At the intersection of marine conservation and social, economic, environmental and food justice

Monday, September 28, 2015

Family Fishing for Future Generations

This post comes to us from NAMA Community Organizer Shira Tiffany.

This summer I groggily greeted Captain Tim Rider and his crew at midnight in a parking lot in Eliot, ME. We were exchanging places with crew just returning from a trip on F/V Finlander. They finished unloading, we exchanged spots, fueled up, and 7 hours later we were 65 miles offshore. The sparkling sea stretched out to the horizon in every direction. A glorious day. Just us, 90s jams, fishing poles, a cooler of ice, peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, and a full day of fishing (and talking about fishing) before we’d be back on shore.

Me and F/V Finlander crew member Spencer Montgomrey on our way out to fishing grounds

At our first fishing location, Tim showed me how to drop the sinker down about 400 feet to the ocean floor and reel it up when you get a bite. Tim is proud he’s giving his crew members in their twenties a chance to be the next generation of small scale fishers. A fish bit immediately and I reeled it in. Minutes later a blue shark raced Tim’s line almost to the surface, chomping a pollock in half just before Tim reeled it out of the sea trailing blood and guts. Tim talked about how his dangerous way of life is in danger itself.

Fleet consolidation threatens the existence New England family fishers. Why?
In 2010 the New England Fisheries Management Council implemented Catch Share policy to manage New England’s groundfish, 13 species including cod, haddock, halibut, and yellowtail flounder. Catch Shares create a leasing market for quota, or the amount of fish you can catch, where anyone, not just fishers, can lease the right to fish. When outside investors enter the market they drive up the quota leasing price, making it too expensive for many small family fishers to continue fishing. Catch Shares have led to fleet consolidation worldwide (read more at the bottom of this post).

A brief history of fisheries management and explanation of Catch Shares.
Watch “Who Owns the Fish?” produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Council promised they would create safeguards against fleet consolidation when they implemented Catch Shares in 2010. The Council has failed to uphold their promise. This Wednesday the Council is holding their final vote rejecting strong safeguards in Amendment 18. Family fishers have told the Council throughout the past five years that safeguards are necessary to continue their way of life fishing at an ecologically appropriate scale. The Council did not listen and at last, fishermen and allies are walking away from the Council process. We are showing the Council that they have:

1) failed to take public input and uphold a democratic process
2) failed to guard against consolidation in the fishing fleet
3) failed the fish, fishermen, and public

Stand in solidarity with Tim and many other New England family fishermen in holding the Council accountable. We’re harnessing the people power of fishers and allies to elevate our call for a democratic process and a level playing field for community-based fishermen. The Council failed and now it’s up to John Bullard, NOAA Northeast Regional Administrator, and US Congress.

Walk out with us this Wednesday, September 30th, at the Radisson Plymouth from 12 pm to 4 pm
Details in our Action Prep Packet
  1. Sign the Petition
  2. Share our Thunderclap
  3. Share our Media Advisory with the press
Can’t join us Wednesday? Watch Our Livestream of the Council meeting and walk out.

Captain Tim Rider isn’t a worrier. He shared his concern that a blue shark could bite off his fingers while he untangles fishing lines over the side of the boat followed by a laugh. Tim is worried that Catch Shares without safeguards will erase his way of life for future generations. I am too. I’m not only concerned about family fishing as a way of life. Their disappearance hurts coastal communities, the fish, ocean health, and seafood eaters.

F/V Finlander crew member Zach Wark
Catch Shares Have Led to Fleet Consolidation Worldwide
Catch Shares implemented without safeguards have forced family fishers out of the fishing industry time and time again. Catch Shares are also known as Individual Transferable Quota (ITQs) and many other names.

New England family fisherman BG Brown talks about Catch Shares wiping out small boats

Catch Shares in the US
The first US fishery to implement Catch Shares was the mid-Atlantic surf clam fishery 25 years ago. That fleet declined rapidly from 128 boats in 1990 to just 28 boats left by 1999. In Alaska, one type of crab managed under Catch Shares is leased mainly by companies outside of Alaska. 77% of the quota is owned by four companies: Trident Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods, both headquartered in Seattle, and two Japanese conglomerates, Maruha Nichiro and Nippon Suisan Kaisha.

Catch Shares Abroad
Icelandic fishermen won a case they brought to the United Nations Human Rights Commission claiming that Catch Shares illegally privatize fish which is a public resource. In New Zealand, where catch shares are the national policy, the government estimates that eight companies control 80% of the industry’s production. EcoTrust Canada’s report Caught up in Catch Shares, describes catch shares, “turning fishermen into sharecroppers on their own boats.”

Me and F/V Finlander crew members Zach Wark and Spencer Montgomrey clean pollock

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Women of Fish and Food

This post comes to us from Niaz Dorry, NAMA's coordinating director.

We joined the Boston Local Food Festival as a partner in 2010, its inaugural year. It’s been a great partnership with our friends at Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, whose collective brains gave birth to the Festival. Every year we have held a Seafood Throwdown featuring aspects of the region’s seafood and fishing industry the average person doesn’t get to typically hear about or interact with. The first year’s Seafood Throwdown was the catalyst for the decision by the City of Boston to overturn decades old ordinance that kept seafood out of such events and off public property in general.

Jessie Jackson and Jason Bond at 2010 BLFF SFT.jpg
Jesse Jackson and Jason Bond compete at the inaugural Seafood Throwdown at BLFF in 2010

This year will be no different. We’re once again bringing a unique element of the fishing industry: the women who fish. Despite what those of us who work intimately with the fishing communities know, women’s role in fishing, fishing related businesses, advocacy organizations, and fishing community leadership is not recognized. 

Women who fish are considered an anomaly: hence the fact that we have to point out that these are women who actually fish! Funny how we feel the need to explain women’s involvement in things as some sort of novelty: woman lead singer, all female band, female authors, and women who fish… the list goes on and on. But I guess just like anything else, until it’s normal we’ll have to point it out. So this year, we’re going to point out the women who play a key role in our fishing communities and in the businesses of putting seafood on our plates.
The two teams cooking at this year’s BLFF Seafood Throwdown will be coming from the Women of Fishing Families in Chatham, MA and New England Fishmongers out of southern Maine/coastal New Hampshire. Chix Who Fish from Maine will join us for a crab picking demo after the Seafood Throwdown. Aside from bringing their cooking and demonstration chops, these women will share what it means to fish, to be a woman working in what’s considered to be a “man’s world,” and will share their multi-general knowledge of the ocean ecosystems and how it interacts with us.

But we’re not stopping there; we’re also including women who just simply “food.”

Our emcee will be Laurie Lufkin of Cape Ann. Laurie is a chef and caterer who has won many cooking competitions in her own right.

Laurie Lufkin & Callie Crossley at 2011 BLFF SFT.jpg
Laurie Lufkin and Callie Crossley of WBUR emceeing the 2011 Seafood Throwdown at BLFF
Joining us on the judging panel this year will be five women who cook, eat, make, and now have the title “author” added to their resume:
·      Ali Berlow is the publisher of Edible Vineyard and author of Food Activist Handbook;
·      Diana Rodgers is a Massachusetts-based farmer, nutritionist and author of Homegrown Paleo Cookbook;
·      Hallie Baker is a chocolatier and owner of Turtle Alley Chocolates in Gloucester and Salem, MA, and author of Turtle Truffle Bark!;
·      Heather Atwood is a food writer for the Gloucester Daily Times and author of In Cod We Trust; and,
·      Leigh Belanger is a communications consultant, the food editor at Culture magazine, and author of The Boston Homegrown Cookbook.

BLFF author judges.jpg
Personally, I feel privileged to have these women in my life as colleagues and sources of inspirations, but even more importantly as friends.

Worth noting that even the NAMA team who will be on hand are all women this year! We’ve sent Brett off to hold down the fort at Farm Aid this year. In addition, Future Chefs is sending some of the up and coming young women chefs to assist our able chefs.
So come down to the Boston Local Food Festival this Sunday, September 20th on the Rose Kennedy Greenway to meet some of my friends, learn about local seafood, and the women who make food happen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My Road to Farm Aid: 20 years in the making

This post comes to us from Brett Tolley, NAMA's community organizer.

This year’s Farm Aid marks its 30th year anniversary -- almost as old as I am. Farm Aid is one of the biggest concerts in the world helping to raise awareness of the importance of family farmers. Although this is my first year attending, I feel like I’ve been on the road to Farm Aid almost my whole life.

My #Road2FarmAid started when I was ten years old. I was at the fish pier with my mother and sister, awaiting my father’s return from a day’s fishing trip out to George’s Bank. The pier was full of comings and goings. Fishermen offloading. Crew mending nets. Seagulls flying overhead. Smells of salt and fish guts in the air and the sound of fishermen’s booming voices along the docks.

One of those voices was my father’s good friend Bob St. Pierre, who recently passed away. Being the great storyteller he was, Bob taught me that family fishermen and family farmers shared a lot in common. We provided food for people, worked at the mercy of mother nature, and were part of a long tradition passed on from generation to generation. He also told me that like the family farmers we were up against some of the BIG players trying to squeeze us out. So we must learn from the family farmers if we are to survive.

I had no idea what Farm Aid was, but I was on my way.

Captain Bob telling a story of catching the great bluefin tuna

With the fish piers far behind, the next step along my #Road2FarmAid came during my first week in college. I woke up to the sound of my roommate in tears and the site of the television screen as we watched the second plane hit the World Trade Tower. The following few weeks after 9/11 were rough, but during one of those late nights, huddled around the t.v. with some good friends, we turned on Farm Aid and watched live from Indiana. At center stage was Dave Matthews making a small tribute to NYC. To the tune of All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews strummed those chords and for whatever reason, a cathartic wave washed over me. Amidst the pain and confusion there was something in that moment that helped me process what was going on. Music has the power to do that sometimes.

Dave Matthews perf. All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan at Farm Aid 2001

A few years later I studied abroad in Mexico and spent much time in the Sonora Desert learning first hand the plight of family farmers who had been displaced from their farm lands. International policies like NAFTA affected millions of farmers, leaving them little choice but to risk everything and head north. Seeing the faces of fishermen like Bob and my father in these farmers, helped me realize what Bob shared with me many years before. I made a documentary about the experience titled “Dying to Get In” and in the spirit of music and activism, included the soundtrack to one of my favorite songs of all time “This Land is Your Land” by Woodie Guthrie, this version performed by the Mexican-American singer songwriter Lila Downs.

Lila Downs perf. This Land is Your Land and Pastures of Plenty by Woodie Guthrie

As we approach Farm Aid 2015 my long journey to Farm Aid is nearing its end. I am extremely humbled and grateful to be attending this year on behalf of NAMA and our network helping to deepen the connections between family farmers and fishermen. This is NAMA’s 7th year at Farm Aid and we’ll be joined by our fantastic partners: the National Family Farm Coalition, the Rural Coalition, Sitka Salmon Shares, and Salmon Beyond Borders - an exciting fishing-community led campaign aimed to stop the large-scale mining that destroys fish habitat.

For me, I’ll be taking to Farm Aid thoughts of Bob and my fishing family ancestors who’ve fought to protect the health of the ocean. The fight certainly hasn’t gotten any easier. Today we face unprecedented pressures from an industrial food system and policies that seek to privatize the ocean commons. Yet we keep going, building strength with our brother and sister farmers, and finding restitude in good music. To me, I know I’m in the right place when I’m around a rockin’ beat and passionate activists. Which, by the way, has become a small side project of mine together with some great people called the SeaFire Kids. Who knows, maybe my road to Farm Aid is just beginning.

SeaFire Kids performed at last year’s Rock the Boat benefit concert for NAMA

Pics from Past Farm Aid Events

Farm Aid 2013 in New York with fishing families from Maine, Mass, and NY

Farm Aid 2014 in North Carolina where we hosted the game “Lets Make an Ocean Grab”

Farm Aid 2014 Panel with Jim Hightower, L to R NC fishermen Dewey Hemilright and Jeff Oden, NAMA’s Director Niaz Dorry, and Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Farm Aid 2012 in Pennsylvania with our wonderful collaborators
Kathy Ozer (l) and Lisa Griffith (r) of the National Family Farm Coalition