Saturday, August 06, 2016

Endangered fishermen invite friends to their natural habitat

On Thursday some of Martha's Vineyard Island's shrinking population of commercial fishermen threw a party on Menemsha dock to present their case for local aquaculture and the Preservation Trust.

In order to rebuild depleted Atlantic fisheries, federal regulators control the catch by limiting the number of permits allowing commercial fishing. It's working. The stock of fish is healthier than in several decades. But it is tough for local boat men. The situation is akin to what has happened in cities with taxi medallions: what originally was an affordable license to provide a necessary service has become an expensive commodity item. Prices for permits have soared out of reach of the working boat owners who provide the catch to small harbors like Menemsha. (Click on any image for a larger view.)

Children checked out the passersby.

Instructive posters hung from pilings along the dock.

The state environmental police boat was along side.

The fishermen want the island's residents and visitors to understand what they contribute.

Naturally, local candidates for office showed up to glad hand the crowds. Here Marc Rivers, an aspiring Democratic country sheriff, chats up the crew of the environmental police boat.

Fishermen talk with friends on board a vessel tied to the dock.

A stray child wonders what is in the water.

That kind of money just isn't available for the hereditary local seamen. Consequently, fishing permits get sucked up by industrial-scale fishing corporations.

A dingy pulled alongside and a conversation ensued.

There are plenty of scallops nearby, so prohibiting locals without permits from draging for them is a particular sore point.

A crab tank provides a diversion for a young girl. It's a terrible fate for a crab to be set out for kids to catch, but it is part of beach going.

The Fishermen's Trust proposes a solution to keep the local industry alive: raise money to buy up some permits and make them available to locals through a lottery. It wouldn't bring back the old prosperity of the fishing industry, but it might keep the craft and harbor alive.

The band Good Night Louise drew a crowd.

Town of Chilmark Selectman (that's Massachusetts-lingo for a local councilman) Warren Doty explained the Trust's hopes and plans.

The band almost certainly got more attention than Doty.

We came away very glad to have been exposed to this local organizing campaign.

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