Guest column…New Web site covers commercial fishing issues

By SUSAN WEST


Like Irene Nolan, owner and editor of The Island Free Press, I’m a relative newcomer to the rules of Internet technology, but last week I learned how to post articles on a new Web site called Ahab’s Journal.

Ahab’s Journal is a Web site providing news and commentary on issues of importance to the Outer Banks commercial fishing community.

The site is the brainchild of Sandy Semans, editor of The Outer Banks Sentinel, and was designed by Peter Hummers, production manager at the Sentinel.

The idea of building a commercial fishing industry Web site had simmered in Semans’ mind for several months, as she answered telephone and e-mail requests from fishermen as far away as Alaska who contacted the newspaper for information on what is happening to the Outer Banks industry.  

The typical request went something like, “I hate to bother you, but a few months ago a buddy told me he thought your newspaper ran a story about a strange jellyfish showing up in North Carolina waters.  I think we have that same jellyfish down here in Galveston.  Could you send me that story?”    

Semans is also very aware that local watermen are keenly interested in how fishermen in other regions are meeting the challenges common to all U.S. fishermen today – such as marketplace competition from cheaper imported seafood, high fuel and other operating costs, new fishing techniques to protect marine mammals and turtles, declining water quality, new market-based management systems intended to rationalize the industry, and shrinking working space on the waterfront.

In my research, I often run across stories from other parts of the U.S. that I want to share with fishermen on the Outer Banks.  Some offer innovative solutions, some uncover new challenges, and some simply offer solace that no fisherman faces the uncharted future alone.  

Ahab’s Journal is the place where I can make those stories easily accessible to North Carolina fishermen.

In addition to stories about regulations, legislation, and our changing coast, Ahab’s Journal includes links to stories about seafood and, especially, seafood safety.   

Not all the posts deal with such serious issues though.   Right now there’s a link to a video of Massachusetts fishermen talking about the superstitions unique to their trade.

The interactive nature of Ahab’s Journal is exciting.  Below each post, readers can click on “comment” to share opinions and ideas.  You don’t have to be a commercial fisherman to post comments – people outside the industry often bring original perspectives to the issues.

Some people adore the name of the Web site, and others bemoan that it is named for Captain Ahab, the captain obsessed with capturing the great white whale Moby Dick in Herman Melville’s novel.

But, most fishermen remember working for a captain nearly as demonic as Ahab at some time during their career.

And, most will confess that they’ve had at least one day on the water when they began to feel a little like Ahab themselves.

To visit Ahab’s Journal, go to http://ahabsjournal.typepad.com.

(Susan West lives in Buxton.  The wife of a commercial fisherman, she has been writing about fishing for a living for local newspaper for more than 15 years.)


 
   

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