Fishing is ripe for innovation. New catch limits are critical for sustainability — without them, fish stocks would collapse, and then nobody has a job, plus a protein source vital for the planet's expanding population is wiped out. But they force fishermen to catch fewer fish, which means less money. A string of new programs and techniques are addressing the cash issue, allowing fishermen to make more scratch even as they bring in less catch.
You've heard of energy audits for your home. Well, now Steve Eayrs, a research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, is conducting them on fishing boats, reports Heather Goldstone on WGBH's Climatide. The results have taught fishermen to save fuel by slowing down and use new kinds of nets with less drag. The Nature conservancy is also helping them test new gear that lowers the amount of unwanted "bycatch" they would normally grab, and get their fish to market in better shape.
Fishermen are even trying innovative programs first pioneered by landlubbers, including community-supported fishery programs, which are the fishy analogues of community-supported agriculture. CSF members would get a selection of fresh seafood every week, to go with their box of veggies from their CSA. Niche markets are also opening up, such as bringing back live cod for the fishtanks of Asian restaurants, where diners want to pick the freshest fish possible.
It's not enough to take the industry back to the scale it once was, but it can allow fishermen to marry sustainability with prosperity. For those who are willing to be forward-looking, "There are guys out here quietly having the best [fishing] year of their life," Harwich fisherman Greg Walinski told Climatide's Goldstone.