Close to 15 years ago, after researcher Owen Nichols’ first season working with a fishing family, he came up with what he thought was an impressive chart that drew direct connections between wind direction, water temperature and the presence of squid.
He remembers being excited to share it with Ernie Eldredge, of Chatham Fish Weirs Enterprises, whose fish weirs he was using to study squid. Eldredge looked at him with a smile and said, “My grandfather could have told you that.”
“These are things that fishermen have known for a long time,” Nichols realized.
Nichols was telling the story during a recent talk, “Squid Pro Quo: Fishermen and Scientists Working Together to Study Cephalopods from Cape Cod to the Dominican Republic,” put together for Pleasant Bay Community Boating, PBCB, as part of its speaker series.
Port by port, a real reckoning of the state’s commercial fisheries
Everyone interested in commercial fishing’s role and impact for Massachusetts, particularly if working through solid numbers is a fun wonky exercise, will find a new report released by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries a satisfying, enlightening document.
Prince's Cove has always been about access to fishing
Knowing the history of a place is a gift. All too often history is lost and we find ourselves unmoored from the past and that doesn’t bode well for the future. Jim Gould, who passed away this March at 96, was able to capture much of Barnstable’s history in an engaging way. We are sharing one of his pieces from his blog here and want to mention that the other day we floated by Warren Cove, where oysterman George Hamblin built his oyster shack.
Paupmunnock, a Native leader at the time of the Europeans’ arrival, had his home on Prince’s Cove in what is now Marstons Mills, Barnstable, a favorite Wampanoag site for 10,000 years according to archaeological records. It was called Broad Nook, a name that stuck until Prince Marston built his brick house on the hillside west of the cove, and people began calling it Prince’s Cove. In the nineteenth century Cyrus Jones had an oyster shack on the south side of Turtle Island, competing with neighboring Hinckleys and Hamblins.
A permanent pier was built in 1953 by Wilbur Cushing at the suggestion of Ethel Huston, a New Yorker who had a summer home on the point.She liked to go crabbing, but wanted to tie her rowboat to a pier so she didn’t have to wade out. Cushing’s stepfather, A. G. Griffin, owned a good deal of waterfront. Cushing salvaged some electric light poles and used lumber from a duck farm that was being demolished, and built a dock.
Small Boats, Big Taste. You have heard about our haddock chowder; now is your chance to try it, share it, and keep this great work going.
Our haddock chowder program began taking shape around this time last year and we are quickly approaching 750,000 servings dispensed, almost all of them delivered to food banks and pantries. Our goals were to keep fishermen on the water as COVID struck, and help people facing food insecurity first across Cape Cod, Massachusetts, then in almost every New England state and all the way to Delaware and Washington D.C.
We’ve also begun talking with institutions of higher learning who love our program for the delicious chowder, the great goals, and its impeccable local sources. MIT is the first university to serve to students, faculty, and staff; we see partnerships with other institutions who value building resilient coastal communities and nutritious, sustainable fare.
To help fund and continue our work with food pantries, and encourage as many of you as possible to try this wonderful chowder with delicious fish caught just offshore, we are making a limited amount available on July 1. Cases will be offered through local pick up only, so we’re throwing an outdoor party at our Chatham office. Stop on by for music, great food, and drink. To get on the list to bring home a case or two of chowder -- just in time for a July 4 celebration - click here.
Check out this gallery to see our chowder in the making and some of the places it has been.
We were on our way to my first New England Fishery Management Council meeting, so must have been 1996, maybe 1997. Portland, Maine. A handful of Chatham fishermen and me were making the trek to see what we could do to keep codfishing alive in the face of amazing pressure, mainly from large boats pounding the bottom and taking out the stocks.
A pit stop was in order, so we pulled into a rest area in New Hampshire. As we were standing around waiting for everyone to take care of business, one of the fishermen eyed me curiously. After awhile he said something like, “Let me ask you a question: Why are you here?”
I understood what he was asking. I was a college-educated kid without deep connections to this place. I had come to our family summer home in Yarmouth after graduation and was teaching at the May Institute, a residential facility for kids with developmental challenges. I hadn’t grown up fishing. Why would I want to spend my time hanging around these guys, wading into their lives and controversies?
“Because I want to protect the codfish,” I stammered, “so when I retire from this job I can go fishing.”
I’ve thought about exchanges like that many times over the years, even more so as we reach the 30th anniversary of this Fishermen’s Alliance, decades passing, successes as well as frustrations piling up. Yet maybe the only thing I would change from that off-the-cuff answer long ago would be to replace the word “I” with “we.”
It sure as hell was different then, when Paul Parker talked me into coming to Chatham year-round to volunteer with him and support the fleet. We were hanging out in his grandma’s basement. My unpaid job was to provide a few hands and feet, a head, roll up my sleeves, listen hard and do what I could. We were working with jiggers and longliners who didn’t always get along, let alone their feelings about draggermen, scallopers and gillnetters. We had sued the federal government because we believed they weren’t doing their mandated job, to protect habitat and fish for us and future generations. We were self-righteous – at least I was. There was a lot of black and white.
Then again some things haven’t changed much. The independent, small-boat fleet survives, overcoming challenges no one could have predicted. Management policies, habitat and stock protection, still dominate the conversation. My title is different – originally I was something like “membership coordinator” – but almost 30 years later my role remains trying to support and advocate, with the belief that better decisions now will define a better future.
What also remains constant is the feeling that progress comes slowly, in halting steps, via a federal management process that can be convoluted, frustrating, and often thankless. I remember the first time I felt like we had worked that process. It was the late 1990s, and the mandate was to cut codfish landings, protect a crashing stock. We knew we needed to give up something, and realized that our best solution was to stop fishing in the month of May; that would create the necessary savings during the time of year when volume and price for our fleet was the lowest, so hurt us the least. Lo and behold the council adopted that option.
It wasn’t a high-profile, romantic success, but it set the stage for many more successes like it in the years ahead. They’re hard issues to hang your hat on, they often involve compromises we’d rather not make, but we remain committed to staying in it, doing what we can, and taking the hits if we don’t do enough.
Sometimes, working through documents and arguments at one more council meeting, trying to think strategically, remembering who we represent and why, I circle back to that short conversation more than 25 years ago in a New Hampshire rest stop. I’m not ready to retire yet, not by a long shot, but when I do, I still want us all to be able to go fishing.
Check our online shop to catch some fishy swag or a Father’s Day gift! We have new limited edition shirts and Yeti tumblers to celebrate our 30th anniversary.
Run for the fish and fishermen! We are thrilled to again participate in the iconic Falmouth Road Race as part of the Number for Non-profits Program. Join our team and run the race in Falmouth on August 15 or you can also choose to run at your own pace in your neighborhood We ask that each team member fundraise $750 and we will provide fundraising support. Email Brigid or visit our website for more details.
Mark your calendars for the Summer Kick Off Haddock Chowder Event on Thursday, July 1. Tickets go on sale June 4 and attendees will have the chance to learn about the program, sign up for Hookers Ball XX, enjoy some libations, and take home our very own chowder. Click here to learn more.
We are so grateful for the community support we receive and want to thank the Chatham Candy Manor for their week-long fudge fundraiser last month that led to a $3,600 donation to the Fishermen’s Alliance. Thinking about doing some spring cleaning? You can donate your share of consignment items to the Fishermen’s Alliance by contacting our friends at Gaynor’s Fine Consignment in Orleans. Make an appointment to have your items previewed - home furnishings, jewelry and more.
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?
‘Tis the squid season and there are many ways to enjoy this interestingly-shaped mollusk. Many people are familiar with calamari and all the health benefits of the inky treat (low in carbohydrates and fat, high in antioxidants) and how to cook it. What comes less easy is cleaning, but we have the solution. This video by our own Melissa Sanderson walks you through step by step and was easily followed, and five pounds of squid caught in Kurt Martin’s weirs quickly readied for the pan.
On the Shore
This community thrives in large part because of a constellation of non-profit organizations and engaged businesses.
Sen. Edward Markey has been a champion for commercial fishermen. He most recently helped make the Young Fishermen’s Development Act a reality and is now asking that training and education for fishermen receive “robust funding” in the upcoming appropriations bill. “The United States is among the leading fishing nations in the world, generating more than $200 billion in sales and supporting 1.7 million jobs per year. As senators from states dependent on commercial fishing to sustain our local economies, we recognize the immense returns federal investment in this program can facilitate,” read a letter signed by Markey and six other senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Commercial fisheries are vital, so we are thankful to the state for helping make that even more clear in a new report, “Port by Port: Profiles and Analysis of the Massachusetts Commercial Fishery.” Read about why it matters in this story from our e-magazine. The project was funded through a Seafood Marketing Program grant and was developed through a collaboration between the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Urban Harbors Institute, and us. Read the report here.
We have written about the benefits of wind power, but industry members need to play a key role in deciding where the wind farms are built, and fishermen should be able to work the seas as they have for generations. It seems that for the nation’s first wind farm the process wasn’t as inclusive as it should have been, the result not as condusive to the historical harvest. Responsible Offshore Wind Development (RODA) -- we are a member -- put out a strong statement when the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued aRecord of Decisionin favor of Vineyard Wind. In part, the letter said that the industry had asked BOEM for 12 mitigation measures to ensure continued success for the U.S. fishing industry. BOEM issued no response beyond the word “received.” These requests included supporting the continuation of federal fisheries surveys, safe vessel transit, long-term biological and environmental monitoring plans, avoidance of sensitive habitat, improved communication with ocean users, collaborative framing of compensatory mitigation and gear loss plans, commitment to addressing radar and icing concerns, and prioritization of U.S. jobs. To read the full statement, clickhere.
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.
Big shout out to Nancy Civetta, our former colleague who was just named Shellfish Constable of the Year for her work in Wellfleet. The honor is well deserved. She has always been a talented, driven person with a big heart and creative ideas. Read about the honorhere.
The Massachusetts Shellfish Initiative recently released its strategic plan designed to help maximize the economic, environmental, and social benefits of Massachusetts’ shellfish resources. Our Chief Operating Officer Melissa Sanderson put an enormous amount of effort into the plan because, among myriad benefits, shellfish is important to fishermen to fill in the gaps when they can’t go offshore. Read more about MSI in this Cape Codder story.Hundreds of voices helped shape the plan, which you can findhere.
We find the working waterfront, and the boats and gear that make it happen, beautiful. Lately we are seeing more gear become art or fashion; oyster bags are another example. Read more here.