When Nick Muto heads out from the Chatham Fish Pier on the F/V Dawn T., he and the other commercial fishermen who use the port are part of lineage that extends back hundreds of years.
On the hill above the pier, a placard recounts the Cape’s strong connection to the sea. As early as the 15th century, local waters lured European fishermen, and even before commercial fishing became the lifeblood of the economy in the 1700s, Chatham residents had shares in a communal whaleboat.
Fishing was the original “blue economy,” before the term was coined to celebrate and energize the Cape to put the crucial connection between livelihoods and the water front and center.
“It’s hard to talk about the Blue Economy without talking about fishing. Fishing is the foundation of the Blue Economy,” said Muto. “Fishermen have been feeding people for generations, and as the fishing industry has changed, Cape Cod has taken a place in the global marketplace. Fishermen are taking responsibility for our evolving roles as the world’s seafood providers.”
Fishermen across the Cape had landings worth $74 million last year — and that’s “ex-vessel” value, before those fish ended up in fish markets, on dinner plates and in restaurants, multiplying their economic impact.
Muto says fishermen today realize their relevance in the Cape’s economy and the world stage. Fish stocks are recovering, and fishermen are stewards of a brighter future.
Muto, with assistance from the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, installed cameras on his boat to provide better accountability and better information to regulators and researchers. Better data leads to better science which provides long-term benefits to both the ecosystem and the fishermen’s bottom line.
“Because we are holding ourselves to a higher standard, we are building better fishing businesses,” Muto said. “We are on the forefront of new technology.”
But in recent years, fishing has also gone back to its roots. Buying local and eating local is increasingly important. “People want to know where their fish is coming from,” Muto said.
There remain challenges to navigate: wind turbines offshore, warming waters, changing ocean dynamics. But fishermen are involved in scientific studies and policy conversations, and are at the table to make the case that decisions should protect and grow the industry.
“Oceans change, technology advances, markets expand, and so we diversify our practices to target different species, use new technologies and meet the demands of the 21st century,” Muto said. “Because we are able to adapt, our small businesses will continue to succeed and lead Cape Cod’s Blue Economy.”
Commercial fisherman Nick Muto installed installed cameras on his boat to provide better information to regulators and researchers. “Because we are holding ourselves to a higher standard, we are building better fishing businesses,” Muto said. “We are on the forefront of new technology."