary. Those sentiments are sure to grow as climate change accelerates.
Our goal isn’t to define what steps need to be taken first, second, and third. We want to make ourselves available to public officials, from towns to county, state, and feds. We want to lend support. And over time, I think we’ve shown that when it helps to bring people to the table, engage with public officials, hammer out new policies or nail down new funding, we know how to roll up our sleeves.
Count us in. As a Fishermen’s Alliance, we see this as part of our community responsibility.
Art in the Park. Bidding is now open for the Art in the Park summer event organized by the Chatham Chamber of Commerce. Well-known artist Susanne Taylor has created another beautiful piece this year on display at the Kate Gould Park on Main Street. Bidding closes on August 20. Visit theauction pageto see all the artwork and be sure to bid on the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance whale by Susanne. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Fishermen's Alliance.
On your marks, get set, go! We are grateful to our Falmouth Road Race runners who are hitting the seaside streets for the iconic race this August. You can help support our #fishrunfalmouth team’s amazing fundraising efforts here. Thank you to our 2021 runners: Rich Bryant, Holly Buddensee, Tarryn Christensen, Ben Greenspan, Brigid Krug, Kathryn Mandalakis, Gregory Mansbach, Katie McEachern, Heather Morin, Molly Ogren, Brendon Parker, Bryan Ruez, Nancy Ruez and Stephanie Sykes.
The Hookers Ball XX online auction will go live to one and all on Monday, August 2. Click to view and bid on the great variety of items. Auction closes Sunday, August 8..
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?
Many people think of mackerel as bait, or food for other popular fish, but they also make a great meal. Iridescent, tiger-striped, looking very much like small tuna because basically that’s what they are, mackerel are found in schools, caught by Cape fishermen in the late spring and summer as well as late fall. They are caught on closely-spaced hooks that come aboard on hand-cranked machines. This summer has seen a beautiful early abundance so we wanted to reintroduce you to them and share a recipe.
On the Shore
This community thrives in large part because of a constellation of non-profit organizations and engaged businesses.
Thanks to all who are walking into local bookstores and asking if they carry our new cookbook, “From Pier to Plate: A Cape Cod Recipe Book.” If you are in Chatham you can pop into our offices to pick one up and they are also available at Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Yellow Umbrella. To order one online click here.
Our partners at Quahog Republic and Mayflower Brewery created an amazing golden ale and every purchase supports us. This is the second summer the golden ale has been offered and it’s growing in popularity, available in more and more places such as Chatham Liquor Locker and Luke’s Liquors. Ask your favorite establishment if they offer it.
As you know, we are huge fans of the little fish called herring and have done a lot of work with the community to protect them. We have made strides with the buffer zone that keeps industrial ships out of much of our inshore area. The effort protects sea herring and also benefits river herring; the importance of the alewife of the East Coast is recognized across the country. Mark Alan Lovewell, a singer songwriter on Martha’s Vineyard, was asked to write about herring by a folksinger on the West Coast. The song is now part of a larger album, listen here.
On the Hook
We do a lot of reading, searching through the wide world of fisheries, and often find intriguing pieces to share. In the old days, you might call this your clipping service.
The future of offshore wind and its intersection with commercial fisheries is never far from our minds. Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, RODA, of which we are a member, has received a $155,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to bring experts together for the second “Synthesis of the Science” symposium, this time on how floating offshore wind turbine may interact with fisheries. Read morehere.
According to Seafood Source, for the first six months of 2021, fresh and frozen seafood posted a mid-year increase versus 2020, “with increases in household penetration, trips and spend per trip.” Seafood purchases have dropped a bit from the height of the pandemic, so make sure to keep buying local seafood. Read more
This editorial in the Cape Cod Chronicle makes a number of important points about the value of the fishing industry and the importance of providing room for growth. “Should there be a boom – something we may not be able to foresee now – there may not be enough capacity available, and the owners of the huge homes flanking existing fishing facilities may not cotton to expanded operations.” Read more here.
The governor’s office is asking Massachusetts seafood processors, commercial fishermen, shellfish farmers, and for-hire recreational vessel owners to apply for some of the $23.8 million in relief funds the state will receive through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Read more here.