Harvey Haddock on fisherman’s rights.
On a cold windy morning at the Fishermans Dock Co-op, all the boats are in, and a couple of small groups of fishermen are scattered at the docks unloading spots, generally discussing the last few days of fishing, and invariably complaining about one regulation or another. Henry’s in a hurry to the office today, it seems the morning coffee has done its magic, and he needs to make a deposit for Alice and Lil, the office secretary’s. He hurries through the dock careful not to slip on the ice, and enters the warm office, heads right, passing Alice sitting at her desk, and Lil, in the next room.
Again? Says Alice
It’s my first time today, I tried the outside bathroom, but the door was locked, and the dog ate the toilet paper, Henry lied, as he hurried to the toilet and closed the door. Lil smirked as he passed. Shortly after, business finished, Henry walks out.
Sorry about that , He says.
In walks Bill Ford. “Beat you to it” says Henry.
“Damn, I hope you opened the window”
“Yea, I even sprayed”
Henry walks to the front of the office where John Cole the dock manager sits behind his desk, constantly manning the phone, selling fish and finding out what they sold for. Scattered around the office are a half dozen chairs where the usual cast of characters are gathered. Jimmy Mathews, Denis Lovgren, Tom Anderson, and Randy Gant are here this morning, they come in the office to find out the prices of yesterday’s catch, and just to bug John when he’s busiest. Henry takes an empty seat in between Jimmy and Denis.
“Morning”, “How’s it going?” “Morning”. “Morning”.
Jimmy address’s Henry, “How about those Pirates?”
“It’s December Jim, I think they’re in hibernation right now”
“Yea but its only 65 days before spring training” states Jimmy.
“Jim, It’s football season, says Denis. Tom and Randy are sitting across from them laughing to each other over Jimmy’s Pirate obsession. No matter what time of year it is, he always wants to talk about baseball, and the Pirates in particular. Bill Ford now enters the room tightening his belt.
“Damn Henry, It smelled like something crawled up your ass and died”.
“Must’ve been someone I ate” replied Henry.
“ Well you better flip her over next time”.
Everybody laughs. John gets off the phone. “Well?” asks Denis.
“How’s the prices?”
“I’m getting 50 and 55 cent returns” says John.
“What’s that to the boat?
“35 to 40”.
“Well, I guess that beats a kick in the ass”, says Randy.
“Anybody else got fish?” Asks Henry.
“Point Judith”, says John, “Where’s your brother this morning?”
“Probably sleeping late, like usual”. Harvey did like sleeping late when they had a day off, while everybody else would be down the dock at 8, 8:30, he’d arrive after 9.
Tom says to no one in particular, ”Well I got to go over the net, I’m outta here”.
Randy gets up also, “I’m due for an oil change, John can I get a few cans of 15/40?”
“Yea, go tell James, he’ll get them for you”. As they’re leaving, along comes Harvey.
“Morning”, “Morning”, “Hey Tom, Randy,”.
“What’s up?” “How you doing?”
“You’re a motley looking crew today”, says Harvey.
“We’re still gagging from your brother”, says Denis.
“Hey, It’s not just me. Bill piled on also”
“You should’ve flushed” says Bill.
“Henry and Harvey arrive and the conversation always ends up in the toilet” Says John.
“How are prices, John?” Asks Harvey.
“Everybody else got a dollar, your fish were 15 cents. Come down sooner and you may get more”.
“Denis, how were the fish?” Asks Harvey. John loves to bust balls especially Harvey’s, so Harvey is used to asking someone else for the truth.
“50 to 55 cent returns”.
“Well I guess that beats a kick in the ass”.
“So what’s the latest management bullshit?” Asks Denis.
“It sounds like the New England Council is going to cut back Days at sea” says Henry.
“Really? How Much? Asks Denis.
“Half? You gotta be kidding”. Says Harvey.
“Good thing I don’t have any”. Says Bill.
“ Why do they want to do that?” Asks Jimmy.
“More fallout from that enviro lawsuit. The science center says Cod and Haddock are collapsing, along with Yellowtails”.
“Yea, but we don’t have any of them down here, why should we take a hit?” Asks Harvey.
“Ask the Council Gods, they say if New England has to suffer so do you”.
“Fuckers” Says Jimmy.
“Hey, listen, I’ve been thinking, and…”
“Oh boy, now we’re in for it. Harvey’s been thinking. Is this a long story?” Asks John sarcastically.
“Stop. I’ve given this a lot of thought”.
“I guess you’ve got none left then. Who’d you give it too?” Says John.
“Alright, John, seriously, listen”.
“I’m busy trying to sell your crummy fish”. John picks up the phone and fakes dialing.
“Henry, our Grandfather immigrated here after WW one, and soon his seven brothers followed him, Right?”
“At one point they all fished along the Jersey shore, providing food to our country while at the same time earning an honest living. They were farmers of the sea, yet they never had what farmer’s had”.
“ What was that? Asked Denis.
“They couldn’t buy the ocean. Europeans came here to settle and if they had money, they bought land. If they didn’t, they worked until they earned enough so they could. Farmers owned their land. Nobody owned the fish in the ocean. Nobody until Uncle Sam decided that he did in 1976 when congress passed the Magnuson act and created the 200 mile exclusive economic zone creating the National Marine Fisheries Service and giving the U.S. government exclusive rights to all the natural resources within that range. One of the original premises of the NMFS was to promote and protect our country’s fishermen, and fisheries. Yet over time, it seems like all they’ve done is destroy us. They’ve taken away fishery after fishery and have mismanaged the stocks so bad you can’t make a living anymore. Then they blame us. I didn’t let the Russians wipe out the Georges Bank, and Grand Banks. The State Department did. They saw what was happening off our coast, hundreds of factory trawlers vacuuming up everything out there. They didn’t care. Some of those ships were our allies, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, since you couldn’t selectively kick out one country, you’d have to kick out all of them, the State department made the decision to allow the raping to continue, sacrificing the richest fishing grounds in the world to our mortal enemy, so as not to offend a small group of fishermen from a few friendly countries. They used us as poker chips”.
“O.K.”, says Henry. “That’s all true. But it’s the past. What can you do now?”
“Sue em. A takings lawsuit”.
“How can you sue over something you never owned?” asks Denis.
“You know how hard it is to win a takings lawsuit against the government? Even against a town? asks John.
“Yea, I know. It’s just not right. The Indians have been granted fishing rights, how come we haven’t?” asks Harvey.
“Well, we did steal their country lock, stock, and barrel, while practically wiping them off the face of the earth”, says Henry. “It’s the least we could do, give them some fish”.
“Don’t forget, we gave them casino’s and cholera, also,” Says Jim.
“We should get casino’s… and floating whorehouses”, adds Harvey.
“Well I guess that’s where your thinking ends, Harvey”. Says John.
“Seriously, this country was founded by European fishermen chasing Codfish on the Georges, and the Grand banks, if we conveniently forget that the Indians were already here. So where are our rights? What gave the U.S. government the right to suddenly proclaim all the fish from 12 miles to 200 miles is theirs? What about the U.S. fishing families that have been fishing in those international waters for years before good ole uncle sam decided that he owned them all? Where are our rights? Aren’t we like an indigenous people? Asks Harvey.
“You’re the cowboys of the sea”. Says John.
“No, we’re more like the Indians. Magnuson promised the world but gave us cholera and financial genocide. Adolph would be proud of NMFS”. Says Harvey.
“They don’t like when you call them Nazi’s”, says John.
“Truth hurts” replies Harvey.
“Nazi’s didn’t wipe out the Indians” adds Jimmy.
“Alright, get out of here. I’ve heard enough bullshit for one day”. Says John.
Everybody leaves except John who still sits in his chair, an exasperated look on his face.