This is a story about Joe the roofer. He is about 50 years old and has been doing roofs since he could remember…his father did roofs his grandfather did roofs, you get the picture right? Family business passed on from generation to generation. Joe is a good roofer. He gets the job done so he can support his family. Joe has a wife and a couple kids one of them that also might be a roofer someday.
Well let me start the story…when Joe started Joe used to be able to get up in the morning make sure the weather was good enough for him to go to work and have a productive day. But then the new regulations started….now Joe needs to ”call in” a minimum 48 hours in advance to let the “observers”(which are hired by the government) know he is going to go to work, so they can go to work with him. He has to do this now because the reputation of all contractors is that they do illegal things even though Joe has never had a complaint or issue throughout his career. So Joe calls in on Friday night to let them know he would be going to work on Monday after checking the local weather forecast, they predicted a cloudy but dry day. And Tuesday looks good also so he lets them know he will be going Tuesday too.
Monday morning rolls around Joe used to get up at 4:30 AM, throw his clothes on, grab a cup of coffee and out the door for 5 AM. Now Joe needs to get up at 4:00 AM to meet the observer (today it’s Karen) so she can inspect his truck (even though Joe has a valid inspection sticker on it) before he is allowed to go to work. Now inspection done Karen loads up her equipment and Joe gets to leave to head to work. Joe stops and picks up Bob, one of his workers. Joe used to have two workers that he would take to work but because Joe only has room for 3 people in his truck he had to leave one guy home. Joe arrives at the job sets up his equipment with Bob and starts his day. Joe opens up bundle after bundle of shingles and bangs away nailing each one down as he moves along the roof he leaves a few shingles here and there that have dropped to the ground, which are still good, that he could use but he looks down and notices Karen using a pitch fork to pick them up and examine them. This infuriates Joe because there was nothing wrong with them but now they are useless. Joe can not say anything to Karen in fear that this might upset Karen and she might file a complaint against Joe so Joe bites his tongue. Joe (pre ‘observer”) use to be able to joke around with the guys that he has working with him throughout the day typical man conversation about women walking by the job site or what happened last night with his wife etc. but now Joe and his worker have to watch what they say as not to offend Karen and risk a complaint being filed against them so they work in silence making the day of pounding nails in the hot summer heat or cold and windy fall days feel a little longer. Joe wants to stay late today to stay on his progress schedule that he had planned out and lets Karen know but Joe can see that Karen is not very happy with that so Joe just decides to pack it up for the day because he has learned that dealing with a sour attitude isn’t good for anyone even though the only one getting impacted by this is Joe and Bobs families and not Karen. Joe packs up for the day and drops off Bob and then arrives home and parts ways with Karen. On average now Joe’s day is 2 hours longer with these new regulations in effect.
After having dinner with his family it’s time for Joe to do his paperwork. He must file a progress report with the government to say how many pounds of shingles he used and how many were discarded. He spends a lot of time making sure his numbers are correct because if Joe makes a mistake in reporting how many pounds of shingles he threw away or installed it will feed into the misconception that all contractors are thieves and crooks and he risks possible legal action against him, which could cost him his boat, house and family. Joe is having a hard time tonight. He is doing the math and reflecting on the fact that if he had to pay for Karen out of his own pocket then he would be out of business. He would be charged around approx. $800 a day to have his own personal police following him all day to make sure he is obeying the law. This year Senator Shaheen got Congress to allocate the funding. But next year it is looking very iffy. He thinks to himself what will I do, he knows that he cannot pass this cost on to his customers he will be out of business. He also wonders to himself why are not all contractors being held to the same standard. The kitchen remodelers don’t have to subject themselves to ‘observers’, even though they are still “contractors”. He finishes up his paperwork and heads to bed but before he hits the hay he turns on the weather just to check. Now the weathermen are forecasting heavy winds on Tuesday. What should I do? Joe says to himself. I have already called in to say that I would be working on Tuesday if I cancel too many times I basically get blacklisted and I can’t afford that. So Joe decides to go to bed and hopefully it’s not as bad as they are predicting in the morning.
Tuesday morning arrives and the weather is not so bad. So Joe has his coffee and throws on his clothes and runs outside to meet up with the observer.. It’s Karen again. She starts doing her inspection of Joes truck. He thinks to himself I have the state inspect it yearly and SHE just did it yesterday so seems like a waste of time but whatever he thinks to himself as he is watching her climb up and check out his ladder rack. Its cold, they are slippery, what if she falls he is probably going to get sued even though the observer company says they have insurance to cover anything. It’s just not how real life works. Everything is good and Joe heads over and grabs John to work for the day, so John can make a day’s pay today. They arrive at the job site and start working all good till about 10 AM the wind kicks up out of the east. It’s dangerous up there. Joe thinks to himself what do I do, If I pack up now John who supports his new wife and kid won’t make a day’s pay, that I’m sure they were counting on. And also if I had to pay for Karen’s observer pay for the day I would be in the hole for going to work today. Is it worth it? Do I just give up on something that I love doing, that my family has done for generations and get a job at Home Depot or Lowes??
These regulations were put into effect because some environmental group that has deep pockets has paid for studies to say that there are not enough shingles out there and we must conserve. Even though Joe has witnessed Karen and other observers because they are not properly trained or incompetent poking holes in perfectly good shingles which could have been used. How does this make sense?
Now let me tell you a Reality this is what NOAA is doing to our Commercial Ground Fishermen. Yes, Joe the fisherman has to call in a minimum of 48 hours in advance to say he is going to work. He is required to take an observer with him if he is supposedly ‘randomly’ picked. Which the fact is that if you are a day boat guy you are more likely to be assigned an observer than a trip boat that is staying out 3-7 days. Observer coverage is supposed to be around 50 percent but they are looking to go 100 percent coverage now. The coverage was based on each harbor being covered. When this went into effect there were 25 groundfish boats for example now there are only 2 groundfish boats available so basically these two boats end up with coverage on every trip. Even if the boat has been inspected by the Coast Guard and the fisherman receives a safety sticker the observers perform their own safety inspections, which includes them walking on the roof sometimes to check the date on the Life Raft and hydrostatic release which the captain has the paperwork saying when the life raft and hydrostatic release has been inspected and how long it is good for down in the wheelhouse. Now what happens if the observer kicks it or causes damage to anything else up there he/she puts everyone at risk now. Because so many EPIRB cases were damaged from inspections they now insist the captain open the container every three months so they can verify the dates. That has caused some fishermen to move theirs from the roof to the back of the wheelhouse where it may get caught under the roof overhang because they themselves don’t want to climb on the roof. Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations around. To have someone that is unfamiliar trampling all over one’s property can get on people’s nerves especially when this is something they have been doing all their life and someone else is possibly jeopardizing it.
If you are assigned an observer you must take them or risk being not allowed to fish. Now you must make accommodations to have this extra person on your vessel. So if you do not have enough bunks for them to sleep you need to leave one of your help home if you are staying out. Now you’re out there fishing, you dump your net contents on the deck to see what you have hauled in. You grab your fish, separating what you can keep from the “trash fish” and as you are trying to do your job you see this observer taking a fish pick and stabbing lobsters, crabs and fish which could be returned to the ocean ALIVE but after being stabbed and set in a box waiting to be weighed, measured and recorded they are ALL DEAD NOW. So how does this make sense to a normal person? Observers are supposedly supposed to be a job to help in conserving when in fact what they are really doing is the complete opposite. Not one thing is being returned to the ocean alive when it could be. And even if something makes it back in the ocean alive the way NOAA has it set up is that all discards are counted as deads. Which is bologna. The way the system is set up now is against conserving. The other option for our fishermen is to set up a bunch of cameras all over their boat so they are being watched the entire time they are out there. Guess fishermen have no right to privacy?? I am a female been on many boats that do not have bathroom facilities…should I be subjected to relieve myself on camera?? I bet Mike the CEO wouldn’t go for this or any of the employees at NOAA but fishermen have to put up with it.
Fishermen have a quota allotted to them or can purchase quota. Now Joe ‘the fisherman’ goes out fishing. He has 5,000 pounds in cod quota allotted to him. He hauls in his gear hoping to come up with some haddock which incase he has to purchase more quota is much cheaper than purchasing Cod quota but unfortunately this time Joe hits the cod 6,000 pounds. Joe is screwed. Joe knows that if he is hitting the cod so is a lot of guys around him. So the price is going to tank. Now in the past Joe would have been able to set the nice large healthy fish back in the ocean to catch another day but not today. Today Joe has to keep everything that lands on his deck if it is legal size and species. And Joe also has to watch ‘Karen’ the observer kill everything else that came aboard that could have been returned to the ocean alive if it was done in a better more timely manner or that she wasn’t afraid of being bit by the lobster or crab. Joe doesn’t blame Karen but she should have been trained better. If she is being hired to do a job then she or he should be qualified to do it properly and if the premise of the job is based on conserving the fishing stocks then she or he should be on the same page. Joe and his deckhand finish the day always guarded on what their conversations might be as not to offend the observer. Joe can’t take a chance on getting in trouble by what might come out of his mouth on his own boat that he worked hard to pay for and maintain. Joe has a family to support and actually a few families to support…like his deckhands, where he buys his equipment, the guys that he has come down to do any repairs that Joe can’t handle himself etc…Joe gets back to the dock, fills out his paperwork that he has to turn in to the fish dealer and prays that the price will be good enough so he can make a day’s pay. Unfortunately, this day was not Joe’s day. Price goes off at auction for $1.90 lb. It cost joe $1.60 a pound for cod. That’s $.30 a pound…take out what the dealer charges to move the fish, cost of fuel, paying the guys on the boat what’s left?? Now throw in if he had to pay an observer approx. $800 a day. (Observers are provided by private companies subject to charge whatever they want to basically which is decided or approved by contracts with NOAA). The other choice ground fishermen have is to have cameras on their vessels watching everything they do. Please name me one other occupation or profession that would put up with this much oversight and be threatened with having to pay for it themselves all the time. There isn’t one and it’s not even just the profession, one group of fishermen are being singled out the ground fishermen. There are words for what I am describing like discrimination but I am trying not to use them. Joe the fisherman just wants to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. He wanted to be a proud dad and teach his son or daughter this but with regulation after regulation being put up he can’t see himself retiring as a commercial fisherman never mind his child. Fishermen are not bad. They actually have bent over backwards to try and conserve and make efforts to save the commercial fishing industry even though by doing this it has cut their own throats.
I tried to explain what the commercial fisherman is dealing with daily and put it into another profession to make it more obvious of how it is not right. Hopefully I was able to do this and next time you are at the local fish store and you have a choice to buy local or imported products you choose local and support your local fishermen. Because soon they will no longer be around if the choking regulations continue.
Linda Hunt, Ex Commercial Fisherman, but Fisherman for Life