TRANSCRIPT - Fred Bennet
Bennet is a cod fisherman in Chatham, Massachusetts and a
member of the Cape Cod Hook Fishermens Association.
fished a lot of ways, and you've come back to long-lining in fishing
for cod. Tell us why that is.
Basically, the reason I long-line is that it's not hurting anything.
It's not hurting the habitat on the ocean floor; we can release
our fish alive. You can actually see the fish swim right back down
to the bottom.
It's just a great way to fish. It's really not hurting the overall
picture. First of all, the fish don't all bite. They bite when they're
hungry, just like people. We only catch the ones that are hungry.
The little ones we can let go alive. It's just a wonderful way to
you're not dragging?
Well, I was dragging. I dragged for about 8 years or something
like that. And first of all, I didn't have the correct amount of
power needed. When I first started dragging, we were in smooth bottom
where you didn't need a lot of power and then as the population
of fish diminished and the population of fish were strictly in the
hard bottom, you needed a lot of power to tow a net and I didn't
have that. It took a long time before I realized what I was doing
to the habitat crushing everything in my tow, just disturbing
the bottom colony. It was sad to see that.
And one of the particular instances that really made me change
my mind was, I was towing down in the great South Channel and I
was at night towing along, the net was full of soft lobsters, just
their parts their tails and various parts of their carcasses.
That was it for me; I just couldn't take it any longer. It wasn't
the thing to do. You know, I think anybody that's responsible that
cares about the future would see it that way; but not everyone,
your concerns as a fisherman?
Well, our concerns, my concern in particular, is for the future.
I'm pretty much at the end of my career of fishing full time. It's
been a long time, and it's been hard on the body, but I have a son,
and grandchildren that I would like to have the opportunities that
I have had and I feel it's a very honorable way to earn a living.
On an average day I feed 1,000 people. How many people can say that?
That they feed a thousand people a day; that's a privilege. And
I never hurt anything. That's the way I look at it. Hooking won't
hurt anything. And that's important. I've destroyed enough things
in my career and I feel that we all need to look to the future.
There's a lot more people on earth, and it's a renewable resource.
It's very important that we learn to do things properly. I'm not
saying that everyone needs to hook fish, by any means; dragging
and scalloping are great ways to develop fish products, but we need
to learn how to do it correctly. Just because it was done that way
for the last 80 years doesn't mean it's correct.
That 's what frustrates me about these green groups they
come out with all these great ideas. They sue the government and
then they step aside, so many of them do that. It's really frustrating.
advocating hook and line fishing, but isnt it true that even
this equipment can be used in a bad way, such as in sword fishing?
Well, this type of equipment couldn't be used for sword fishing.
Swordfish are in mid-water or on the surface. This gear goes to
the bottom. It has weights, actually. We clip weights on every so
often, so they will get to the bottom as quickly as possible. We
have to be worried about mammals that might be in the area that
would swim by and tangle the gear. So we try to get it to the bottom
as quick as possible and we don't catch any mammals. None.
saying it's not really what the technology is, but how you use it?
How you use it, but also technology has a great deal to do with
it. For instance, a while back, a couple years ago before the haddock
made a comeback, I suggested to the New England Regional Council
that in order for fishermen fishing otter-trawls to not catch haddock
that they modify the net. When the fish are traveling across the
bottom in front of the net, haddock try to escape by going up, they
don't go sideways, they go up. So, I said, why not let the haddock
go through the top of the net? Instead of using 5-1/2 or 6-1/2 inch
net, go to 12 or 24-inch twine and all those haddock would escape.
Now that's what I call technical use of the gear because a lot of
things can be done.
Scalloping there's probably ways to lift the scallop off
the bottom, other than dragging gear that weighs 2 or 3 tons that's
leveling everything in it's path. I realize scallopers have to use
what they have now, but there should be some kind of science, fishermen
government working together to correct these problems. They're well
known. Not everyone will admit it; I understand that.
But why not look to the future, by having the correct gear. It
may take a lot of years and a lot of hard work. Just so many brilliant
people in this country. I know the fishermen can't do it. We don't
have the resources, but together we could do it. Even the world.
Basically, we're feeding a great deal of the world. And the resource
is getting short so I think the thing to do is to come up with better
do you think that other fishermen need to hear?
I just feel that fishermen that are using destructive gear probably
have an idea that they are using destructive gear and looking at
the short-term financial gain, which is considerable. You have to
realize that people feed their families doing this business; it's
not all romance. We're looking for money like anybody in any business,
but if you look at the long term, although fishermen nowadays are
not particularly young I'm 63. There's guys that are nearly
my age and there's very few young guys in this business. The reason
why is there hasn't been a future in it for a while.
But I just feel that they need to look at the long-term outlook,
renewing the resource, thinking about when they're done fishing,
who is going to going to leave anything left on earth? That's really
important - that we leave a better atmosphere than when we started.
Most of the fishermen are much smarter than when I started. There's
a lot more education in the fishermen themselves, in the way they
If they just look at the long-term; think about what' if you've
got a little kid that's ten years old and he doesn't want to go
to college, and even if he does, he wants to go fishing. You've
got to leave him something. And we have to keep feeding the people,
all the various countries and throughout the world and also, leave
the habitat so that the fish can continue to grow, a place to live
in where they can escape from predators.
switched over to a fishing practice that has less impacts and you're
still able to make a living?
I am inclined to say that hook fishing is financially beneficial.
I've done very well since I went back at it again, since 1986 or
1985. I'm making a good, comfortable living. I'm ready to retire.
Spent a lot of years doing it, but I can do it and it's a great
way to do business. It's beneficial to not only yourself, but to
the environment, and to the people that you feed.