We are still here, fishing and working

Apr 29, 2020 | Over the Bar

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Seufert

By John Pappalardo

The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, then called the Hook Fishermen’s Association, formed in 1991 at a crisis moment. A group of independent, forward-thinking fishermen created a united front to make sure major regulatory changes hitting the industry wouldn’t destroy the historic, small-boat fleet on Cape Cod.

We are in another pivotal moment. The pandemic shaking the world is hitting the local economy hard. Yet once again, much as through wars, the Great Depression, 9-11 – the fleet is still fishing, still bringing home food from the sea.

We will weather this storm as well. But we need your support more than ever.

Back in January, when I took stock of 2019, I couldn’t help but be grateful to the fishing industry and the community that supports them. It looked like we were coming out of a trough, ready to ride a wave. Those bright, committed fishermen who started this organization had been joined by others and as the industry changed they did as well.

They diversified and improvised. Many switched to more abundant species, rebuilt their business plans and lives on the water. They hung tough, committed to a life on the ocean, practicing the Cape’s original Blue Economy. We stuck with them and worked tirelessly to protect fish and our fishing fleets.

They had won the right to sail into a brighter future. There was renewed interest in the industry. We started a fishermen’s training program, taught in part by experienced captains who have much to show, who need more knowledgeable crew. There is federal legislation which aims to accomplish the same goal coast to coast, and we have doggedly championed that here and in Washington.

We continue to turn to good science to drive smart fisheries policy. Haddock stocks have come back and we are working with fishermen to see if halibut is on the same trajectory. Our support, investment and pioneering efforts in electronic monitoring, cameras recording what is caught at sea, will help address many problems that still plague the industry.

Decades of work to protect vital herring stocks succeeded and will pay dividends for the fisheries, the Cape’s ecosystem, and its economy. We continued to invest in the A.R.C. Hatchery in Dennis, which supplies shellfish seed to many local growers and most Cape towns. Commercial shellfisheries and aquaculture are growing at an unprecedented level.

The global challenge we face will not destroy these successes. We have mobilized to provide fishermen with the necessary support to get through this, and we see valuable opportunities we will share with you throughout this year. We are confident in the flexibility, resilience, and perseverance Cape fishermen have shown for generations.

I believe that with your help, we will look back and say we came out of this stronger than ever. We will succeed because the broader community believes in our mission. All of us want to see an active fishing fleet on Cape Cod – it’s hard to imagine what this place would be without it.

We need your support now more than ever.

(John Pappalardo is CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance)


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