Once around the horn
By John Pappalardo
Along with tacking up the new calendar and remembering to write 2019 in the checkbook, we have another reason to mark a year’s passing:
This issue marks the beginning of the second year of this enterprising little emagazine.
I confess I would have missed the anniversary if it hadn’t been called to my attention, which is nowhere near as important (or hazardous) as missing my wedding anniversary, for example, but still …
Looking back 12 months can be a scary exercise, but in this case when I re-read my first “Over the Bar,” I didn’t cringe. Here’s what I wrote about why we were creating this new way of communicating with you, and what we were hoping to accomplish:
We’re taking it on because we believe in this community of ours. We believe that the more people understand who we are, what we care about, how we fish but also how we think about the oceans around us, the better we will be. We don’t mean “better” in a narrow sense, that we alone will benefit. We mean “better” in the broadest, highest way, for all of us who live on or near the water -- regardless of our livelihoods -- who understand (even if it’s down deep, not something expressed every day) that who we are, from the very beginning, has been defined by how we relate to the sea.
That holds up.
And then I took a quick trip through the issues, all of which you can still find on our website. In each, the major stories occupy four corners; a person’s tale, a historical perspective, interesting science, evolving public policy.
I’d forgotten how many people have steamed across the site already, gracious enough to share their stories. There was Fred Bennett, Mike Anderson, and Ted Ligenza taking long views, Beau Gribbin, Eric Hesse, Greg Connors, Mike Russo, Tom Smith, Nick Muto sharing daily accomplishments and the rhythm of hard work, younger fishermen Scott MacAllister, Sam Linnell, and Stephanie Sykes bringing new voices, generations joining forces like Mark and Sean Leach.
The history pieces roamed far and wide, from clipper ships to Harwich harbors, Brewster sea captains to Falmouth guano, old fish shanties and twine fields to nautical mapmakers and destructive hurricanes.
Science topics landed on everything from halibut research to ocean acidification, aquaculture to seal populations, concerns about plastics and global warming to better stock assessments and electronic monitoring.
The public policy side included a big push to create new protections for ocean and river herring, visiting Washington to work on habitat protection and young fishermen support, joining forces with fishermen from Alaska to California to the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Maine, even a meeting with a delegation of fisheries managers from China who traveled far to trade notes.
And then there were stories that fell out of categories but were just cool; the family who still makes great rakes for clammers, a visit to Whole Foods Supermarket managers to highlight the quality of our local fish and the people who catch it, work to bring skates and dogfish into the market in better ways, how small surf clams could become a good product, Cape chefs getting creative with the Cape’s bounty, how farmers markets could get more catch directly into the hands of consumers.
Taken together, it’s an impressive quilt that took a year to stitch. But to borrow language from those who work the near shore, we’ve still only scratched the surface.
There was one more section from that original “Over the Bar” that resonated well. It was an explanation for why this column bears its name in the first place:
It works in a handful of ways:
Over the bar, as in being good enough to elevate, to be valuable and worth your time.
Over the bar, as in ready to share thoughts and perspectives at a local watering hole should the occasion arise.
But most of all over the bar, as in recognizing where most of the real work gets done on the water, and how that dangerous commute should never be taken for granted.
So I’ll toast year one. Here’s hoping we keep taking this little ship of an emag over the bar every month for a bunch more years.
And most of all, thanks for coming onboard.
(John Pappalardo is CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance)