“Did you get flounder again?”

SOSSEXI Blog: 9/19/12

I got pinged by one of my friends and fellow shareholders about an hour after our last pickup with the question “Did you get flounder again?”

“Yes. How about you?” was my reply.

“Yep, must say we love flounder but getting a little tired of it,” was my friend’s response.

After a bunch of Friday’s in a row with flounder as the offering in our weekly CSF, I got what she was saying. I was a little weary of the flounder turbans, the fried flounder sandwiches, the fish cakes, the flaky chowder, and more fish sandwiches. I love flounder, but it made me wonder, “is there too much of a good thing?” I quickly went through my mental checklist of the best good things (chocolate, wine, bread, cheese, pizza), but I still had to honestly answer “yes, there is too much of a good thing.”

What if someone took away the foods you loved and you knew you would never be able to have them again? Would you then look back at the times when you had too much and yearn for the good old days? Probably. Try to imagine what it would be like if all of a sudden there was no more flounder to be enjoyed. Those days may me upon us sooner than you think.

On September 13 of last week, the U.S. Commerce Secretary declared the Northeast Ground fish fishing industry a disaster, which opens the door to allowing Congress to appropriate monies toward assisting fishermen in a similar way to how Congress applies disaster relief to our Nation’s farmers. We saw news footage all summer of crops withering and livestock under stress from lack of rain in the Midwest and West. We have more than enough water in our Atlantic Ocean, but the ocean floor appears to be just as barren.

Despite years of decreased catch shares and conservation practices put in place to help our groundfishing industry rebound, fish like cod, haddock, flounder, hake and pollock just don’t seem to be coming back as expected. What this probably means for the start of the 2013 fishing season which starts next May 1 is even further tightening of Annual Catch Shares (ACS’s) by as much as 72%. Decreased catch shares of these species is expected not just in 2013 but for several years, as the industry, its regulatory bodies, and environmental offices try to determine if and how the fishing industry can return to the sustainable and thriving levels it once had.

On Tuesday, September 18, NOAA issued a statement that was possibly more dire: “Factors other than fishing [may be] responsible for disappearing fish.” Not only were our land temperatures in America at an all-time high this summer, but so were our ocean temperatures. Since data was first recorded back in 1854 on sea-surface temperatures, 2012 had the warmest sea-surface temperature on record for the first six months of the year at 51 degrees (the average is lower than 48 degrees). What this may mean is that fish, especially cod and yellowtail flounder, will move even further East-Northeast from the Gulf of Maine and George’s Bank. This in turn will make it more difficult and dangerous for fishermen like Frank, Kevin, Pete and Phil, our SOSSEXI fishermen to get to these fish and catch them.

Despite the $100 Million in disaster relief, this pronouncement must come as a horrible blow to our local fishermen. It must be heartbreaking to be faced with the ominous decision to possibly pack it in, sell your boat and find another livelihood. Many of our local fishermen come from a long lineage of fishermen, and to realize this might be the end of the line for a family is truly sad.

We can only wish for a quick resolution to the problems plaguing our local waters, and hope that these fishermen will still have something to catch next year. With the potential for a 72% ACS looming in the horizon, meaning huge decreases in the supplies of groundfish available to the local consumer and fish lover, suddenly the thought of another packet of flounder in our weekly SOSSEXI share sounds positively delicious and decadent. For now, in 2012, there can be no such thing as too much of a good thing.

Submitted by Kathleen Wright


About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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