Vol. 9, No. 8  August 2004    News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine          SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
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The Politics of Tuna
by Jeff Della Penna

   There was a time when fishing was fishing, politics was politics, and the art of diplomacy was something used by fishermen when they were either very late for dinner or had forgotten some special occasion. But times have changed. Because of the political aspects of the modern fisheries, today’s fishermen are just as likely to be found on Capitol Hill as they are on Georges Bank.
   For some of the fisheries, boat foreclosures, disappearing waterfronts and fishermen being forced to sell ancestral homes have become common occurrences. Some of the fisheries have been luckier than others, but the U.S. tuna fishery has found itself in trouble more than once in the last decade. Now the odds may be stacking up against the tuna fishery again.
   Mark Godfried is with FWF Inc., a bluefin buyer and consigner with an office and plant in Gloucester, Mass. He’s been in the western Atlantic tuna fishery for as long as anyone else in the tuna fishery can remember. Right now he sees the wild tuna fishery stuck between a rock and a hard place and facing “impending doom.” Godfried points to several reasons for Tuna’s problems including; the collapse of the Japanese market, the rapid expansion of tuna pen operations all over the world, pressure from U.S. sport fishermen, and the loss of additional fishing rights due to political wrangling by the U.S. defense department. Of those reasons, it’s the politics that has Godfried the most riled up.


Several big boats form a circle to raise a tuna landing net off Bartate, Spain. The water is boiling with the large fish. The virtually unregulated Eastern Atlantic tuna fishery takes more than 10 times what the U.S. takes from the same tuna stock.

   “As with many things that have happened with our government, there is a tendency to trade off American economic interests for American State Department interests,” Godfried said. “Our U.S. fishery commissioners, the National Marine Fishery Services, goes into ICCAT (the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) and basically allows by-catch. The quotas for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea are largely ignored. The ICCAT officials and our officials turn a blind eye.”

   Richard “Rich” Ruais heads up the East Coast Tuna Association (ECTA). He’s come to the forefront as one of the western Atlantic’s most passionate and diplomatic tuna fishery representatives. “Since about the mid-1990s, the commercial fishery and the recreational fishery have been basically working together,” Ruais said. “We’ve got a common enemy now, and that enemy is the unregulated fisheries in the eastern Atlantic.”


You Have To Love This Work
by Mike Crowe

   On a steep, densely-wooded bank, in a location barely visible from the water and easily missed on the winding road in, is a sought-after boatbuilder’s shop in South Bristol. It’s John’s Bay Boat Company,
on the western shore of John’s Bay. The builder, Peter Kass, says he’s somewhat disappointed he can’t build all the boats he’d like to, not for want of customers, but because he can’t find the help with the skills needed to produce the high standards of craftsmanship he demands.
   Kass builds lobster boats, a very competitive business. More specifically, he builds wooden lobster boats, something fiberglass builders said would disappear in the wake of the rapid shift to glass construction 30 years ago. So what’s going on that has John’s Bay Boat Company running so strong against the current? Kass says he’s the only builder building wood lobster boats exclusively. Some glass builders do occasionally build wood lobster boats, but wood is all he builds.


Looking forward on the My Diva. Kass boats have a split wheelhouse to get in out
of the weather. The owner had Kass build the plastic tube in the Douglas Fir deck hatch
for dropping lobster into the tanks below deck. The split wheelhouse has two sets of
controls and electronicson swivels so they can be seen from both operating locations.


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