October 9, 2014

Fishing for a Mindful Life.


Maybe you are a Buddhist, vegan, political activist or follower of some amazing new-age religious faction.

Or, maybe you are like me, an average gal searching for a better self and mindful life. I’ve taken a few yoga classes over the years, tested the waters of a meat-free diet, and read the Idiots Guide to Buddhism during my early 20s spiritual quest. Needless to say, while I admire all, nothing has stuck yet.

I am a fish wife.

This is my raw truth, my un-glamorous title. As the story goes, fresh out of high school, I found a home in a beautiful seaside town with the love of my life. As young floundering souls, my #1 guy took a deckhand job on his dad’s boat. What we didn’t know was this job would influence our lives in the most confounding ways.

Fast forward 20 years and two kids later. My husband, third generation captain, has carved out a comfortable living for us in our quaint little fishing village. You see, he rocks at his job. He runs ocean charters in the summer and crab fishes in the winter.

People flock from far and near, forking out good money to fish with him. I manage the home office and book the reservations. The stark reality…we are fish killers. I book ‘em, he captains, adventure ends with buckets of fish. To the avid fisherman, this sounds like a dream job. (Believe me, I’ve heard it a million times.) To the raging PETA activist, what can I say, except I’m sorry? To us, this is our life. We eat fish.

So, where does soul searching and seeking a mindful life coincide with fish killing?

It just so happens that taking the lives of vast amounts of sea life can really stir a person to his core. Surprising? I didn’t think so.

Now I know there’s a storm of strong beliefs out there. Some are as fierce as they come, advocates and activists of all sorts, fighting to save the seas and protect the animals. Some would suggest us to stop fishing and get a new job. But it just so happens, we also believe in what we do. We feed people. We feed a lot of people, much like farmers. (My deepest apologies to vegetarians everywhere.)  So how can one so invested in this industry achieve peace of mind, or in Buddhist terms, Right Livelihood? Yes, it’s complicated.

We are the equivalent to your small, local family farm. We are not a reckless corporate bottom trawler.

We respect and protect. We abide by all regulations in an effort to protect our resources and educate the public on responsible fishing practices. We honor our catch in gratitude, as they provide nourishment to our community.

Much like the battle against corporate farming, there is an army of ocean-saving soldiers waging war against the fishing industry right now. Rightly so, there are some appalling reports of destructive fisheries out there, annihilating fragile ecosystems left and right. Irresponsible fishing practices threaten our sustainable resources, destroying our oceans. So what am I saying? We are part of the army. We are advocating for responsible fisheries too. This is our industry, our livelihood.

Maybe the word isn’t out yet, but mindful fishermen do exist. Yes, even on a commercial level. No, it is nowhere near perfect, but realization is the first step. Mindful fishermen are not gross polluters. We are not discarding tons of dead, untargeted by-catch, or dragging destructive trawling nets through sensitive habitats. We are delicate in our practice and strive to provide people with fresh, local and sustainable seafood, free of the stigma that has fallen upon the fishing industries.

Next time you are shopping for dinner, take a peek at your local fish counter. Is it fresh, wild, local, line caught? Do your research like you would on any other food product. It might take a little more effort, but find out where your fish comes from. Support your local fishermen, just as you would your local farmers. Thank you, from a fish wife and her family.


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Editor:  Travis May

Photo: Mike Baird/Flickr

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