Food Voices: A Tide to Lift All Boats

A profile on sustainable fishing in the “Food Voices” series.

WhyHunger is pleased to be partnering with Andrianna Natsoulas, longtime food sovereignty activist and author of the forthcoming book Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement. In 2010, Andrianna began a journey across the Americas to capture the stories of people working towards and living a just and sustainable food system. As she continues her journey, spanning from Nova Scotia to Ecuador to Brazil and beyond, we will feature highlights of the stories she gathers. 



Ben Platt started fishing with his father when he was 11 years old. He now fishes for salmon, crab, albacore and black cod on his troller, F/V Sea Star out of Fort Bragg, CA. A management regime called Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) is sweeping the U.S. coastal communities. Essentially, they consolidate the fisheries by allowing a few large vessels that have the biggest catch. There is also talk about selling these quotas on the stock market. IFQs have not yet hit the salmon industry, but many fear it will.

“The beauty of salmon trolling or anything like that is you always have that thing where this might be my year. If you work hard at it and you use your wits, you might do really well. To me the worse thing about the IFQ idea is that it just kills the whole spirit of fishing. There are other ways of managing a resource – what we call the Three S’s: Sex, Size and Season. In my opinion, you really don’t need anything more than that to manage a fishery. In terms of managing the resource, it’s not that hard to figure out. If you have to throw everything back under a certain size, you are protecting your brood stock. You can’t keep female crabs; you’re protecting the reproductive crabs. And if you are only fishing during a certain time of year, you’re not harvesting during spawning season. Most fisheries are managed quite well just by that. And if there are other problems, you don’t have to cut out half the fleet. That’s what IFQs does. It consolidates the fleet.


“If you have five super boats working, they each have five crew members, so let’s say 25 families, and they are all making a decent living. But it is only five boats, so you need less infrastructure, less stores, less support. Five boats as opposed to 50 boats with three crew members. That’s 150 families making some kind of a living of off fishing as opposed to maybe 25 families making a really decent living. To me it’s way preferable to have more boats, even if they’re not making as much money. It’s better for the community –the more people that are working and the more families that are supported. It’s less people on welfare and unemployment and everything else.

There has to be room for all sizes of boats in every fishery. It’s not a one size fits all thing. Everybody has different needs. We had guys that are Type A’s who want to be the highliners and the biggest truck and all that kind of stuff. There’s the guy who wants to just dabble in it, it’s a part-time thing. Then you’ve got everybody else in between. That’s the kind of diversity we had in this fleet. Once you start doing that kind of management [IFQs], it’s only going to Type A, corporate mentality. What a lot of the hot shots don’t realize is that a lot of them get pushed out too. It changes the whole nature of the fishery, and it’s not good. I don’t think it’s good for anybody. They are already seeing the writing on the wall. Even the guys who thought they were going to make it out are now saying, ‘Wait a minute.’ How fun is it going to be when you are out there alone and you’ve got no one to talk to on the radio?”