Food Rebel: Shannon Eldredge
Fisherman at Cape Cod Community Supported Fishery
Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Clams with BBQ pesto sauce
In the small idyllic Cape Code fishing village of Chatham, fisherwoman Shannon Eldredge is rescuing a dying form of feeding people. She is perhaps the last person to catch seasonal fish with the traditional fishing weir used by Native Americans. But she has more luck clamming, which is why in high school she was called Shannon Digs. On any given morning, youll find Shannon trolling the beach, clam rake in hand, seeking out the freshest seafood in the sand. Shes been fishing since she was a young girl and despite her fathers initial reluctance she has joined the family business and now helps supply a local community supported fishery operation.
How did you start doing what you do?
My father’s been fishing his whole life, my mother started fishing with him on and off and I was clamming throughout college and then I started helping my dad out here and there. I would help him pack fish, I would go out crew with him and I sort of got addicted to weir fishing and I kinda nudged my way to doing this more full time.
Whats wrong with fishing in America?
Community based fishermen are in a crisis. There’s all this pressure coming from all these different angles; offshore boats that are on an industrial scale, that are owned by big corporations that have a lot of money to buy permits and can fish consistently year round; they’re starting to put a lot of pressure on the ecosystem because of the technology that they use. And they’re sort of backing up the ocean, and the fleet is consolidating into these fewer and fewer larger scale boats. What that does is it puts the community based independent fishermen, like the folks in Chatham and around New England and even around the globe, it’s starting to put them out of business. It’s starting to make it more and more difficult to live this way of life.
Why is this important where you live?
Chatham is a small fishing village. There’s a year round population of about 6 to 7 thousand people. The town was founded in the 1700s, settled in the late 16- mid 1600s. And for centuries it as a fishing village. It was sustained on small farming fishing, some minor trading but it was a fairly large port with a with a decent size fishing fleet. And that held true for a number of years. In the 80s, and 90s, fishing started to wane pretty significantly. And there’s still a fleet here, it’s a fairly healthy fleet but made up of small community based independent fishermen. But it’s in a crisis and people come here and visit. It’s a tourist community and people come here and they want that fishing essence. They like the idea of visiting a coastal community like this where there’s a fishing tradition here thats in danger of being lost.