The Key Word
By John Pappalardo
Taking a moment to express what too often gets taken for granted:
That starts with this community. You’ve supported us for 30 years, but never more so than in this past stretch. To mix metaphoric locations, Cape Cod’s fishing fleet is not out of the COVID woods yet – truth to tell, fishermen never truly get to some kind of secure, protected, predictable clearing. But where we are is far better than where we could have gone, and much of that has to do with people supporting local fishermen, buying off the decks and in the markets, keeping this organization whole and allowing us to advocate for the independent, small-boat fleet.
There also have been strong partnerships forged and deepened.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has been there in a big way. They were first and probably best in the country when it came to figuring out how to get federal relief money into the fishing community. They cleared a path to allow captains and crew to sell from boats at docks, reviving a centuries-old practice while ensuring that modern health regulations are satisfied. DMF leadership, with some support from us, created a Massachusetts port study that will drive smart policies as climate change forces many issues. They have been a strong, rationale voice searching for ways to protect both fishermen and right whales. They have been flexible, creative, and proactive. They answer the phone.
The Greater Boston Food Bank has been an inspirational, essential partner in helping us get our “Small Boats, Big Taste” haddock chowder to people all over the state. GBFB serves communities from as close as Harwich to as far as Springfield. They know the need, and understand that our fishermen want to feed everyone in our communities. They worked to get our haddock chowder into what’s called MEFAP, the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program, that encourages food banks to order what they think their clients will want to eat. A healthy, local, preservative-free chowder became a major hit all over the state, then across New England. In the first year we served more than 720,000 chowder servings. We paid Massachusetts small-boat fishermen a strong, predictable price for the haddock they contributed. We continue into year two with Greater Boston’s support, with MEFAP once again helping foot the bill for the food banks. We are proud as hell of this, and we know who played a key role to make it happen.
There’s Catch Together, a heady national non-profit that shared our vision and rounded up funding for this win-win chowder effort. They got us on our feet, and now it’s our turn to make it sustainable.
That also goes for the national Sea Grant program, most directly the great group working out of MIT as well as their colleagues in Woods Hole, who have backed us up time and again with support ranging from grants to insightful advice to introductions and networking.
I could go on; I think I will. Local businesses offered help and support, often with no need for headlines or anything specific in return. There are donors who love this community and understand what we are trying to do, trying to hold onto – again, contributing quietly, creatively, for the satisfaction not notoriety. There are volunteers and community stalwarts offering time as well as treasure; you’ll see just a few of them in the photo gallery of our board of directors in this issue.
Is 30 years a long time, or a short time? The best answer probably is both. But not too many idealistic, shoestring non-profits survive into a fourth decade. We have, and we are weathering a pandemic to boot.
So when I get up in the morning, I’m moving a little slower than I was 30 years ago, I’ll admit to that. But my energy is no less, just steadier and in a deeper place. Inspired by the people I work with, the fishermen and community I try to serve, I feel like I’ve joined an historic marathon rather than running a sprint.
And what does that make me feel?
You know the word.
(John Pappalardo is CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance)