Commercial Fishermen Out of Work?

Steep declines in the industry rouse many to action

Hard times have befallen independent fisherman everywhere from Maine to Louisiana. Challenges to the industry such as foreign competition and the growth of aquaculture translate to a loss of business for those who earn their living from the sea.

A red tide outbreak has halted New England's seafood harvesting season. In Louisiana, banks are no longer accepting boats as sufficient loan collateral from shrimp harvesters and are demanding the deeds to their houses instead.

For many, the commercial fishing industry is no longer a source of steady income. It is no longer practical to invest thousands of dollars on a boat, licenses, and necessary equipment, only to work longer days for smaller catches and shrinking profits. Making matters worse, commercial fishermen must compete with the lower prices offered in frozen-seafood sections of local supermarkets.

Their fears are reflected in official reports: The US Labor Department predicts a steady decline in the number of commercial fishermen in America in the coming years.

The looming threat of the industry's eventual demise has prompted many fishermen and enthusiasts to take action. Margaret Curole, the wife of a Louisiana shrimper, is heading up an effort to unite independent fishermen from around the country and build a nationwide alliance in the form of an official organization.

Ms. Curole certainly embarks on a pioneering approach to combating the industry's challenges. If successful, this would mark the first time a national group like this has ever come together.

The goal is to promote American seafood as a high-quality product, much like organic meat and produce. Encouraging awareness among consumers may be just what the industry needs to create a specific market for American seafood.