Their Fathers' Work: Casting Nets with the World's Fishermen

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9780071358200: Their Fathers' Work: Casting Nets with the World's Fishermen

"A gritty, evocative account of commercial fishermen at work in a hard profession."

­­Peter Matthiessen, author of In The Spirit of Crazy Horse and The Snow Leopard

"His achievement has been to write a paean for a way of life."­­Smithsonian magazine.

Those who put to sea for a dangerous and chancy living could ask for no better chronicler than William McCloskey. McCloskey has sailed with fishermen and women in all the seas of the world, from Indonesian village fishermen, to a Japanese squid boat in the North Pacific, to cod fishermen on the Grand Banks and gill netters in Alaska, working alongside them as he went. Fishing is the last of the hunting occupations, a hard but fiercely independent life. In Their Father's Work, McCloskey's vivid prose puts you right on deck, working through pain, discomfort, and exhaustion as the decks roll, the spray flies, and the nets are hauled. His love of the boats, the fishermen, and the sea shines through this moving, fascinating tribute to a way of life.

"If I've delivered nothing but a lament for those of a dying culture, we'll be the poorer for it."­­William McCloskey.

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From the Author:

My book "Their Fathers' Work, Casting Nets With the World's Fishermen," sums up more than twenty years spent at times with commercial fishermen throughout the world. I've worked as a fisherman in the States and turned-to on many other fishing decks, happy to be with the men, boats, and gear of this vigorous, sometimes dangerous calling. And a calling it is, not just a job, pursued voluntarily by many who might work ashore in greater comfort and safety. "Fathers' Work" takes a broad view of the fishing occupation and, besides sea tales, attempts to make sense of the ecological and political pressures bedeviling those who work the sea for a living.

As for myself, I still like being on the water, and especially aboard a small enough craft to get my face wet. These days when not hitching rides aboard fishing boats I row a twelve-foot skiff around the Chesapeake Bay in most weather.

In writing "Their Fathers' Work," fishing experiences with crewmates fell quickly into place, although it was a triage selecting the best from memory and from dozens of handwritten notebooks (some pages blurred with seawater, and/or scrawled by frozen hands just in from working nets). And selecting twenty each photographs for color and black & white from among my thousands of fishing images required hard decisions. But the real labor came with making sure of facts.

While a writer can be as subjective with impression as he dares and expect his reader to roll with it -- that's the salt of a book -- he has a duty not to jiggle the facts. Sometimes a single line of information -- specs of a boat or gear, a political decision twenty years ago, the history or update of a controversial issue -- required hours of long-distance calls, library research, letters. Many pages went to the people quoted or otherwise involved, to be checked.

Fishing is a harsh, dangerous, sometimes joyful occupation. It is now endangered just as are some of fishermen's targets. The old abundance on some fishing grounds may be gone in our time. Fishermen are partially at fault, but also fish farmers, single- cause environmentalists, and polluters ranging from heavy industry to the man fertilizing his lawn. It doesn't mean that all has been destroyed, and alarmists should be heard selectively. The work now is to pick up the pieces and prevent further depletion. The ocean is astonishingly resilient. Under tough, intelligent management many areas have stayed productive or been restored, and more can be made so as long as we stay intelligently alarmed. Governments and nations must cooperate on the size of their fishing fleets and what they harvest. Of necessity this will mean fewer boats, but should never be engineered to eliminate small-boat fishermen. Fishermen and their boats are a national resource to any coastal nation -- in normal times for producing food and income, in crisis for defense. There is no easy solution to keep fish and fishermen from being endangered, but there is a positive direction in which to work knowing the importance of both.

From the Back Cover:

Fishing is a hard and fiercely independent life, one of the world's last hunting occupations, and one of the most hazardous. Change has been a constant, with traditional fisheries modernized, stocks threatened by overfishing and pollution, and political pressures increasing, yet at heart fishing remains the same. There is still the hunt, the wait, the bitter disappointment of a busted trip, and the sleepless work fueled by elation when the nets come back full. Sons--and sometimes now, daughters--still follow fathers to sea. And the sea is still dangerous; among the shipmates we meet are some who have since been lost, and others who have barely survived. Their Fathers' Work takes us out there, on a fascinating, compelling journey with an author who has been chronicling fishermen's lives for twenty-five years.

"McCloskey's honesty and willingness to follow his story doggedly to the ends of the earth make this a book for one's permanent collection." --­­Washingtonian

"McCloskey's work is imbued with wild, natural moods, an evocative background against which his sources drift through fear, frustration and, in some cases, fortune." --­­C.J. Chivers, Providence Journal

"McCloskey writes with first-hand knowledge and passion about the sea and the men and women who fish it, survive it, and sometimes drown in it. He describes these proud people with warmth and respect, honoring their work passed down from their fathers and their fathers' fathers." --­­Audubon Naturalist News

"With all his experience across space and time, McCloskey occupies a unique position among observers of the world fishing industry. He's been there. He understands the good and the bad, the foolish and the wise. He has perspective." --­­Alaska Fisherman's Journal

"There can't be another like William McCloskey in the worlds of fishing and writing. Imagine someone whose appetite for his subject is so strong that he spends half his lifetime hiring out as a working-stiff fisherman on commercial boats all over the world, then draws his conclusions in vivid, scalding, haunting terms. His realistic ideas might offend both knee-jerk conservationists and plundering meat-fishermen­--­the surest sign that he has done his job well. When you finish this book, you will feel like wiping the salt spray from your face. A superb piece of work by a master fisherman and writer, and the perfect companion piece to books like The Perfect Storm." --­­Jack Olsen, author of The Climb Up to Hell, and Hastened to the Grave

"A splendid, subtle portrait of the fisherman's life." --Kirkus Reviews

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