The highlight of my summer was undoubtedly the 12th annual meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries History Association in Norfolk, Va., during August.
Being able to talk with several dozen people who are interested in fisheries history was such an enormous treat that it made up for the 98-degree heat and humidity in Virginia. The weather left most of us as limp as noodles. It was especially hard on the cadre of Norwegians, who all seemed to be dressed in black. They thought they were in a sauna; as one of them commented, even the cold water in the hotel was warm.
NAFTA is a small, but extremely interesting group of people, ranging from academics to people working for management agencies and museums. It was encouraging how many young scholars are now interested in fisheries history; there were several excellent presentation from graduate students. I was also interested to see that two of the papers featured aspects of public history, interviews with people who were involved in the fisheries. Dr. Roger Davis had a wonderful paper about the activism of fishermen’s wives, in New England Britain. The images and quotations from the British wives were especially poignant, as they had organized after several boats were lost to increase safety standards for vessels.
The best paper, for me, came from my friend and mentor, Sidney Holt. I encountered Sidney in 2003, when I was at San Diego and doing research on my dissertation. I found his email address online, I emailed him, and I had a reply the next morning. We’ve been madly emailing ever since, and when I went to Rome that summer to do research at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N., Sidney invited me to visit him in the small Italian hill town, Paciano, where he now lives. We started a conversation that continues to this day, about fishing and whaling, the development of science and management, and a host of other related topics.
When the Friday morning session ended, several of us found ourselves back down town at the conference hotel. Sidney’s son, Tim, who accompanied him to Norfolk, had discovered there was a sailing vessel in the Norfolk harbor that took visitors on a tour of the bay. Who could resist the chance of a research cruise with Sidney Holt, as one of the Norwegian researchers put it? When Tim pulled out his cameras, we all wanted to be in the pictures.
It was a beautiful afternoon and the sailboat a perfect place to sit back and enjoy the sun, the company of friends, and the ongoing conversation about fish and fishing, and how it all got to be the way it is…..