Archives For Fishing

Injuries not life-threatening, officials say 

Kelley Tuthill/WCVB

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Firefighters in Foxborough rescued two men who fell into a reservoir while ice fishing on Sunday, officials say.

The men were ice fishing at Neponset Reservoir when they fell through the ice, firefighters said. A woman tried to rescue them, but then called 911 after she fell through the ice trying to get to the men.

Both men were in the water for about 10 to 15 minutes before being rescued, officials said. A 41-year-old man whose body temperature dropped was taken to a Boston hospital by a medical helicopter that landed at a Gillette Stadium practice field, according to firefighters. A man in his 60s was transported to Norwood Hospital.

Neither man’s injuries are considered life-threatening.

“I don’t know what they’re doing out there on the ice,” Foxborough Fire Capt. Thomas Buckley said. “If you walk out there you’ll see that half the ice is gone.”

Some young lobstermen say they can’t afford coverage

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine lobstermen seemed a likely group to sign up for health care coverage under President Barack Obama’s landmark law.

They face such job hazards as getting tangled in traps and dragged into the ocean.

Ever present is the possibility of injury from the physically demanding labor. And in a field made up of independent contractors, there are no companies providing insurance, so many are uninsured.

In the past several months advocates set out to educate lobstermen and their families about the law, listening to their concerns and signing up hundreds of the 5,000 or so lobstermen who work off the coast of Maine for insurance through the marketplaces created under the law. That sign-up rate is seen as a win by the advocates, who say many more have likely enrolled without their knowledge.

“The response from our outreach has been very, very good,” said Brian Delaney, a spokesman for Fishing Partnership Support Services, an organization working in Maine that was responsible for reducing the percentage of uninsured fishermen in Massachusetts from 40 to 10 in just one year more than a decade ago.

In Maine, the split between those signing up and those who aren’t is roughly the same as in other industries and other parts of the country. Older, sicker workers with families are paying for insurance plans, while younger lobstermen tend to go without, as are those who said cost was a concern, according to interviews with more than a dozen lobstermen and advocates who’ve worked with hundreds more.

Some lobstermen found they qualified for improved plans.

“It’s better than any insurance that I’ve have in the last 30 years,” said Arnold Gamage, a 61-year-old lobsterman from South Bristol who stopped paying for health insurance last year because, with an estimated annual salary of $60,000, he could no longer afford a plan that covered the heart medication he needs.

His new plan, through one of the two providers on Maine’s insurance marketplace, costs $480 a month, compared with the $780 he paid before. The deductible for him and his wife was cut in half, to $5000.

Delaney’s group and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association have spoken to 1,600 lobstermen and their spouses at more than 70 events. They estimate they have signed up several hundred lobstermen directly, though it is not clear how many of those people were already insured. Neither group tracked that figure.

Still, a quarter of licensed lobstermen in Maine fish without the safety net of insurance, according to a Gulf of Maine Research Institute survey conducted in 2005, the most recent data available. That tally doesn’t include crew members.

Gamage’s younger colleagues are mainly choosing to go without, saying the cost of insurance outweighs the risks of the job. Such so-called young invincibles are a prime target of the law; their relatively good health balances out the sicker, older people signing up for insurance and lowers the overall risk for insurers and prices for consumers. But even the perils of life on a lobster boat have not been enough to draw this group to insurance.

“The young ones, in my experience, don’t care about signing up,” said Sheila Dassatt, director of the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association.

The cost of health insurance is a common concern among lobstermen, even after they figure in the subsidies from the government that reduce the monthly payments as well as deductibles through federal aid and tax credits, said April Gilmore of the Lobstermen’s Association. She is working as a navigator, a person who helps educate people on the law and sign them up for insurance.

In addition to income, young lobstermen also cited startup costs as they enter the trade as a reason for going without insurance.

“I’m only 21, so I am going to forgo it and bet on the fact that I am young and physically able,” said Will Lent, who lives on Cliff Island and fishes off the coast of Portland. He found a plan on the government marketplace for $115 a month but said that was too much considering a major injury would prevent him from earning a living regardless of whether he had insurance.

“You really got to weigh if what you are spending equals what you are getting,” he said.

It’s not that lobstermen don’t want insurance, Gilmore said. Many just can’t afford it, she said.

Insurance representatives in Maine have said the greatest factors affecting subsidies are family and income, which must be estimated, taking into account fluctuating lobster prices, seasonal income and unpredictable catches. They also must declare boats worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and worry that such assets will prevent them for qualifying for federal aid.

While lobstermen trying to buy insurance can base their income on past years, many worry that underestimating their income could result in fines for receiving undeserved subsidies, further complicating the application process, Gilmore said.

“They don’t have a human resources department,” she said.

1. Sorting out the risks of fish.

Fish is often called “brain food” and pregnant women are encouraged to eat it. There’s just one, ah, catch: Fish also may have mercury, which can harm the developing brain.

2. Nature has a promising replacement for hormone-scrambling plastics: Shrimp shells.

Chitin is the stuff of shrimp shells, insect armor and butterfly wings – and now of a small collection of chess pieces, party cups and egg cartons in a lab at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

3. Lawmakers: Poultry regs threaten food safety.

Nearly 70 House members on Monday implored Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to abandon plans to overhaul the nation’s poultry inspection system with a slate of new regulations. The Hill, District of Columbia.

4. Senate to vote on bill giving Vermont more authority to regulate toxic chemicals.

Federal regulations for reporting toxic chemicals in consumer products have not changed in decades, but Vermont is poised to join other states to label – and possibly ban – products containing chemicals considered harmful to public health. VTDigger, Vermont.

5. Fracking: The surprising new proving ground for water technologies.

The growth of fracking brings with it a heavy demand for water, and that’s straining water supplies, often in drought-prone areas. The conflict over water has fueled adoption of new water reuse and recycling techniques. The Guardian

6. Little action by lawmakers on oil transport bills.

Democrats and Republicans blamed each other after the legislative session ended last week with little agreement on how to deal with increasing numbers of oil trains entering Washington state. Associated Press


Maine briefed in 2010 about contaminated lobster
Giant Lobster

PORTLAND, Maine —State officials were briefed about high levels of mercury contamination in lobsters caught around the mouth of the Penobscot River more than three years before the Department of Marine Resources shut the area down for fishing this week, according to a group of scientists involved in studying the contamination.

Preliminary results from the federally mandated study carried out as part of a lawsuit against a chemical company blamed for dumping tons of mercury into the river were presented to state officials in September 2010, according to three of the scientists.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources, which shut down the contaminated area for fishing this week, said it didn’t learn of the contamination until November 2013.

Chris Whipple, a member of the Penobscot River Mercury Study Panel, said that officials from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife were among those invited to the presentation.

Drew Bodaly, the study’s project leader, and biologist Dianne Kopec said they recalled seeing “numerous” Maine state officials at the meeting in Portland.

“They were somewhat aware of what we were doing,” said Whipple, who works for the environmental consulting firm Environ International Corporation, specializing in radioactive waste, air pollutants and mercury. “I don’t think it’s accurate to say the (final) report was a total surprise to them.”

Jeff Nichols, a spokesman for the state Department of Marine Resources, said the department first heard of the research in November 2013, when it was brought to their attention by Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

The Department of Marine Resources then asked state toxicologist Andrew Smith from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze the study’s data and decided to close the area based on his findings, Nichols said.

“It is important to note too that the state isn’t party to this litigation,” said DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols. “When we found out about it (the study), we took immediate action and took this conservative measure.”

Details from the study have been made publicly available through court filings shortly after each phase of the project was presented in court in 2007, 2009 and 2013.

“When a report was completed we submitted it to the court, the court reviewed it, and after a short period of time it was docketed, usually within a month,” Kopec said.

Study results from 2009 are posted on the state Department of Environmental Protection’s website, although it’s unclear when it was actually posted.

The slow dissemination of the findings was first reported by the Portland Press Herald.

The federally mandated study was carried out as part of a lawsuit involving the now-closed HoltraChem Manufacturing Co. plant in Orrington.

The results prompted the Maine Department of Marine Resources this week to close the 7 square miles at the mouth of Penobscot to lobster and crab fishing starting Saturday for at least two years as other tests are conducted.

Whipple said that part of Maine’s slow reaction might have come from court proceedings, which prevented researchers from publishing their results or presenting their research without court permission.

He said that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife closed areas to duck hunting because of the mercury contamination documented by the study a year ago.

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2. Circling Raven Golf Club Director Named PGA ‘Merchandiser of the Year’
Circling Raven Golf Course in Worley, Idaho

3. 6 New Year Nomination Battles for Obama’s Native-Focused Nominees

Pictured clockwise, from top left, are: Brad Carson, Michael Connor, Keith Harper, Yvette Roubideaux, Vince Logan, and Diane Humetewa.

4. New Congressional Budget Reimburses Tribal Contract Support Costs

5. To Finance a Community Farming Project, Michigan Tribe Taps Indian Land Capital Company

6. Devery Jacobs, Cara Gee Lead Native Nominees for ‘Canadian Oscars’

Devery Jacobs photo by Thosh Collins; Cara Gee photo courtesy Gary Goddard Agency
Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, left, and Cara Gee are nominated for Canadian Screen Awards.

7. IHS Confused Whether Indian Diabetes Funding Faces Another Sequestration

8. Tester, in Line to Be SCIA Chair, to Introduce Indian School Language Bill

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) is introducing the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act.

9. ‘Stop Racism’ Headdress Stirs Appropriation Debate at Fashion Week


10. Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall to Visit Canada in May

Associated Press
Camilla Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles

11. Native Innovation Delcares Tech Lawsuit Dismissal a Victory

Native Innovation/Facebook
A community member listens to Jerome Tsosie as he explains how the Diné Keyboard works on an Android OS device across social networks and email.

12. ‘Redskins’ Player Says Team ‘Probably Should’ Change Name

Associated Press
‘Redskins’ Cornerback DeAngelo Hall

13. Washington State Bill Would Help Clear Fish Wars Convictions

Ted S. Warren/AP
Nisqually Elder Billy Frank Jr., left, and Quinault member Ed Johnstone display a photo from the late 1960s of tribal fishermen Frank and Don McCloud on the Nisqually River during the Fish Wars. The two are standing on Frank’s Landing, the Nisqually elder’s family home north of Olympia and a hub of the fish-ins of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Fishermen criticize science behind limits

HARTFORD, Ct. — Jeff Wilcox is shutting his 135-year-old family marine supply business in Stonington, a casualty in the battle over federal fishing limits.

As fishermen are sidelined, taking their boats out of service for lack of work, New England’s marine industry that repairs, stores and cleans boats is next in line to feel the hit. Wilcox, owner of Wilcox Marine Supply, blames the federal government and the fishing limits it’s imposed. In Stonington, he said, the number of draggers – fishermen who drag nets behind their boats -has dropped since the mid-1990s from 50 to two. His business, which employed 13 people in the early 1990s, has dwindled to just himself.

“It’s put almost all the fisheries out of business and now it’s trickled down to me,” he said.

Many southern New England fishing communities face a similar problem. Richard Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, warns that if the fleet continues to be diminished, “Rhode Islanders could see a local heritage industry slip away and become a museum piece.”

John Bullard, the Northeast’s top regulator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has said sharp cuts in fishing catches are painful but necessary to help fish stocks rebound.

The most significant fishing cut is a 78 percent year-to-year reduction in the catch of Gulf of Maine cod. Fishermen also are forced to take in fewer key flounder and haddock species. Fishery scientists have said some species are recovering far too slowly, requiring cuts in catch to meet mandates to end overfishing and rebuild fish stocks.

Fishermen have criticized science they say has underestimated the health of fish stocks. Because of the rules, which are the subject of a lawsuit filed last May by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, fishermen say they can’t catch enough fish to stay in business.

Michael Fusillo, who teaches economics at Tufts University, said a business downturn at port services would cause ripples through the industry, reducing the supply of fuel, drivers who deliver the fuel and workers who weigh and cut fish.

“It’s not just the owners and crews that are losing out here, but the connected industry on the supply side that’s affected as well,” he said.

The number of state-licensed commercial vessels in Rhode Island dropped from 1,790 in 2005 to 1,619 in 2012, a 10 percent decline, according to the state Department of Environmental Management.

The number of licensed boats edged up slightly from 2011 to 2012.
In Massachusetts, the number of permits issued to commercial boats fell by 3 percent from 2009 to 2013, to 5,066, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Viking Gustafson, general manager of Gloucester Marine Railways, a shipyard in Gloucester Harbor that’s been in business since before the Civil War, said the industry has consolidated in response to the catch limits. “Boats have been sold, boats aren’t fishing,” she said.

On a recent weekday, the shipyard employed six workers, “which is a few too many because we don’t have demand for services,” Gustafson said. That’s down from 10 several years ago and dropped to three on Thursday.

The port service stores boats in dry dock, pressure washes, welds and repairs boat hulls and vessels. While the loss of business is directly due to what Gustafson called a “severe cut in groundfish,” she said it followed years of other regulatory actions that have caused a decline in business.

Connecticut waters, which are not subject to federal catch limits because the adjacent Long Island Sound is a Connecticut-New York body of water, imposed its own limits to protect fish stocks, said Mark Alexander, supervising fisheries biologist at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The state imposed a moratorium on certain fisherman licenses.

“If the (fish) population rebounds, we don’t want to see a huge influx of people jeopardizing the recovery,” he said.

A decline in commercial fishing vessel permits is due to factors such as older fishermen leaving the business, fewer lobsters, the federal catch limits for offshore boats and permit fee increases, Alexander said.

Jeffrey Stieb, executive director of the Port of New Bedford, said the port is doing well as it diversifies to include vessels bringing in scallops and clams in addition to groundfish.

Brian J. Rothschild, president of the Center for Sustainable Fisheries, said the number of fishing vessels has declined by as much as 30 percent in the last three or four years, with groundfish catches falling from 140,000 tons to 30,000 tons.

He said Coakley’s lawsuit could spur needed improvements in fishery management.

“Fish populations have a way of going up and down, and industries have a way of responding to those changes,” he said.

Wilcox, who recently turned 65 and has worked since 1972 at the business his great-grandfather founded nearly a century earlier, said he doesn’t know what he’ll do next.

“It’s sad. There’s no reason for it except that the government can do it,” he said.

Man went missing Thursday off Cape Ann

BOSTON —The U.S. Coast Guard in Boston says it has suspended its search for a missing fisherman who went overboard about 32 miles southeast of Cape Ann.

The Coast Guard received a report Thursday afternoon that a 47-year-old crew member of the fishing vessel Lydia & Maya had gone overboard and the crew was unable to find him.

Barbara Foster of South Portland, Maine, told the Portland Press Herald that the fisherman was her son, Martin Gorham, of Westbrook, Maine.

The Coast Guard used several boats and helicopters to search 290 square miles around the area where he reportedly went overboard. He was not wearing a life jacket.

The Coast Guard suspended the search Friday morning.


Local fishermen reel in large shark via @WCVB