fisher poets


Anchors and Sea Change: A Fisherman Poet

Written by Kara Cardinal, Marine Projects Manager for Washington
Photographed by (1) Pat Dixon and (2) Dwayne Overhoff

“Fishermen communicate with as few words as possible,” says Rob Seitz, a fisherman from Morro Bay, California. “Things are much more simple and straightforward on a boat.”

The Nature Conservancy has been working with Rob Seitz over the past few years – first through the Conservancy’s California Coast Groundfish Project, where fishermen are helping to pioneer the development of cutting-edge science and conservation tools, forging collaborations and engaging in market initiatives that encourage long-term stewardship of our oceans. Washington is now working with Rob to scope opportunities similar to those in California. He has many contacts throughout the fishing community and will be helping the Conservancy engage with fishermen and community leaders to establish sustainable fishing practices along the Washington Coast.

With a vision of sustainable fishing and fishing communities, Rob and his wife, Tiffani, founded South Bay Wild Inc., a small, family owned and operated commercial fishing vessel using a triple bottom line approach and dedicated to harvesting high quality, sustainably caught seafood.

And on top of all that, Rob is also a “fisherpoet”! He has written and published a short book of poetry and prose that chronicles his life as a commercial fisherman and is a regular participant in Astoria’s Fisherpoets Gathering, which is held annually during the last weekend in February.

This poem he is sharing with us, Anchors, Change & that 92’ Dodge, was written during his work with the Conservancy’s Groundfish Project. He suggests that, during times of change, anchors ground you in tradition and a core set of values. But change will always be a part of life. We must be willing to accept and embrace it - for it may open up unexpected opportunities, and perhaps lead you to the fish! Enjoy this poem and be sure to check out more by Rob Seitz.

Anchors, Change & that ’92 Dodge

On the ocean everything’s always moving, even when it appears to be sitting still.
You’ll find out if you stick around long enough, this constant change can test one’s skill.

When ocean and events move too fast, you’ll need an anchor you can throw, to buy time to take inventory, assess, how to avoid the rocky shore.
That old ’92 Dodge is an anchor of sorts I’ve found, when life gets moving too fast it ties me to solid ground.

See, grandpa’s last truck was my first, when he died he left it to me.
With a note that read, “take good care of my truck & it’ll be the only one you ever need.”

So when I find myself thinking too hard and my auto-pilot can’t see,
I go for a ride in that old truck and Gramps comes along to council me.

He says, “Ya know boy when you got your head up your ass, installing a transparent belly-button might help you to see.”

“But pulling your cranium out of your rectum makes a lot more sense to me.”

“You’ll find tomorrow comes sometimes, and it’s better to be wise than bold, take good care of yourself just in case you happen to get old.”

“The thing about those radio-fish is they’re already in somebody else’s hold, turn down the volume, pay attention to the signs, figure out where your boats gotta go.”

“You’ll see in time, the fisherman who has the better luck, ain’t always the one who’s driving the newest truck”

“Sometimes money’s tight and flashy don’t pay the bills, the less you owe, the less you need, and the fewer fish you gotta kill.”

“So, maintain what you’ve got, might not be pretty but it’ll do, remember, when it’s a hard pull, slow and steady gets you through.”

“And those fish, they’re like you & that truck, you gotta take care of the sea, or you’ll find yourself on the side of the road, thumb in the air, without a fishery.”

“Truth isn’t always popular, and life ain’t just about collecting wealth, let the idiots point and laugh, just make sure you’re true to yourself”

Now, I don’t always like hearing what Gramps has to say, but he’s pretty much always right, a couple of times if he wasn’t already dead, I’d have invited him out of the truck for a fight.

So it is, each generation grinds to the next, when my turns over I wish those left luck. And I’ll leave ‘em with one word of advice; take good care of that old truck.

While the Conservancy has greatly valued the knowledge and experience that he brings to the table, Rob has also found value in working alongside the Conservancy.

“The Conservancy has helped me learn how to help myself – by learning how to communicate. I began to learn the process – both the fisheries management and marketing – and this has brought me and the industry a lot further toward our goals.”

Rob recognizes that the Conservancy is working to improve fisheries management in a sustainable way, bringing the small, independent fishermen along with us. “This is the best way of bringing the next generation into the fishery” he says. We think his grandpa would agree, for “you gotta take care of the sea.”