Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in America. Consider this statistic: in the ten years from 2000 to 2010, 170 commercial fishermen in the U.S. lost their lives by falling overboard. To help reduce the number of fatalities in our region, a safety and survival training program is going on, designed to teach fishermen what to do during emergencies on their vessels.
Carlos Rafael, a New Bedford-based fisherman who owned, operated and controlled much of the region’s fishing fleet, pleaded guilty to dozens of federal fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion charges Thursday. The fishing mogul now faces up to 6-and-a-half years in prison.
Around New Bedford, Rafael is known as the ‘Codfather.’ The 64-year-old Portuguese immigrant built a remarkable business, with more than 40 boats at his disposal. His business was so robust, Rafael was allowed to catch about 25 percent of all of the fish New England’s fishermen may bring ashore each season.
Have you ever had whiting? It’s a small fish, usually about 12-to-14 inches long, with a soft white flesh and a mild flavor. It lives in our waters, and historically, the whiting fishery was big on Cape Cod every fall. These days, though, most local fisherman aren’t catching whiting, and it’s hard to find in local markets.
On a steamy August day, at 5:30 in the morning, I joined a crew of fishermen on the Maria Mendosa—one of the few trap fishing boats in the world. It’s called trap fishing because you catch fish in a massive floating net trap. And when I say massive, I mean a floating net the size of a football field.
There’s no bait. Instead, the fish get caught as the fishermen pull up the net. The traps are placed roughly 1 mile off the coast here in Narragansett Bay, just waiting for fish to come by. Captain Corey Forest said that the traps are like giant floating aquariums.