The results of fishing father and father out …

by Guest Blogger

July 14, 2006

The following posting is from Adam, who is onboard in the Bering Sea…

We’ve been here for a few days now, getting to know the people and the place and sounding out what people think of an ecosystem management based fishery. So far it’s clear that it’s what people want. I met an old guy the other day who started the conversation by saying "I hope you guys make those draggers go 100 miles offshore." The locals are being forced to go farther and further to get fish while the big factory draggers pillage their traditional waters.

The results of having to go farther were rammed home to everyone this morning. We awoke to the news that the boat George’s son was fishing on had lost radio contact and hadn’t come back in at midnight as planned.

Luckily another boat found them, 11 hours after last radio contact, upside down, the four young fishermen huddled on the upturned hull, hypothermic and lucky to be alive. George’s son was a young hero in the situation. He had clambered over the rail and onto the bottom of the boat as it went over. He was able to haul his buddies up and as he was dry, he blocked the wind with his body while they shivered. Eleven hours in the frigid waters, scared, not knowing if anyone was looking. Good thing the Aleuts are so tough or they would not have made it.

As soon as the crew was brought back in and George had hugged his son, we went out to try and salvage their boat, the tool they need to survive and earn money. We had a rough idea where it was when they were rescued and luckily we found it. We ended up attaching some heavy lines and then dragging her back to the harbor at St. Paul.

The whole town was there to meet us with a big crane on the dock and many willing hands. All were quiet when they saw the damage to the boat and gear and the expressions on the faces of the guys that survived. It was a shocking way for all to see how dangerous it can be to be a fisherman in the Bering Sea. And how if they could fish by the island like they always have, this situation would not arise. Fishing is always dangerous, but you see my point I hope.

Going to sleep well tonight…

SAVE OUR SEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

– Adam

Note: Adam is a radio operator and RIB driver.  He has worked with Greenpeace in Australia and internationally since 2003.  He is also an industrial rope access  specialist, which involves rigging for skyscrapers and large scale events such as the Olympics, as well as a licensed yacht skipper.

From George:

"I thought I was going to die, Dad." My son Justin told me as I cried and cried, hugging and holding him as tight as I could.

Just yesterday’s blog, I spoke about him going out into the frigid Bering Sea to fish for halibut commercially, farther and farther from the beaches of the Pribilof Islands. Little did I know that I would soon be woken up at 4:30 a.m. and told there was a problem. Their boat crew had not checked in at their usual hour, and were feared missing.

We all hoped and prayed for the best. Thankfully a local fisherman in his skiff discovered all four crewmembers of the boat after 11 hours clinging onto the overturned hull of their 26-foot aluminum vessel. Thankfully they are all doing well.

Nothing can prepare the parent of a fisherman for something like this. Every day that my son, 25 years old, goes out into the Bering Sea to fish, my mind and heart races with thoughts of grave concern. Perhaps I should insist he no longer fish? Perhaps there should be rules on the time of day and conditions of the water a boat can leave the harbor? Perhaps we should stop the fishery all together? Many questions with few answers.  I will talk with him more about the choices and the chances he and the younger people seem to be taking during these trying times in the local halibut fishery. What I will say, I do not know. But I have to. I love him so very much.

All over the world events such as this unfold. Some end tragically, others end with relief. What are we going to do to lessen the dangers of life? Do we need more regulations, more government involvement, more training? Probably each of those would be good. Do we need more conservation of our resources to ensure that small boats are not traveling greater distances to access their resources?

What about the next time he wants to go out fishing again? What do I do? Forbid him from going? Only he can decide. My questions will continue to be about the health of the resources, the safety of the vessel, making sure that all the necessary safety equipment is on board and the crew is trained. Do we, for the sake of safety and the protection of resources work to ensure our children need not take life-threatening risks to find food and make a living? Our work is important and must take on renewed vision and vigor. There is no time to waste, especially since our youth will continue to love the Bering Sea and all her beauty and richness.

I feel much relief now, tired and emotionally drained. I feel much better. The entire crew helped me through this experience. They held me, calmed me, and comforted me. The expressions on their faces of concern and relief when we heard the news told me much, and I am thankful. Mostly I am thankful to the Lord for His help and protection, not only for my son, but for his mother, brothers and sisters. They too were spared on this day.

– George 

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