Howard Chapelle’s the American Fishing Schooners

The year is winding down, seemingly falling down with evidence of collapse all around, rhyming cosmically with the approach of the winter solstice, and personally with that December cold that always seems to arrive around this time. It’s easy to fall down along with it all, and just succumb to the instinct for hibernation. In contrast to these currents, I’m energized by signs of momentum, initial responses to this project among them. One exciting new current has been that Dougald Hine introduced me to Dean Bavington and his work on the Grand Banks. Dougald is one powerful network node! In this case he’s outdone himself as far as I’m concerned! Dean’s work covers an area that’s been a major concern of mine since I watched the Cod Fishery collapse first hand growing up in Provincetown.Dean’s careful study breaks with the conventional “Fisheries Management” approach. It’s illuminated by his understanding of Ivan Illich‘s writings, his insights into community being especially apropos. As a result he has framed fishery collapse within a broad perspective. I highly recommend listening to this radio interview as an introduction into his work. For me this is a landmark piece, showing a rigorous approach to examining complex, interlocking predicaments; leading to a clear, illumination of how they fit into wider currents and where further efforts might be taken that break out of the traps of futility. He doesn’t fall into the common short-circuits of “control” that plague our thinking within the modernist model. He clarifies why those models have failed us and shows us a way to move on beyond them. His work is foundational for much of what we can aspire to within this project and a wide, comprehensive, circle of projects and actions that can evolve out of our relationship to the sea and its communities and how they interact with our own human communities.

I can’t overstate how important I think this is. I’m not sure what amazes me most, that he’s had some exposure within Canada, or that his work has not appeared in any mainstream outlet I’m aware of in the US. I expect this kind of thinking to fail to impress the mainstream, caught up in the death throes of our present institutions. It’s amazing he’s been heard at all. On the other hand, this is precisely the kind of discussion we so vitally need.

I look forward to developing interactions with Dean in the new year. Dougald’s trip to North America, now postponed until Spring or Summer, may provide an opportunity to orchestrate a face to face  public discussion with the three of us, and perhaps others talking about the openings this new way of looking at the state of our oceans may bring.






2 thoughts on “Fishing

  1. I will check it out. I am pretty cynical about management efforts that don’t get at the fundamental problem which I will paraphrase from Ted Ames….. we got too good. The fate of the fisheries was predicted by Alexander Brown in his study of the effect of trawling back in the days of the first steam trawler. You combine the ability to catch ’em all with the ability to see them all, you have the perfect storm. You have the tools in place that give you the ability to destroy the ecology.

    1. Ben,

      Sorry for the delay getting back to you. A cold’s been kicking my butt!

      You’ve described the essence of what’s wrong with “management.” If there’s no overall understanding of why, our tools take over and we just maximize returns until exhaustion. Dean’s work gets into the interrelationships between the needs of ecological communities we rely on and the needs of our own communities. He brings up the fact that there have always been voices calling against the narrow “efficient” view because it diminishes us, destroys our dignity and our web of interactions as well as destroying our “prey.”

      Hopefully, I’ll have more to say as the synapses come back online…!

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