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December 21, 2012

Editorial: Harshest fishing reality hits home

Fishermen and government officials are now sparring over dire 2013 catch limits that threaten the very future of the industry.

And viewers across the country can get their “reality” TV tastes of the fishing world through shows like “The Deadliest Catch” and National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna,” filmed out of Gloucester.

But fishing’s harshest reality once again hit home in America’s oldest seaport and in Deer Isle, Maine, with the U.S. Coast Guard’s grim but understandable Wednesday night decision to end the search for the scalloping boat “Foxy Lady II,” which had been missing since late Saturday night.

That move means that 25-year-old captain Wallace “Chubby” Gray Jr., and his 50-year-old crew mate Wayne Young, both of Deer Isle, but both of whom fished out of Gloucester, are presumed lost at sea — two more names added to the toll of the more than 5,000 people who have gone “down to the sea in ships” out of Gloucester while seeking to harvest seafood for America’s families.

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the talk about commercial fishing these days, from the fierce debate and fight for the industry’s survival in the face of a declared economic disaster, to the TV exploits of the “Wicked Tuna” crews.” But none of us should ever forget that, statistically, commercial fishing remains America’s most dangerous industry. And the losses of Gray and Young provide an all-too-real context to those figures as the seventh and eighth men to lose their lives fishing out of Gloucester since January 2009.

Death at sea is in the minds of fishermen and fishing families at every turn, and our hearts go out to the families and many friends of these two men in the wake of this latest fishing tragedy.

But we do so with immense respect for the fact that their colleagues will press on with the courage they and their predecessors have shown for centuries. And we hope their loss serves as a harsh reminder to government officials to grant all fishermen the level of respect they deserve.

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