At the intersection of marine conservation and social, economic, environmental and food justice

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fishing Against the Odds

When we travel to Farm Aid later this week to spread the word on the true cost of fishing, two of our travel companions will be Brian and Tracy Pearce, a commercial fishing family from the Portland, Maine area. We chatted with them about their business, the future, and fishing in the red. 

Tracy and Brian Pearce
NAMA: How are you managing to stay out of the red?

Brian: I keep my business and home expenses as low as I can. My boat is only 45’ and the engine is low horsepower, so the operating overhead is not high. I gillnet which burns less fuel than dragging, although gear can be a big expense.  Also, my wife works full time.

Q: What factors are working against you and your colleagues as you continue in this uncertain industry?

A: 1. Increased expenses, which far exceed the increased revenue. 2. Environmental threats and predators like seals, dogfish, and sharks. 3. Imported fish as a perceived substitute for domestic wild caught 4. I sell my catch at the local fish auction, and the fluctuations and unpredictability of the buying market have always been a mystery. 5. Another threat to our industry is not having much of voice at the table within the New England Fisheries Management Council and committees.

Q: If you were asked to forecast a future for this industry, what would it look like? 
A: If everything is left as is, I think it will be tough to find many people willing to work in this business. I’m not sure what incentive there is for captains or crew to fish for someone else’s quota, being charged to do so, when the landing prices are uncertain.

Q: What is it about commercial fishing that keeps you in the business?

A: It’s all I’ve ever done. I’m heavily invested in time, and I don’t know anything else. For those reasons, I’ll find any opportunity I can to stay in this business.

Q: You’ve been working with the folks at NAMA what have you found most helpful? 

A: They’ve worked very hard to unite fisherman from different regions in New England that share the same struggles and frustrations. It’s difficult for owner/operators to stay in touch with regulations and proposals when they are actively sea and shore captains. NAMA has tried to bridge that gap for guys like me.

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