Georges Bank is a huge underwater island - 20,000 square miles and as large as the state of Massachusetts - that lies just below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
The bank is part of the continental shelf. More than 10,000 years ago, geologists believe, the bank was a high and dry island.
As the ocean rose, the island was submerged. Fish love the bank because it is a great source for food. Water depths are not much more than 100 feet and sometimes as shallow as 20 feet. Light from the sun penetrates to the bottom and supports a world of microscopic plankton that fish eat.
Pots and pans rattle. The television slides back and forth. Each time the bow of the Albatross IV slides up over the crest of a wave, something inside the 187-foot vessel bangs or rolls.
Twenty seconds later, when the bow descends into the valley of the next wave, the pots and pans bang back and forth again.
On this day, Sunday, April 3, the ship is on Georges Bank, more than 100 miles east of Cape Cod, so far from land it is not worth seeking shelter. The ship rides the waves at Cultivator Shoal, once a prime fishing area.
Capt. Gregory Mayhew, a Vineyard native and lifelong resident of Chilmark, runs the 75-foot steel dragger Unicorn out of Menemsha. This summer, for the first time in more than 20 years, he went sea scalloping. The reason, he said, is economics.
The question of how cod stocks fell so low in the waters off New
England is almost as perplexing as the question of how to bring about
The favorite reason - too much fishing pressure - is
followed by other explanations, including changes in ocean temperature
and degradation of the environment. Perhaps it is a combination of these
Pinpointing the cause or causes of plummeting cod stocks is key to
The Quitsa Strider II sits rusting at the dock in Menemsha. Her skipper Jonathan Mayhew, who has devoted his life to commercial fishing, has sold his days at sea. A Gloucester fishing cooperative has bought the permits that allow him to fish in federal waters.
One of Menemsha’s most respected fishermen, Jonathan Mayhew, has quit fishing the high seas.
Mr. Mayhew recently sold his federal permits, giving up his license to ply the offshore waters of Georges Bank for cod, flounder and other fish.
A Vineyard native who grew up in a family of generations of fishermen, Mr. Mayhew, 56, said a chapter has closed in his life. He said he worries now for the future of young local fishermen facing current fishing rules.
The changes that have come down are killing the fisherman and not necessarily saving fish, he said.
Yo-yoing, a fishing technique commonly used by commercial striped bass fishermen in Massachusetts and elsewhere, should be outlawed, according to Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, a national nonprofit organization that advocates treating striped bass as a game fish in state waters.
For Edgartown shellfishermen, it would be unconscionable to have an autumn and winter without fishing for and harvesting bay scallops. On Cape Cod and Long Island, however, the scallops have all but disappeared.
Warren Gaines, deputy shellfish constable for Edgartown, has spent the past two summers making sure the bay scallop fishery in town remains healthy and viable. His expanding efforts follow a bit of a scare when, for at least a decade, bay scallop landings from Cape Pogue Pond haven’t been up to waterfront expectations.