Hookers Get Green Light
by Mike Crowe
After a highly-organized effort to retain access to fishing grounds, fishermen on Cape Cod have fashioned a means of doing so. The result of the efforts of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermens Association (CCCHFA) is the Georges Bank Hook Sector. Commercial hook fishermen will be given a green light to fish 13 percent of Georges Bank Cod in a cooperative harvest.
The Hook seeks to convert and apply fishermens skills, knowledge and experience into timely, innovative experiments which yield accurate and viable data. The CCCHFA also takes cooperative research a step further than simply using fishing vessels as research platforms. As such, the group seeks ways to involve fishermen in the scientific work, from project design, through field work on the boats, and back on shore in the laboratory. This sort of hands-on, real scientific experience will further engage fishermen in the collaborative research process, and promote communication between fishermen and scientists. Furthermore, it will continue to foster the feeling that fishermen, not scientists, own the science that controls their livelihood.
The CCCHFA was started in the early 1990s, when ten commercial hook fishermen met in a Chatham, MA bait shack to discuss the need to organize, in an effort to save the hook fishery. Changing regulations and changing times forced them to become involved in these changes or become excluded from the results.
Until 1999, they worked out of the basement of one of the groups grandmothers basement. They used a multi-faceted approach to building support, membership and funding. In 1997, they hired Paul Parker as executive director. Parker, a former summer resident, with a graduate degree from the Nichols School of Enviromental Science at Duke University, had a vision for an organization that would take the interests of local fishermen and help them get control of what happens here, said Peter Baker, of the CCCHFA. Taking their plans beyond the bait shack, they have built a broad base of community support. With more than 2,500 members, which includes 400 commercial fishermen, community members with an interest in the ocean environment, the waterfront, recreational fishermen and those generally interested in coastal stability, CCCFHA now has a staff of eight, and new office space.
CCCHFA is currently involved in six major cooperative research efforts:
The fleet study program. Partners fishermen with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration personnel to design systems to collect catch data to remove the reporting burden currently on fishermen.
NE Regional Cod tagging program. Under contract with NMFS, they work with the Cape Cod hook fleet in recovering tagged cod. They work in conjunction with a range of regional science organizations.
Atlantic spiny dogfish study. Through the collection of DNA samples, the population structure will be analyzed.
Catch and release survivorship study. The survival rates for Atlantic cod are studied, using cages on the seafloor to monitor survival.
Georges Bank Larval and Juvenile Cod Habitat study. The study will genetically identify the fall spawning cod on western Georges and use the DNA fingerprints to track the drift of target eggs, larvae and juveniles.
Closed Area I Haddock. Government and independent biologists assess the viability of using hook and line to catch haddock, while minimizing the bycatch of cod.
CCCFHA has a broad base of funding, as well. Their projects are funded by membership dues, fishing industry support, foundations, and the Hookers Ball, which this year brought in $70,000.
Link to their Website: http://www.ccchfa.org/