Article Category: Columns

Joint NIOSH-USCG Grant Program Provides Funds for Improving Commercial Fishing Safety

Joint NIOSH-USCG Grant Program Provides Funds for Improving Commercial Fishing Safety

You’re a Dungeness crab fisherman. It’s 4:30 p.m. on a cold and rapidly darkening January day. It has been a great day, with a catch like you have never seen. You and your crew are pulling the last of your pots when you look over and see one of your crew not looking right. A crew member is standing near the winch with his left arm bending the wrong direction. He’s not saying anything, but he’s wet and starting to shiver. You are 30 miles offshore and even further back to port. The seas are building, winds picking up and the clouds are dropping. This scenario is part of Fishermen First Aid Safety Training (FFAST), developed by Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Sea Grant, to address the specific first aid needs of commercial fishermen responding to workplace injuries on their vess...
MPAs and Commercial Fishing

MPAs and Commercial Fishing

For some time, the conventional wisdom has been that designating certain waters as Marine Protected Areas—where commercial fishing is off limits—hurts the fishing industry due to a corresponding reduction in catch, and that the reduction in turn drives seafood prices higher globally. But is this really accurate? A new study published in the scientific journal Science Advances, says it is not. According to the study, which was published in the magazine’s June 2023 issue, the largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in North America, located in the Mexican Pacific, does not harm industrial fishing. In fact, the information uncovered by four researchers concludes that the protected area has actually helped commercial fishing in the long run. The researchers, including a marine ecologist at th...
The Battle Over Columbia River Salmon

The Battle Over Columbia River Salmon

Over the next several months, the West Coast has a golden opportunity to push for a serious Columbia River salmon recovery plan. This chance to finally get it right comes after decades—and more than $15 billion—spent by the federal government trying to fix a broken system, along with more than 20 years of litigation. After decades of dam building, four final dams—Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite—were built on the Snake River, the Columbia River’s largest tributary, in the 1960s and ‘70s. Before they were constructed, Washington’s Department of Fisheries warned that the Lower Snake River dams would spell trouble for salmon: “The development would remove part of the cost of waterborne shipping from the shipper and place it on the taxpayer, jeopardizing more than...
Commercial Fishing Near Miss/Close Calls Program Development

Commercial Fishing Near Miss/Close Calls Program Development

As the old trope goes, wise men learn from their own mistakes, but wiser men learn from the mistakes of others. It’s also a lot less expensive. So, how can vessel operators learn from their own mistakes without injuring anyone and incurring the costs? Wouldn’t it be more effective to learn from the near misses/close calls of other fishermen in similar regions or fisheries in order to lessen injuries on their own vessels? AMSEA is looking for fishermen who want to help evaluate an anonymous, cost-free, near-miss reporting system on their own vessel. AMSEA is working with NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and the ABS Group to develop a type of reporting system in which operators can share examples of close calls that have occurred on their own vessels wit...
The ‘30×30 Campaign’ — What and Why?

The ‘30×30 Campaign’ — What and Why?

As the just released—and very alarming—2023 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report verifies, there is an across-the-board and strong scientific agreement, now supported by hard data from several independent sources, that the world as a whole is right on the precipice of another Great Extinction Event, triggered by climate change. The current widespread decline in biodiversity is powered by insatiable human population growth and development that is devastating the natural environment. That, coupled with nearly 200 years of world industrialization that has already thrust fossil-fuel generated carbon dioxide as well as atmospheric methane (which is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) up to levels well beyond the poi...
Alaska Native Salmon Set Gillnetters in Norton Sound Brave Fierce Conditions

Alaska Native Salmon Set Gillnetters in Norton Sound Brave Fierce Conditions

Kyle is a young commercial fisherman from an Alaska Native salmon fishing community in Norton Sound. He learned how to fish from his dad, who is also his captain. They manually set nets and haul catch by hand, like many salmon set gillnetters. And like many fishermen, Kyle has close calls from time to time in Alaska’s Bering Sea, with wild weather in the remote wilderness. Like the time a half-hour trip for firewood turned into a two-day, 30-mile trek home after their 24-foot skiff was swamped. Still, Kyle doesn’t always wear a life jacket. “Once I’m getting to a point when I’m my dad’s age, that’s when I’ll have a life jacket on every day,” he said. Research led by Leann Fay, Ph.D., recently gathered knowledge and lessons through interviews with members of this unique fishery to und...
Preventing Onboard Overdose Fatalities

Preventing Onboard Overdose Fatalities

Watching friends, family, or crew members struggle with addiction is devastating. It is tempting to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that addiction won’t impact our family, friends or crew, but denial doesn’t change the odds. Over the last few decades, deaths due to overdoses have continued to rise. There are three distinct waves of opioid use, defined as Rx opioids in the 1990s, heroin in 2010 and synthetic opioids in 2013. We are still experiencing the effects of the synthetic opioid wave. Unfortunately, synthetic opioid use has proven to be the deadliest to date, killing 8.5 times as many people as in 1999. As firmly as we believe that we will never have to deal with an overdose on our vessel, the truth is that each year, as addiction rates continue to rise, you are at an incr...
PCFFA Principles Regarding Marine Protected Areas

PCFFA Principles Regarding Marine Protected Areas

Introductory Note: There is no scientific doubt that the world as a whole is facing serious biodiversity loss, as well as a potential extinction crisis, both being driven by rapid climate change, and that serious biodiversity protection and habitat conservation mandates are needed, based on sensible, science-driven solutions. But unfortunately, some groups are still championing ever more ocean marine protected areas (MPAs) as “the solution” to ocean ecosystem problems that are all too often also resulting in major fisheries declines. For some groups this has become a form of “magical thinking,” rather than only one of many management tools to be deployed with forethought and guided by good science. Marine protected areas (MPAs) especially are back in the limelight with the recent public...
“Well, That Was Fun.”

“Well, That Was Fun.”

“Well, that was fun,” said nobody, ever. Oh wait, what?You weren’t there? Let me explain. First off, I’m the Super Glamorous Fishwife of the Old Man of the Sea and I feel the need to share our world of commercial fishing. I formerly wrote for another fishing magazine, but then they decided to embrace ocean wind energy. That didn’t sit too well for me, so I basically stopped writing for them. So basically, we have some catching up to do.  (Let this be a lesson: do not tick a fishwife off, especially one with a big mouth, ‘er I meant pen, or keyboard.). Now where was I? Oh, that’s right. Dungeness crab season in California. First, we had a season start delay which is turning into the new not-fun normal, and then California Fish & Wildlife threw a new one onto the fire—50% gear ...
Let’s Fight For Salmon,  Not Over Them

Let’s Fight For Salmon, Not Over Them

The reality is that salmon-dependent fishing families are the ultimate victims of widespread salmon declines, not their cause. At the time of this writing in late January, prospects for 2023’s California, Oregon and Washington ocean commercial, recreational and Tribal salmon seasons are bleak. Ocean salmon abundance projections are so low that broad closures may be a “weak stock management” necessity, simply to keep already severely diminished Coho and Chinook stocks from extinction. The West Coast fishing industry is actually at the tail end of decades of salmon abundance declines. The onrushing threats of climate change bringing more droughts will only exacerbate these problems. The two questions salmon-dependent communities need to ask now are “Why is this happening?” and also “What...