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A FISH STORY presents an intimate portrait of two women, their families and New England fishing communities as they struggle to survive in the wake of an environmental disaster.
Find out what has changed for the families, communities and fish populations as of November 2006, including new federal regulations, altered habitat conditions and advocacy efforts to save New England fishing businesses from ruin.
Shareen Davis and Ernie Eldredge
In A FISH STORY Shareen Davis—a fisheries advocate, photographer and commercial fisherwoman in Chatham, Massachusetts—and her husband Ernie Eldredge, a commercial weir fisherman, face conservation regulations and dwindling support of weir fishing that threaten the survival of their business and centuries-old form of fishing.
Ernie Eldredge continues to weir fish, in spite of having another small year catch-wise. After the spring season ended, Ernie went solo for the summer, and hauled the weirs by himself.
Shareen Davis reports that herring fishing efforts have increased dramatically, which adversely affects the mackerel and squid that weirs hope to catch because mackerel and squid feed on herring. She also reports that nitrogen loading has reduced the catch. Nitrogen loading increases the oxygen level in Nantucket Sound, which makes the environment less conducive for fish habitat.
At the same time, Shareen reports that Chatham’s growing seal population is also consuming a high volume of fish, reducing the catch for both commercial and recreational inshore fishermen. Nevertheless, Ernie maintains his commitment to the weirs, and voices hope, always, for a better year ahead.
Shareen has continued her advocacy, most recently supporting local shell fishermen whose operations have been shut down due to red tide in Massachusetts and Maine. She has been working with the Chatham Shellfishermen’s Association, and she also performs speaking engagements about the history and preservation of weir fishing. She has started her own commercial photography business and works for the online news magazine CapeCodVoice.com.
The Davis-Eldredge family, including daughters Shannon and Morgan, are committed to preserving and teaching about the importance of sustainable fishing, and weir fishing in particular. They hope to cultivate greater appreciation for the weir’s historical value and create a legacy of educational opportunities.
Angela and Johnny Sanfilippo
In A FISH STORY Angela Sanfilippo, an immigrant from Sicily turned international fisheries advocate in Gloucester, Massachusetts, led the fight against a court decision that would restrict fishing to the point of putting fishermen out of business. Her husband, John Sanfilippo, is a commercial dragger captain in Gloucester.
Captain John Sanfilippo has recovered from second and third degree burns after his commercial fishing boat caught fire and sank in deep water 12 miles southeast of Gloucester on November 26, 2005. Johnny’s commercial fishing boat, Giovana, named after his daughter, was not recovered. Johnny decided not to buy another boat and has taken a job on a charter fishing boat out of Newburyport, Massachusetts called the Yellow Bird. Johnny reports that he is enjoying his new career as a deck manager on the Yellow Bird, where he is able to share his love and knowledge of fishing with the public.
In February 2006, Angela lost her job as project manager of the Gloucester Fishermen and Families Assistance Center’s Employment and Training Program. All services at the Center have been officially terminated due to lack of federal funding.
Although there are no funds to pay staff members and services, State Senator Bruce Tarr has helped to organize funds to cover the Center’s rent through December 31, 2006. Meanwhile, Angela continues to volunteer as president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, which is currently working to stop a proposed unloading facility for liquefied natural gas in the waters off Gloucester. At the same time she is seeking funding to continue her work as a steward for the ocean environment and as an advocate for fishing families and their communities.