By Lisa Cavanaugh
“I started as an intern on the Cape in the summer of 2004,” remembers Eric Brazer, Jr., now Deputy Director for the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance. “I was in the same graduate program in environmental management at Duke University that Paul Parker and Mel Sanderson attended. Paul recruited me, and I loved it so much that I came back full-time in June 2005.”
Brazer, son of a lobsterman in Ogunquit Maine, served first as a policy coordinator at the Fishermen’s Alliance and then took on a joint position as manager of the Fixed Gear Sector under former chief executive officer Paul Parker, keeping track of quota and fishing effort. “It was kind of a hybrid role,” says Brazer, which lasted until his departure in October 2013.
His multi-faceted work allowed him to build a skill set he relies on to this day. “The Gulf of Mexico Shareholder Alliance is an industry-built and industry-driven organization involved in policy, research, quota banking, and marketing,” he says. “The things I learned at the Fishermen’s Alliance and the skills I gained there on a daily basis are what I turn to in this position.”
He feels the mission of his new organization is at core the same as what the Fishermen’s Alliance stands for. “It’s about the fishermen themselves, relationship building, the grassroots infrastructure to affect change,” says Brazer. “Some of the groundwork was already laid here at the Shareholders Alliance but I was able to kick it up a notch because of what I learned at CCCFA.”
Brazer’s wife Amy still does technical analysis for the Fixed Gear Sector, which makes it easier for the family (with young daughter Teagan) to spend the year evenly split between Chatham and Key West, Florida. He is only a few miles from the Fishermen’s Alliance office when they are on Cape Cod, but he misses the camaraderie of staff interactions and connections to the local fleet.
“Aside an office full of dogs running around, I also miss the community atmosphere, not just at the office itself but the Chatham fishing fleet,” he says. In the Gulf, “we don’t have a brick and mortar office, and our fishermen are spread from Brownsville, Texas to the Keys. A lot of the relationship building is done over the phone and via email. I can’t jump in my truck and head down to the pier to talk to the fishermen, like I could when I was with the Alliance.”
There are advantages to a job that can be done remotely (living on the Cape as well as in the Keys comes to mind), “but there is something to be said for grabbing a beer with a fisherman or colleague after work and just talking,” Brazer adds.
One of his fondest memories is a New England Fishery Management Council meeting that would decide the fate of the Fixed Gear Sector:
“I vividly remember sitting in the council meeting in Portland where the final decision was being made on whether or not to approve the Fixed Gear Sector. Stu Tolley was to my right, Johnny Our to my left, and Bob St. Pierre behind me. Months of meetings, education, and outreach to council members were on the line. We weren’t sure we had the votes, and as the roll call was cast and we slowly realized we had the support to implement the Fixed Gear Sector, we felt a surge of relief. We all cheered when the final vote was cast. It was the first of many victories the sector had, and I was honored to be a part of it.”
Brazer’s current and former organizations collaborate in several ways, including being part of national efforts like the Fishing Communities Coalition and the Seafood Harvesters of America.
“I still rely on John Pappalardo to bounce ideas off of,” says Brazer of the Fishermen Alliance’s current chief executive officer. “It’s great to know that I can continue to work with and learn from him. We are representing different regions now, but we are fighting the same battles.”