My first fishing trip.

My first fishing trip.

My grandfather taught me how to fish when I was five years old. The rod he gave me didn’t even have a reel on it, just a little bit of a line, a hook and a worm. But that it was all it took to catch a few sunfish.

Since then, fish have always fascinated me. Deep under the surface, there is something mysterious about them. Both beautiful and ugly,  powerful and weak, scaley and smooth, limited and limitless, fish seemingly make up an entirely different world submerged under the water.

A certified scuba diver, former intern at the Richard Cronin Salmon Hatchery and Natural Resource Conservation minor, I have devoted a lot of time to studying them up close. This project — my capstone at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — is the culmination of my studies.

In a slight departure from my usual interest, this project is not about the fish, but about the commercial fishermen.

Fisheries science is a moving target. Populations decline and recover, migrate and come back. And, as fishermen are fond of pointing out, there is no way to count all the fish in the sea. Every time the fish seeming disappear or come back, managers must adjust, and therefore so must the fishermen. Sometimes the adjustment is to their benefit, other times it leaves them reeling.

This project is a snapshot. It reflects what is happening, right now, in 2013. It reflects the hope in the recent uptick in the numbers of bluefin tuna, and the despair following the 77 percent cut in the cod industry. It’s about work. It’s about loss. It’s about pain. It’s about revival. It’s about frustration. It’s about life. Most most of all, it’s about fishermen.

Katie Landeck

This project is for my undergraduate thesis at UMass Amherst. A big thank you to my advisor David Perkins for his help as an editor and insights.

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