David Goethel dropped us a note, and we thought we’d share it with you!

I saw your recently posted article about Carlos and Bullard’s ridiculous statement. Rafael’s own fishery complaints opened door to his downfall. Coast Guard report details extensive fishing violations (click)

I went to that meeting driving 7 hours through a blinding snowstorm to speak for three minutes under public comment with the attached statement. I asked on the record why the corrupt fish dealer in NY was not arrested.

I believe you are the only person who mentioned my comment.

Since Oct. 23rd, I am being “selected” for observer coverage nearly 100% of the time. I also made a number of comments about the corrupt system that created Carlos. As I told former Regional Administrator Mr. Bullard at a meeting I will have a camera on my boat right after every NOAA employee has one in their bathroom, bedroom, and boardroom.

This whole thing is a very carefully choreographed ballet to get cameras, not catch crooks. I will probably write a pithy response tomorrow but I am growing tired. I spent 4 days arguing to get my diabetes test strips with my new ‘approved’ pharmacy . Not only NOAA, but all government run programs are massively screwed up and an embarrassment to America.
I hope you are doing OK and thanks for listening,

Council members and NOAA Fisheries,

I am here to speak to you about several facets of the observer program that are broken and in urgent need of attention.

First the PTNS system is not working as designed and described in the letter in your groundfish correspondence. Since October 24 I have been selected for coverage on 94.74% of my trips. My individual rate is currently 37.29% and my strata is 35.14% well in excess of required coverage of 31%. I know for a fact there are people in this room who have not been selected for a single trip. So, either your system is broken or there is a third filter not described in the document which I will call the harassment filter.

Second nothing has been done about the pre-trip safety checklist despite press and lip service to the contrary. My raft and flares have been inspected and fiddled with on every single trip. This has led to daily confrontations with the observers and starts every single trip on an angry footing. Get these people off my roof and out of my flare kit. Eliminate this foolishness as it not required by law.

You are only required to have a CG sticker and familiarize the observer with where equipment is located. Probably because my crewmen watches observers disobey my direct legal orders every day, he decided to step from the coop wall to the roof of the boat in August. HE slipped, fell backwards, bounced off the retaining wall and landed in the water.

Luckily other than a giant bruise on his bum, and a severely bruised ego he was not seriously injured, although his ears are probably still ringing from the verbal dressing down he took for violating a direct order to stay off the roof.

Third I am appalled at the new protocols put in place this year that require weighing and killing everything even on ASM trips. Last spring it was Thorny Skates and Wolffish.

This fall it is lobsters and crabs. I would conservatively estimate that 3000lbs of lobsters and crabs have been killed on my boat since October 23. This results both from being out of the water too long and being frozen on deck. State law requires lobsters to be returned to the sea as soon as possible.

Typically, on unobserved trips lobsters are sorted and returned in less than 15 minutes.

During that time, we leave the washdown running on the pile to keep them warm and hydrated. On observed trips they are out of the water and on deck for up to 1 and 1/2 hours placed in numerous fish baskets by type to be weighed.

In addition, four different observers used fish picks to pick up live lobsters and crabs.

My crewman was so dumbfounded the first time he observed this he asked what college was teaching this method of lobster handling but did
not report it to me until the end of the tow. When I explained to the young woman that a fish pick through the carapace kills the animal the response was, I do not want to get bitten (I had the same answer with wolfish last summer).

My crewman tried to use a camera to capture what has been happening during the sorting process and put it on the internet, but luckily for you, he washed his camera overboard with the washdown hose.

In addition to this issue I had one observed trip that used the volume to volume method to guess at discards. You cannot shovel lobsters and skates.

The lobsters are damaged by the shovel and the skates cannot be shoveled. This observer also collected single fish (i.e. the only fish of that species in the bin and added them to her basket). This resulted in one windowpane turning into 23 lbs. and one summer flounder into 43 lbs. You should stop worrying about uncounted catch and start worrying about over counted catch because it has a far more deleterious effect on assessments. I complained about that trip, but there has been no resolution yet.

My boat has turned into a very unpleasant place. My crew is angry all the time over the increased workload and the wanton destruction of the resource.

My blood sugar has increased by an average of 30 points in the last month directly as a result of the stress of this program. One of the ugly side effects is anger management issues as you can tell by the tone of delivery of this talk.

I will not sit idly by while the wanton destruction of our resource continues on a daily basis. I want action, not in months or weeks, or days but in hours. I expect a statement on the record by the end of the council meeting on how each of these four issues will be corrected. Absent that I will be forced to engage an attorney to file suit over harassment on a personal basis and on behalf of the fishery on a class basis for wanton destruction of the resource by this program.

I am sorry to be so strident, but I have spent 52 years conserving this resource and will not let some misguided bean counting exercise destroy it.

Thank you for your time,

David Goethel

6 Responses to David Goethel dropped us a note, and we thought we’d share it with you!

  1. john tuttle says:

    I feel your pain David, The the valid coast guard safety sticker should be all is needed to satisfy safety requirements , putting an observer on the boat early in the morning going through your safety gear , wondering if they put everything back properly used to set me in a bad mood before I even left dock, no to mention the wasted time for me to go on a slippery roof to see if thy put all safety equipment back properly, meanwhile I am supposed to be paying attention to my men and the trip ahead , its a bad deal for fishermen , got to be a better way !! been there!!

  2. Julie Eaton says:

    Great article Mr. Goethel!! Thanks for letting us know what it is like to have observers aboard!!! What a circus and terrible mistreatment of our resource!!! This MUST change!!! They are the problem!!!Obviously they are feeding the false data problem!!! I appreciate your honesty and account of the mistreatment of the species we all fight to protect and insure their sustainability.
    Capt. Julie Eaton
    Deer Isle, Maine

  3. David – you have done an excellent job of explaining why fishermen need their own competent and unbiased observers to document the NOAA observer program in action.

    The Captain & crew cannot possibly do it in while running the boat, and we know that they would not be believed anyway. As I have said in the past, I believe fishermen and evnironmental organizations are on the same side when it comes to wanting to end the rampant damage to marine populations that is an ignored byproduct of current rules.

    There are a million copentent videographers out there – some of whom must be experienced watermen capable of not hurting themselves or others while capturing the realities of the observer program.

    Until we are able to create some interest in the general public NOAA will continue to assume they can operate with impunity.

  4. Joel Hovanesian says:

    What you’re explaining here David is exactly why this 62 year old lifelong fisherman has thrown in the towel. The final straw for me was when an observer told me we couldn’t go day fishing because my flares had expired by a week. You could swim to the beach from where we were fishing.
    I also told him that I had some flares that were expired by 2 or 3 years and asked if he would like to stand in front of one while I touched it off.
    It was 2 o’clock in the morning, I was screaming at this dude loud enough to get the attention of others who were preparing to shove off and caused quite a ruckus on my dock. I finally sat myself down in the wheelhouse chair, regained my composure and thought about what was happening.
    I told myself this bullshit is going to make me sick or I was going to stroke out and it was no longer worth it. It was then that I started looking for a new occupation which I was fortunate enough to find in a local fish house.
    I used to be fishing boat captain Joel Hovanesian, a somebody. Now I’m Joel Hovanesian, nowhere man, you know like the Beatles song. “He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody” I know exactly how you feel and never could have imagined my career ending this way. The government and everything they touch involved with this industry sucks. AND THEY DON’T GIVE TWO SHITS ABOUT ANYTHING BUT PERPETUATING THIS FUCKING SCAM TO SAVE THEIR JOBS. F’m all.

    • jim lovgren says:

      Joel you’ll always be a somebody to me, sorry to hear about your incident. That’s one less boat for the windmill people to worry about.

  5. - Moderator says:

    All of you guys were something to me long before I met you. I stopped fishing in 1988. I had something I needed to do, and the fishing industry didn’t fit well. I moved on. Had a few successes along the way, that, lol, didn’t pay off for whatever reason, then the financial collapse, and four summers of no recovery, which was when me and Carol met some of you. and here we are today. Its ironic as I type, the comment module is right next to the man that brought us all together, Richard Gaines. He thought you guys were something too!

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