Onthe Waterfront

Published on Thu, Jan 19, 2006 by Jan Hrutfiord

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On the Waterfront

By Jan Hrutfiord

Happy 2006! A new year means a new fishery for local fishers. Those who go north to Alaskan waters start fishing for pollock and cod on January 20. Crab fishers off the Washington coast had their season open December 31, but did not start fishing then, due to negotiations on price. The last I heard they still are not fishing. This keeps the price of local crab high, as long as crab is scarce in the marketplace.

The local draggers are still fishing in Puget Sound waters for bottom fish, and offshore the larger draggers are fishing also, but are finding the fishing areas reduced by restrictions from NOAA to help preserve different species from over fishing. Each year the fishing grounds get smaller for offshore draggers, both in Washington and Oregon as well as Alaskan waters. The draggers have to go farther out to find fishing grounds that are not restricted, and in the windy weather of winter, this can cause problems for those who are fishing, as it takes longer to get back in to a safe haven when storms come up.

A month ago I watched two ocean going draggers coming into Blaine Harbor, lashed together and headed into the shipyard. It is never good to see boats coming in to port in this manner, as something has happened to keep one of the boats from running under its own power. This time, one of the boats had gone aground, and a call to a fellow dragger brought help to get it back to harbor, where it was repaired.

Over the years, I have witnessed this many times, two boats coming in, lashed together or sometimes one pulling the other behind it. This is not good news, usually a net has been caught in the wheel, or an engine died and could not be started again. Once in awhile a real tragedy has occurred, with someone badly injured or died at sea, and help has come from other fishers who found the boat adrift. The Coast Guard is there to help, but most fishers rely on helping each other, as the Coast Guard boats are few and far between and not always there when you need them. This is especially true for those boats fishing in Alaska, where Coast Guard boats can be hundreds of miles away. Fishermen are a hardy sort, and willing to help others when needed, as they know that they could be the next one in trouble. Thankfully, most times the problem is mechanical, and the men aboard are fine.

There are hundreds of sea birds in Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay now and the eagles and other birds of prey are also in the area looking for smaller ducks and shorebirds that they can catch to eat. They are all putting on a spectacular show for the birders who come to see what we here in Blaine are blessed to have, abundant species and quantities of birds to watch. Get out your binoculars or cameras, dress warm, and come to the harbor or to Semiahmoo spit to see how many different types of birds you can find. Remember to keep far enough away from those birds that are near the shore that they are not disturbed.
Happy New Year to you all!