Last of their kind – As fish stocks dwindle and catch limits tighten, a way of life is disappearing, too.

IT HAS BEEN MORE THAN 30 YEARS since Russell Sherman nearly died in the ocean off the coast of Maine, but the Gloucester fisherman remembers as if it were yesterday. He spent 14 hours adrift in 20-foot seas that November night in 1978 after the boat he was working on sank and two of the five people on board drowned. He remembers standing in the engine room, knee-deep in water, before the boat went down; when the fear hit him, [email protected]

3 Responses to Last of their kind – As fish stocks dwindle and catch limits tighten, a way of life is disappearing, too.

  1. Those who grew up along the docks here in the mid-Atlantic and New England region during the last half century, have seen many changes in the fishing industry…..a number, good as far as electronic technology and vessel safety are concerned, but now, too many heart wrenching to keep count. I heard this from a dragger buddy of mine a while back, “we made a deal with the devil when we kicked out the foreign fleet off our shores.” Yes we did, allowing a dysfunctional NMFS to regulate both fishermen and our fisheries, and now here in New England we can plainly see the result of the regulators destroying one of the oldest industries in our country. Seems everything was “fine and dandy” in the GARM III 2008 stock assessment, with a number of groundfish stocks rebuilding, improvements in stock recruitment, successful spawning and the result of big year classes of cod and haddock were being projected in the upcoming years….then it happened…the Hope & Changer Golfer is elected in 2008 and he brings in ‘EDF Janie’ and the Holy Grail for those enviro-fishing people, Catch Shares to New England. Along the way we have the vindictive targeting of fishermen, outrageous and extremely punitive fines against fishermen, shredding parties and wild spending of fine money (yes we haven’t forgotten about that party boat) courtesy of the OLE and “Shredder Jones” that even CBS News own Dan Rather did a story on, Commerce Secretary Locke publicly looking to bail out of his top post after his first year on the job, manipulative and back room wheeling and dealing as the Catch Shares program is ram-rodded down the throats of fishermen, and a commodities market created that displaced or put out of business much of the fishing fleet. Goodness, all this in four years where a rosy outlook seen in 2008, ends up in the fall of 2012 with the Acting top-cheese place holder at NOAA, Rebecca Blank, and it could of sounded like Mel Blanc as she officially declared a fishery disaster in New England. Maybe just maybe if those sitting on those fine Ethan Allen leather chairs in the Blackburn Drive and Silver Springs puzzle palace’s would of listened to fishermen, the guys out there on the water who were telling them that maybe there is a very serious problem with allowing the spiny dogfish population to grow to such an extent that you can find them roaming from right off the beach to the rims of a number northern canyons at most times of the year, or that DAS while not perfect, was allowing fishermen to make a days pay while stocks were rebuilding as the GARM III report stated, or that the millions of tax payer dollars spent to design the disastrous Catch Shares mess, could of instead have been better spent in a number of controlled vessel and permit buyouts and job training programs. Bad decisions, by all of us….yes, those not even connected to fishing or the fishing industry to elect this talking-head who always seems to be either campaigning or blaming others. He couldn’t give a hoot now, and most likely if asked at a press conference, wouldn’t have any idea on the particulars in fixing the mess to the fishing industry in New England, especially with scandals brewing in a number of major federal agencies. It also is becoming apparent that there is not enough political clout from the so-called “New England delegation” to get the funding for compensating fishermen who have been financially harmed by the Catch Shares program. Few back at the turn of the 21st century could of seen this coming, but it did, and life along many fishing communities will noticeably change. But then again, this is another glaring example of when the federal government gets this deeply involved in your business, its time to get out. Make a change and get rid of the long time insiders (Markey) with the upcoming elections! Read this:

    • - Moderator says:

      Great retrospective, Ec.
      I think it’s the perfect time to check in with Dale, the first scandal that was totally blown off, even with RG dogging them relentlessly, and continuously.
      I’m starting to shake the writing cobwebs and will begin making some noise.
      There are too many loose ends that Richard deserves to have tied up, and its up to those that are grateful for his Hurculean efforts to attempt to complete his mission. BH

  2. “Herculean” yes a word I used to describe the incredible one man journalistic and investigating reporting by RG. Just this morning it was reported that nine major scandals are brewing concerning the White House and a number of federal agencies. One was left out, and it speaks to where this was all going with the “change you can believe in” administration, and that was first exposed by RG on a rogue agency and its enforcement arm, the OLE or Office of Law Enforcement which was specifically vindictively targeting fishermen and various fishing businesses. As reported in Americans for Forfeiture Reform, “As head of NOAA’s OLE, Lt Col Buckson would be stepping into the position vacated (exit stage left to another government job) by Dale Jones Jr. Jones’ tenure was marked by a litany of scandals including the misuse of asset forfeiture funds, egregiously bad accounting, and the shredding of documents relevant to a Commerce Department investigation. At this time, Jones still has not been terminated and holds a similar salary to the one that he enjoyed as head of the OLE.” Here RG broke the first big BHO scandal where the end result, and to what amounts to a ‘attaboy’ was given to “Shredder” Jones, and ultimately financial compensation to fishermen who were harmed due to the findings in the Swartwood Report. The Commerce Secretary now considers the misconduct in the past years, a closed case (“Today marks the end of an extensive investigation into the conduct of NOAA’s enforcement program going back nearly two decades”). I doubt any more headway could be gleamed in this area, and one looks at IG Todd Zinser who spearheaded the first investigation into NOAA’s nefarious activities within the OLE, is now himself and those within his IG office, embroiled in allegations of misconduct. There are just too many more serious scandals ongoing at this time which has the attention of the politicians, news outlets and as much, the public, and what happened within a little known office within the Commerce Department, is just that, old news. Someday a book will be written about this sordid time within NOAA and NMFS. Maybe more light will be shed on the aftermath to some of the main characters of what was eventually called a “rogue agency” that negatively changed the face of the New England fishing industry.

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