TRANSCRIPT - Paul Parker
Parker is a hook fisherman in Chatham Massachusetts. Paul
is the Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook
What kind of method do you use to catch ground fish with and why?
I work with
hooks and lines primarily. During the winter months we use long
lines, which means we set baited tubs of trawl gear, theyre
about 1,800 feet long and have 300 hooks on each line. We connect
those together and set them for about 2 hours apiece. And when we
do that we bring up the lines after two hours and theyre loaded
with codfish if were lucky. Sometimes after that well
supplement that by jigging. That is a pretty simple procedure with
rods and reels and limited number of three hooks.
And again, all
the fish come up alive and that allows us to really maintain a low
level of by-catch. Any of the sub-legal sized fish we throw back
are all live. We see that borne out in the fact that actually right
now were working on marketing live codfish and were
able to take the fish right off the line and put them into a tank
of water on board and they all survive. So were very confident
that they survive when we release them into the wild.
Why do you fish that way. I thought people caught cod with nets?
Hook and line
has a long tradition here in Chatham and on Cape Cod. Its
something that were proud of locally, and its a real
clean way to catch fish, its not the most efficient way, but
it has tremendous potential to have low by-catch and relatively
little, almost no impact on the habitat.
Talk to us about by-catch.
Well there are
really two kinds of by-catch that youd be talking about. We
have sub-legal sized codfish. Everything comes up alive, so we unhook
those codfish and release them back into the wild. Research has
shown that theres a very high survival rate of those cod.
The other thing
that we have by-catch of would be non-target species. When were
cod fishing theres very few of those. Occasionally we might
have skates or dogfish, but up until now those are things that are
Why would you say that hook fishing is a more sustainable way to
fish than, say, trawl fishing?
Hook and line
is the most sustainable way to catch ground fish. We specialize
in catching cod and haddock, which is a slight liability. But when
we fish theres absolutely no damage to the habitat and very
limited by-catch. Its a very sustainable way of catching fish
thats been used for hundreds of years.
We have a proven
track record here in New England. You can look back to when the
Basques started fishing on Georges Bank and ever since then hook
and line has been a really sustainable way to catch codfish and
Could you speak to why hook caught fish is a better quality seafood
product than fish caught in a bottom trawl or gill net?
is the highest quality fish available on the marketplace. The reason
for that is the way that we fish. One of the reasons that hooked
codfish is such high quality is that we are a day boat operation.
That means that from the point when the fish is caught in the water
off shore its back at the docks within 6 or 7 hours. Whereas
with a long trip boat, a dragger boat, it might be out at sea for
7 or 10 days and obviously some of that fish is going to be a week
old or 10 days old when it gets to the dock, let alone when it gets
to the consumer.
up alive and we process that fish immediately and ice it down. It
cant be any fresher than that.
And the gill
net fishery is totally different, the fish soaks on the bottom,
dead for a while, and it just doesnt yield the high quality
product that we have in hook and line.
Does your product, in conjunction with your marketing strategy,
result in a higher price for your hook-caught fish? If so, does
it seem to be a viable, more sustainable way to fish?
At this point
in time were trying to work to get hook fishermen a premium
price for their product. Its a very difficult process. Theres
a lot of marketing schemes and eco-marketing concepts out there
that we hope are going to bring us a much higher price for our product
and make it more economically feasible for us to continue fishing
in this way.
at this point in time the price that we receive is only marginally
better than either a dragger or a gill net fish. Typically we might
run 15 or 20 cents higher than gill net fish and right about on,
or a little bit over, dragger fish per pound. And it does make it
difficult for us to compete when we have such high overhead and
its a very expensive, inefficient way of catching fish. But
we really hope to develop some marketing schemes and some innovative
eco-marketing techniques that will enable us to keep fishing on
into the future.
Do you think that any of the restrictions that many of the fishermen
have been complaining about have actually helped in rebuilding ground
an increasing number of restrictions and that goes for all sectors
of the fishery. Although they create a lot of hardship economically
in the short-term, I think a lot of us are optimistic that some
of these regulations are going to bring back the fish and bring
back a healthier, sustainable fishery in the future. In particular,
closed areas seem to have been very successful in bringing back
the fish. It addresses a critical issue that hook fishermen have
recognized, which is protecting habitat, to bring back the juvenile
fishes that were really lacking right now.
Do you think its true to say that the older generation of
fishermen who are less likely to adopt sustainable fishing practices
are leaving the industry?
to notice that there is an up and coming group of us that are prepared
to think in more proactive terms about regulation. Im not
sure that theres a new generation of fishermen thats
any more willing to accept regulation, but weve all begun
to realize that we have to deal with federal regulation. To date
there has been a lot of reluctance to work with regulation and work
with the management and I think thats because for such a long
time there was no regulation at all.
The one thing
that we can all really understand is that if we dont start
saving these fish today that were not going to have any future
Can you speak a little bit about your observations with regards
to fisheries management?
noticed in becoming involved in fisheries management is a real failure
of communication between scientists, conservationists, and fishermen.
Fishermen have a unique and historical culture thats very
difficult for some other people to understand. Over the years I
havent seen any effort at all on the part of conservationists
or scientists to put these needs and conservation objectives in
terms that the fisherman can really understand. And right now theres
just no communication. Its a complete failure.
How is fishing these days?
I think its
difficult for an individual fishermen to have a perspective on how
many codfish are out in the ocean. My experience has been that theres
a few more fish than there was a couple of years ago when I started
and were noticing some rebuilding or our codfish stocks. Were
really excited about that. But although were really optimistic
about the future, its not the time to stop developing good
conservation regulations that work for the fishermen and work for
You say that hooks have less impact on the environment. Could you
talk a little bit about that? Do other types of fishing have more
of an impact?
Right now, in
our groundfish stocks in New England, one of the biggest problems
in our rebuilding schedule is that many of our stocks are not recruiting
very well. Thats largely due to degradation of the bottom
habitats. There arent enough places for the small fish to
hide or to find food. And largely thats due to certain types
of mobile gear. There may be some environmental factors involved,
but were very concerned with some of the things we know about
certain types of mobile gear.
Why is there a need for the Cape Cod Hook Fishermens Association?
The Cape Cod
Commercial Hook Fishermens Association started out to protect
and preserve hook fishing as a way of life here on Cape Cod
a very unique place with a very unique fishery. And over the years,
weve evolved into an organization thats very much concerned
with environmental factors such as by-catch and recruitment, overfishing
and habitat. Along with that, weve done a lot of work protecting
the small scale fishing communities all around New England. And
weve started to work with other gear sectors and other fishermen
from other ports.
Hows it been for small scale fishermen fishing here in this
part of New England? Has the decline of cod stocks affected the
a large number of factors that have contributed to the pressures
on the small scale commercial fishermen. Historically, small scale
commercial fishermen have depended on, in shore fishermen have depended
on versatility and the ability to move between fisheries. And the
way that we are regulating single species by single species has
really taken a lot of that away. It makes it very difficult for
fishermen to move between fisheries.
Has it been tough for you guys the last few years?
have certainly removed a lot of individuals from the fishery. Its
made it impossible to participate any longer. But for those of us
that are still in it now that the stocks are rebuilding theres
some real signs of hope for the future.
Whats your take on ITQs as a potential tool to manage
When we took
a look around the world at how ITQ fisheries have been implemented
and the results from them, the predominant thing that we see is
the elimination of a lot of fishermen. and based on who has been
eliminated in other fisheries, were pretty confident that
its the small scale independent operators here in New England
that would be eliminated from the fishery. Its basically a
give away to the corporations of a public resource. And thats
not something that the Hook Fishermens Association really
is going to stand for.
Some say that we can learn from how ITQs have been implemented
and prevent consolidation. These same proponents of ITQs would
say that ITQs increase a fishermens sense of stewardship
with regards to the resource.
we are going to have ITQ programs, there need to be standards. To
insure that the economic and the social and the environmental problems
that we have seen witnessed in other ITQ fisheries
presently are addressed.
think that ITQ programs have generated the type of stewardship that
economic theory would predict.
Why is that? From a fishermens point of view, do you think
there is something to this idea of ITQs promoting a sense
of stewardship among fishermen who otherwise might not have it?
What I see is
most fishermen prefer a bird in the hand to two in the bush. And
despite the fact that in a broad scale, we can create regulations
that generate stewardship, I dont think in most fisheries,
fishermen are going to behave in a more stewardly manner just because
they own a piece of the pie.
What is it that you like best about fishing?
not from a fishing family originally, but Ive always been
in love with the water. Ive always cherished the time I spend
out there on the water. And Ive just developed a passion for
fishing for going at it as hard as I can with the time that