“I go to sleep at night wondering whether I’ll be able to go to work tomorrow,” said Buxton gillnetter Dale Farrow. “I started fishing when I was twelve, bumping around in the creek here, and I’m not trained to do anything else.” Farrow jostled his boat, Miss Geraldine, into the queue of fishing boats waiting to unload at Jeffrey’s Seafood in Hatteras. The atmosphere on the fishing docks was electric after a good day of fishing for the fleet. Men shouted out to each other over thenoise ofgurgling diesel engines, clambering conveyor belts, and a rhythmic clink as workers shoveled ice into fish boxes; a noisy backdrop to the daily theater that plays out in fish houses all along North Carolina’s coast.
The bustling scene masked the worry that comes during the quiet nighttime hours. Commercial fishermen, contrary to their guarded, tough demeanor, are optimists at heart, rolling with the mean seas, stiff winds, and running tides that can be part and parcel of another day on the water. But that resiliency is put to the test when matched up against man-made forces that are quickly rearranging the watermen’s world. Hit with layers of increasingly stringent regulations, low fish and shellfish prices, and high fuel costs, fishermen face an uncertain future and many count themselves as an endangered species.
by Susan West and Barbara J. Garrity-Blake, From the North Carolina Folklore Journal, 59.1 Spring-Summer 2012. Visit the North Carolina Folklore Journal site to read the full article in Issue # 59.1