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National Fisherman: The boom and bust of Pacific sardines

January 31, 2016

IMG_3040I wrote this last fall for National Fisherman’s North Pacific Focus on my failed experience chasing the few remaining schools of Pacific sardines.

Last April I received a text from an old captain telling me his boat was in Reedsport, Ore., and that they needed a replacement deckhand for sardines. The Pacific Coast was dry with a looming closure of the fishery for the 2015- 16 season imminent. They were fishing the last of the 2014-15 quota, after most boats from California to Washington preferred to stay tied up rather than test their luck in the empty seas. A local crabber claimed there were schools of sardines as far as the eye could see out- side Winchester Bay, so a market was set up and a few lucky seiners came in.

The few boats shing had already landed nearly a million pounds each. With an ex-vessel price in excess of $350 a metric ton, they were raking in money. Tax Day was fast approaching and the IRS demanded money I didn’t have, so I packed up my things and hightailed it to Oregon, even though I felt like a cowboy chasing after the least heard of buffalo on the Great Plains.

Under current regulation, the Pacific sardine fishery must be shut down when the biomass falls below the cutoff threshold of 150,000 metric tons. NOAA biologists found there to be less than 100,000 metric tons in 2015. On April 12, the Pacific Fishery Management Council said there would be no directed sardine fishery from July 1, 2015, to June 31, 2016.

Read more…

Monterey County Weekly: Testing out the naked yoga experience

January 23, 2016

569ff8b0ac844.imageOm Oasis yoga teacher Sterling Taylor and I make small talk about our past lives in Oakland as we pull off our underwear to begin our 60-minute session of yoga-in-the-buff. We move to the mats, kneel in the Vajrasana pose and begin to focus on our breathing.

I’m calm but I still can’t shake the wariness of contorting my bare body in ways that will expose parts of me I haven’t seen.

On principle, I try to blast any hang-ups I have about being naked in the presence of others. From prior experience I know once you get over the curiosity of viewing parts typically hidden, they just become parts. Breasts, buttocks, penises and vaginas are just as normal as noses, cheeks, eyes and chins when sexualized thoughts are absent.

“For me this is about experiencing non-sexual male intimacy,” Taylor says to me in the thankfully warm studio. “That said, if you – or if I – get an erection, it’s really no big deal, those things can happen.”

Read more at Monterey County Weekly…

The Vermont Cynic: 2004 Interview with Bernie Sanders

January 11, 2016

bernie_2In 2004-05, I was lucky enough to have been the Editor-in-Chief of the Vermont Cynic, the student newspaper at the University of Vermont. In that time I interviewed many politicians looking to court the college vote. Bernie Sanders was memorable in that he told me—straight up—he didn’t care for my questions about socialism, third-party candidates and the popular Vermont Progressive Party. His main—ultimately failing—goal was to make sure George W. Bush didn’t see a second term in the White House.

All-in-all Sanders has had consistency over the years. Here’s to an avuncular Jew for president.

Vermont Cynic: How important is this year’s election, and why should college students to be active participants?

Bernie Sanders: This election is the most important election in American history, or at least modern American history. It is especially important for young people and my campaign is trying to get as many people involved in the political process as is possible.

Read more…

Monterey County Weekly: Housing the homeless requires political will and a lot of cash, but are local efforts more than smoke and mirrors?

December 21, 2015

5671fa09e5bf4.imageDavid Lopez woke up wet and shivering on the ground behind a row of hedges in downtown Monterey. To say he woke up might be saying too much. The chilly night didn’t give him much rest. As the first pedestrians of the day started walking by his sleeping quarters, he pulled himself up, brushed off as much mud as he could and made his way down to the waterfront hoping he could find company with one of his few friends.

Lopez is a sturdily built man who once lived a violent life on the streets of Salinas, but at 66, life outside is wearing on him. He says he feels tired. He looks exhausted. He wonders if a trip to the ER or a night or two in jail might make him feel better. But what he really wants is a backpack, or better yet, a blanket. His was stolen a few days earlier, making life in the darkening days of late November harder than normal.

He walks toward Cannery Row where his friend Douglas slept on the beach. Douglas finds himself on the streets for a different reason: Substance abuse and likely mental illness stripped him of his tenuous hold on a working-class existence. Lopez, on the other hand, says he was released from prison in 2012 after spending 35 years behind bars, a senior citizen with no family to stay with, and no marketable skills.

Read more at Monterey County Weekly…

East Bay Express: Creating a ‘People’s Budget’

September 16, 2015

news3-e2f32bc6c814fad3A group of Oakland residents are campaigning to radically transform the city’s budgeting process — transferring power from City Hall to one hundred newly established Neighborhood Assemblies throughout the city. At farmers’ markets, civic events, protests, and heavily trafficked areas, volunteers with the Community Democracy Project (CDP) have been collecting signatures to bring a “People’s Budget” to the ballot. The initiative would amend the Oakland City Charter to allow citizens to decide how the city spends taxpayer funds — a process known as participatory budgeting. If the initiative gets the 32,000 verified signatures necessary, and if voters approve it next year, the results would be unprecedented.

To date, some cities have designated parts of their budgets to participatory budgeting. Vallejo has set aside nearly $2.5 million for it, and residents in 24 of the 51 council districts in New York City vote to allocate $25 million in discretionary funds. As of this year, Paris, France has the largest participatory budget, after it allocated 20 million Euros in 2014, and then committed an additional 426 million Euros through 2020. But there is no city of significant size that has created a participatory budget for 100 percent of general city funds as CDP’s initiative seeks in Oakland.

“It’s a big change, but the great thing about our initiative is that it provides a lot of the infrastructure to make it happen,” said Allee Rosenmayer, a co-director of CDP. “We’re not just pushing this radical change to the city charter through then leaving others to figure it out.”

Read more at East Bay Express

Book Preview: The Old Turk and the Sea

August 23, 2015

A half-moon shone in the 10 a.m. sun in the parking lot outside the fuel dock at the Ventura Harbor—that was until the fat old man in sweatpants tugged the worn elastic band back over his hairy ass. After a week and a half of walking the docks for work and sleeping on a beach my future in the southern Californian,  squid fishery was presented to me in the cloudy slate eyes and black-toothed grin of a cranky old man trying to repair a 1979 Dutsun pickup.

“Sorry boys, we don’t have any work for you but talk to Turk, his boat needs a little work before it’s ready for the season,” said a Canadian skipper who landed the nickname Catch ‘em all Paul for having boasting to have caught all the fish there was to catch in Canada.

After some chitchat between the skippers I was dropped off with Turk. His self-proclaimed ‘grizzly bear paw of a hand’ had trouble fitting into the cracks of the small engine so my friend AW and I took over the task of installing a new water pump in a truck that was barely worth saving. He then brought us to his boat that was tied up at the fuel dock. There I met the Miss Deception, a 38-foot Kodiak beach seiner converted into a light boat.

Read more…

National Fisherman: Off the hook

June 14, 2015

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While serving as a deckhand on a longliner in the western Gulf of Alaska in 2013, my boat couldn’t shake a pod of sperm whales who gobbled up most of our catch. After working 20 hours a day for a week in a blustery March, I owed the boat money. As we moved east toward West Yakutat over the course of the spring, sperm whales were an on-again, off-again problem. We worked longer and harder to catch the same amount of fish. But the main casualty in the game of cat and mouse between our boat and the agile behemoths was our shared target—blackcod.

A move to allow pots in the Gulf of Alaska fishery is in response to sperm whales, as well as orcas, increasingly eating fish from longlines. Negative interactions between longliners and whales in the Gulf of Alaska have steadily increased for decades. Depredation—the act of whales eating from fishermen’s hooks—has caused fishermen much frustration and has cost them a lot of time and money. The phenomenon isn’t exclusive to the Gulf of Alaska. From Norway to the South Pacific, the Falkland Islands to Chile, fishermen increasingly find themselves competing with whales in hook and line fisheries.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council moved in April to allow the use of pots in the Gulf of Alaska to harvest blackcod. The decision comes after years of review and strong support from various fishermen and industry associations. The motion was not without contention, however, with the Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association opposing the change in gear type, asserting that it would hurt fishermen with small boats that couldn’t carry the large pots, thereby creating a new gear conflict.

Read more at National Fisherman…

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