TRANSCRIPT -Anthony DiLernia
DiLernia is the Captain of Rocket Charters in New York Skyports
Marina. He is Professor of Marine Technology with The City
University of New York at Kingsborough Community College and
a member of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council representing
What can you say about technology in fishing these days?
years ago, as a young deckhand, I would stand up on the roof of
a boat I worked on, use a pair of binoculars and try to just line
up a couple of buildings up on the beach, and wed maneuver
the boat and get close to an obstruction on the sea floor and we
had the most primitive of echo-sounders. If there was a flash of
light on this echo-sounder we knew we were near the obstruction
on the sea floor. And those obstructions served as fish havens.
So we were using binoculars to try to line up things up on the beach,
and if you could find that, get close to it, anchor the boat and
got a loran-sea and thats an old one by todays
standards; today global positioning systems have replaced the loran-sea
for positioning Ive got a color-video echo-sound that
probes the sea floor, that looks right down to the bottom, its
no longer a flash of light that I have to depend on and interpret.
Now I can look at it and study the picture and I can say, well,
I think those are blue fish or those are scup, and if you spend
enough time looking at one you can learn to read it and you can
find a spot on the sea floor thats no more than 20 or 30 feet
wide, probe it with an echo-sounder, see how many fish are there,
then go catch them.
There used to
be skill associated in steaming off shore at times and using a stopwatch
and steering a course to get close to fish havens. Now with todays
electronics-based technology, you push a button and go there, the
auto-pilot will steer the boat there.
The more technology
we apply to our fishing the greater is our fishing power. subtle
technological increases aboard those vessels, each year increases
the fishing power of that fleet. You dont have to necessarily
measure fishing power in number of boats or even size of boats because
a 45-foot boat today has as much fishing power, in certain respects,
as a boat of 70 or 80 feet of years ago. A 45-footer still cannot
withstand the weather of a 70- or 80-footer, but it still has fishing
power that never existed before.
So when you
continuously apply an increasing technology, increasing fishing
power, and were killing fish, killing power were
not gonna call it killing power, but thats what it is
increasing killing power on a static type of a resource, eventually
you drive it down.
nothing wrong with that technology; that technology makes our boats
safer, more comfortable, more livable; that technology is wonderful
but you cannot use that ever-increasing technology, and say
oh, I want to fish by the old rules because if you want
to fish by the old rules, you have to fish the old way. If youre
gonna use the new technology and the new benefits that science has
given us, then you have to use that same science to help determine
how much you can and cannot take out. But you cant have it
You spoke about the fact that you had the ability to get to places
you didnt have before?
We need t speak
about a couple of things. One of the changes that has occurred over
the past 30 years, particularly for the East Coast stocks, is during
the winter, many of those critters that we would target would swim
far off shore to the edge the continental shelf, 80 to 100 miles
off shore, and it was winter over there and they would stay there.
And they were safe because our ability to go that far was limited.
But today, with
our new technology we can create better boats, more efficient boats,
safer boats, and where fish used to go at one time go to get a respite
during the winter, now when they go there theyre more vulnerable
to exploitation. I can use that echo-sounder to look down and find
them. Whereas in the past they would remain unmolested offshore
all winter, now we actively pursue them during the winter. We now
have the ability to get there, to fish deeper than weve ever
Well, you cant
do that and then expect to have your near-shore fishermen that have
fished traditionally near shore to do their thing because those
near-shore fishermen are dependent upon those critters swimming
back to the beach each spring so that they could go after them.
Cant kill a fish twice.
Man has spent
more time on the surface of the moon than man has spent really on
the bottom of our deep oceans. Now were developing the technology
to go there and critters that have never EVER interacted with people
are going to experience that. We have to realize that thats
going to occur and we have to control that.
at 10,000 feet, we always say, we always say its a featureless
plain, theres nothing living down there. Until we go down
to a deep ocean thermal vent, turn on the lights and realize that
theres an entire biological community that existed at the
depths of the ocean which scientists originally told us life could
never exist there.
nothing wrong with having this technology available. But what happens
is you cant have that technology on so many boats being applied
on the resource. One boat that has so much technology on it that
it has tremendous killing power. If you choose to do that we must
recognize that our traditional fishermen, our inshore fishermen,
can no longer coexist with that.
And we still
have the pioneer spirit, the outdoor spirit, in many of our commercial
fishermen, people would turn to that because perhaps functioning
on shore was not within their own personal psyche.
And then now
the same fellows that used to be able to do that find that they
have to come to shore more often, to interact with the regulators
and the managers and the advocates and everyone else, and it becomes
difficult at times. Ive sat in a lot of fishing management
council meetings. Ive said it before Ill say it again
at times its a bit dehumanizing for a commercial fisherman,
or a sports fisherman, someone whos relied on their ability
to produce fish, to catch fish, to survive offshore whos
survived hurricanes, fog, bad weather, bad fishing, mechanical failures
all of that and then to come before a fishing management
council almost with a hat in hand and say, please let me continue
doing what Im doing; its-its tough for a guy to
do that and it-its a bit dehumanizing.
happened is we have to find a way, as fishery management councilors,
be able to recognize that and to deal with those men as well as
we could. Im not sure we do it as well as we could.
Striped bass is an example of what can be done.
I say men have
problems with management at times and they have difficulties reacting
to it. Management, though, has its success stories: striped bass.
I fish now in New York Harbor, under the Brooklyn Bridge, next to
the Statue of Liberty, in the East River, for striped bass. I made
a decision. I couldve stayed in the ocean, I couldve
continued to target stocks that appeared to me to become continuously
decreasing, and fight with managers and everything else for a piece
of the pie that was getting smaller and smaller because of all the
fishing, or I couldve redefined my business and what I did
and focus the business on a stock that was recovering, and thats
what Ive done with striped bass.
ask me where I dock and I tell them East 23rd Street
and FDR Drive in Manhattan they shake their head; they say, Huh?
they dont understand that in the East River, in New York Harbor,
you can catch striped bass that are 20, 30 pounds, maybe even more.
My best night last year, three guys had 75 fish in 2-1/2 hours.
Striped bass. I have sportsmen who come down after work they
come down, they leave their offices at five oclock, they hop
in a cab, come down to the boat, change out of their suit into jeans
and a T-shirt and hop on the boat, and within ten minutes they could
be catching fish. Bass is recovered.
not without a price. When I first started to fish for striped bass
it was over thirty years ago, and the regulations were a 16-inch
minimum size and an unlimited possession of em. So 16 years
old I would go out and catch striped bass, 20 or 30 16-inch striped
bass a night, and sell em to the restaurants. And I made money
doing that. Today, the possession limit is one fish per person,
a minimum of 28 inches.
Someone had said, okay, striped bass are the shining example of
a restored fishery, but the reason that was able to happen because
it was never that big of a commercial fishery, it was mostly a recreational
bass, theres definitely a recovery, but we have paid our dues.
Recreational fishermen have gone from unlimited number of fish at
16-inches a piece to one fish per person at 28 inches. The commercial
fishing industry that was, in a sense unregulated targeting striped
bass, has had very severe regulations placed on them. There were
some representatives of the commercial fishing industry that will
say that the striped bass, although they have been returned to the
recreational community, have not been fully returned to the commercial
community. And youll have to study the numbers to see if whether
thats so or not.
One of the things
you have to discipline yourself is as you see a recovery, is not
to want to jump in and take every fish thats recovered. At
the same time as youre experiencing a recovery, I personally
think some of the target levels that were shooting for to
recover I think are a little too high. Im not sure that we
can achieve some of those levels, some of those goals. And so what
happens is you end up killing fish and not landing them because
youre not permitted to land them due to quotas that are in
place or whatever.