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December 31, 2012

Fishing’s harshest reality

NORMAN — Fishermen and government officials are sparring over catch limits that threaten the very future of the industry. Television viewers are getting a “reality” taste of the fishing world from shows like “Deadliest Catch” and National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna.”

But fishing’s harshest reality was felt again in Gloucester, America’s oldest seaport, and in Deer Isle, Maine. The Coast Guard made the grim but understandable decision to end the search for the scalloping boat Foxy Lady II, four days after it went missing Dec. 15.

Presumed lost are Capt. Wallace “Chubby” Gray Jr., 25, and his 50-year-old crewmate, Wayne Young. Both were from Deer Isle but both fished out of Gloucester. Their names now will be added to a roll of more than 5,000 Gloucestermen lost at sea and memorialized on plaques surrounding Gloucester’s iconic “Man at the Wheel” statue. The statue is inscribed with a phrase from Psalm 107: “They that go down to the sea in ships.”

It’s easy to get caught up in talk about commercial fishing, from the debate over regulation to the industry’s fight for survival in the face of a declared economic disaster to the exploits of the “Wicked Tuna” crews. But no one should forget that, statistically, commercial fishing remains America’s most dangerous industry.

Death at sea is constantly on the minds of fishermen and their families, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of Gray and Young. Our respect goes to their colleagues, who press on with the courage they and their predecessors have shown for centuries. And we hope their loss serves as a reminder to government officials to grant all fishermen the respect they deserve.

— Gloucester, Mass., Daily Times

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