Fisherman’s Memorial at Spud Point to be Unveiled
In a few days time, the Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival for 2010 will take place.
Many visitors will come out to enjoy the activities and food on the weekend, but Sunday’s Boat Parade and Blessing of the Fleet always holds a special meaning to those who live and fish here.
Gaily decorated boats of all sizes move slowly through the Bay and gather just outside the jetty.
Words are spoken, prayers are said, and a beautiful, locally-made wreath is tossed into the ocean.
Those who have lost their lives at sea are remembered.
A good and safe season is asked for those who still make their living on the sea.
Then the boats turn around and joyfully race each other back through the channel markers of green and red.
That race used to signal optimism and hope for a great salmon season ahead.
Today, just two days before the Festival on the 17th & 18th, a decision is supposed to be made by the Pacific Fishery Management Council as to whether any of the Pacific coast’s commercial fisheries will be “going out.”
Although they have been meeting in Portland, Oregon for days now, this morning, the last day of the meeting, there was a bulletin on their website at www.pcouncil.org.
It reads in part, “The Council agenda is running a bit late today, and the salmon probably won’t come up before the Council until after lunch or later.” A news release and web posting is promised for shortly after “the salmon decision has been reached.” As of 3:45pm, no announcement has been made.
The environmental and economical status of salmon fishing is being weighed by those whose aim it is to insure that sufficient numbers and sizes of fish are out there now and in the future.
Preventing over-fishing that could possibly result in the end of an industry is at stake.
Livelihoods are at stake as well.
The number is steadily growing of commercial fishermen, including some second and third generation families, giving up fishing, selling their boats (if they can), and turning to other ways of making a living.
Here in Bodega Bay, it has been going on for many years as seasonal restrictions, bad weather, and low prices for catches have made it impossible for some to continue. The past two years have accelerated this.
The end of being able to fish here often means the end of living here, because there is so little other work to be found.
For many who live here and are not fishermen, it has become a sad thing to see this happen to those who have chosen an independent, difficult, expensive, and often deadly job.
Commercial fishing has been considered the most dangerous occupation above logging, coal mining, and all other jobs for numerous years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This year an attempt to more fully recognize the sacrifices of fishermen and women will come in the form of a new memorial being placed at the Spud Point Marina.
At 10:00am on Sunday, just before the Boat Parade begins, there will be an unveiling of a 7 foot bronze statue of a fisherman on a cement pedestal.
The memorial is a joint effort on the part of the Bodega Bay Auxiliary for Fisheries and the Fisherman’s Marketing Association, Inc. of Bodega Bay.
Dave Yarger, a past president of the Marketing Association, has been one of many who have worked to make this happen.
“The statue is just Phase 1 of the Memorial,” he explained.” Eventually, we will be putting a plaque on the base of the statue with the names, dates, and names of boats for those who have lost their lives at sea.”
“Fishermen here like and respect the memorial out on Bodega Head. With this, though, we will be right next to the water and have a place for names.”
He is speaking of the Fisherman’s Memorial on the cliffs just outside the entrance to the Bay designed by long time resident and architect, John Cook, now deceased.
The “vee” of low stones form a stylized prow of a ship with a metal captain’s wheel.
Placed amongst the wind-blown grass and wildflowers of the Head, it looks out to sea.
For this second memorial, a lot of fundraising, donations, and hard work have made it a reality.
Lois Boos of the Bodega Bay Auxiliary for Fisheries spoke of the many salmon barbeques and sales of a recipe book with a collection of some of the local fishermen’s seafood recipes.
“We sold out of the old book, but now we have a new one. You can buy it for $10 at the Spud Point Crab Company right across the street from the Spud Point Marina,” she said.
“We also sell t-shirts and sweatshirts at the Fisherman’s Festival and work in the food booths.” The Auxiliary is one of many non-profit groups whose members volunteer for the festival and get a share of the profits that helps fund their work and now the new memorial, as well.
At the end of each salmon season, it has been the tradition of the Auxiliary to hold a potluck and raffle. During the party, the commercial fisherman who caught the largest salmon is named the winner of the Golden Hook Award.
One year the theme for the Fisherman’s Festival was based on the “Golden Hookers.”
It resulted in some hilarious interpretations in the form of costumes and decorations on some of the boats in the Parade.
“The Auxiliary was first started in the mid-1970’s and was patterned on Oregon groups made up of mainly the wives of fishermen,” Lois explained. “The purpose was to support the commercial fishermen by keeping them up to date on pending legislation, season openings, and other matters. The first recipe book was started at this time.”
“Bev Burton was the one who really helped start our Auxiliary. She also helped in getting the Bodega Head memorial done,” she added. Bev was a commercial fisherwoman and worked alongside her husband John for many years.
“Then in the early 1980’s, the men asked for regular meetings with the California state legislature to keep them advised of the industry’s needs and problems. An annual Fish Forum was started with the women hosting a reception afterwards with platters of crab, salmon, and other seafood. It has been very successful for over 25 years now.”
Members of both groups, as well as invited politicians and others will participate in the ceremony for the new memorial. The public is invited as well. Spud Point Marina is on the way out to the Festival site.