As I landed in the Kona airport, I was curious about what made Hawai’i such a special place for aquaculture. So special that the Builders’ Initiative (an offshoot of the Walton Family Foundation) paid all the expenses for two dozen participants to spend four days in Hawai’i on an educational site visit organized by Meridian Institute and Ocean Strategies. Participants came from around the country, representing commercial fishing, recreational fishing, environmental groups, native Hawaiians, and the aquaculture industry.
Plumbing the Depths
“It was a moon tide, flat calm. There wasn’t a ripple to be seen,” said Gordon Peabody. “I knew it was a tuna fin. The fish was behaving a little strangely. I was thinking it was driving tinker mackerel onto the beach.”
As anyone who spends time near the water knows, seals have made a dramatic comeback. Check out Google’s aerial images of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge; see all those little ant-like blobs on the beach? Each one is several hundred pounds of ocean-going carnivore. We’re a long way from the early 1900s, when both Maine and Massachusetts paid bounties for seals, and we nearly exterminated them from the region.
A few years ago, dragger fishermen were calling John Pappalardo, CEO of the Fishermen’s Alliance, saying they were catching a lot of fluke.
There is a good market for the tasty, white fish, but fishermen were frustrated because they were throwing them overboard.
“They don’t have permits to catch them,” said Pappalardo.
Years ago, fisheries scientist George Maynard was working with a fisherman so interested in the ocean’s temperature – and how it would affect his catch – that he created a unique method to figure it out.
“He had been using an infrared heat gun from Harbor Freight Tools to take the temperature of fish as they came up in his nets,” Maynard remembered.
“We just completed our third video trawl survey in the western Gulf of Maine this May. For three years we’ve tracked a large year class of cod from 2019 that has continued to show healthy growth without major mortality.
The 2019 young of the year were observed in multiple surveys (they slip through our net’s bigger mesh). Again in 2020 we saw areas with high densities of fish that were approximately the size we would expect if they had been young in 2019.”
When scientists were poised to install the Coastal Pioneer Array, a system that depends on 10 moored monitors as well as underwater gliders and autonomous underwater vehicles, fishermen raised alarms about all that instrumentation in the ocean.
Glen Gawarkiewicz, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute senior scientist who relies on data from the array, remembers the “hullabaloo” and one meeting where researchers explained how information collected would increase oceanic understanding.
Fishermen were convinced. One captain, Fred Mattera, executive director of Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, asked a question: Why is the temperature of the continental shelf 72 degrees in December?
The waters off the Cape have long been popular for tuna, marlin and sharks, as well as the fishermen that chase them. Recently, those waters have proved attractive for wind energy companies as well, and it’s unclear what that means for the fisheries.
“If you put in hundreds of turbines, what is the cumulative impact?” asked Michael Pierdinock, who serves on the U.S. International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas Advisory Committee.
After a day at work Mel Sanderson hustled home, ate a quick dinner, and set off immediately for the Chatham Fish Pier to meet Captain Bob Keese who was coming in from a scallop trip.
When she arrived she found out from another fisherman that he had just finished unloading and had already left to put his boat , F/V Sandra Anne, on the mooring. But he had left something for her: