Ed, who owns a pair of boats, became a full time fisherman in the late seventies, at a time when he says, the fishing industry was a booming, exciting, and lucrative business.
Captain Barrett began his career by working on local lobster boats, and shortly thereafter enrolled in a Commercial Fishing and Marine Technology associate degree program at the University of Rhode Island. “They taught me net mending and a lot of other skills that are really hard to come by, unless you spent thirty years on a dragger,” said Barrett.
In 1979, tired of working for someone else, Barrett, at the age of 23, took the plunge and purchased his own boat, a 40 foot lobster boat, appropriately named: Margaritaville. The initial year of ownership proved to be an economic hardship, and that winter the new captain worked as a bartender at a Hanover restaurant to simply pay the bills.
In 1989 he sold the Margaritaville to his younger brother, and purchased a 43 foot lobster boat/dragger for ground fish, called the Phoenix. In 2000 he purchased a second boat, the Sirius, named as homage to his two deceased dogs, Teddy and Alex. “Sirius is the Dog Star of the Orion Constellation,” said the UPenn grad.
Today, Ed is the president of the Mass. Bay Groundfishermen’s Association, South Shore Fishing Preservation Fund, Northeast Fisheries Sector X, and Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership. He just finished 6 years as the mobile gear representative on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Board.
“The Fishermen’s Partnership started in 1996 to establish a health care insurance program that now administers to over 2000 fishermen. At the time, it was groundbreaking. We were able to show the state that such programs would save the Commonwealth money, because up until its formation, most fishermen were uninsured and used the emergency room for their health care, which as you know, is the most expensive health care there is.”
“All of us would like to be like Fred Habel. Fred is from Green Harbor, is eighty years old, and still fishes. Despite all our difficulties, I love to fish. When I’m fishing, I’m in the fresh air all day, doing something constructive, and when the day is over, you have a few beers and a good dinner, and you’re so tired a feather could knock you over. I’m still waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say,’ Okay, the gig is up.’ I’ve never really had to work a day in my life,” he says with a hearty laugh. Who knows, with a lot of luck, Ed Barrett just may be, the next Fred Habel.
(Mostly adapted from a piece by Paul Kenney)