By MARK ALAN LOVEWELL
Harpooned swordfish, once synonymous with the Fourth of July holiday and a staple of the Menemsha fishing fleet, are no longer being caught by Vineyard fishermen.
Though prevalent in local fish markets this season, harpooned swordfish are now all being caught by fishermen from afar.
The reason has to do with a convoluted bureaucracy, an expensive permit system and waning interest in the age-old method of catching fresh swordfish.
Capt. Gregory Mayhew, the last known Vineyard swordfish captain to have both the skill and the necessary permits, lost his permit two years ago. Mr. Mayhew, his family and many Menemsha fishermen like him, once depended on swordfish for a livelihood.
Swordfish is considered a restored and sustainable fishery, portrayed as having come back from the brink after years of overfishing. But the bureaucratic challenges of permitting local fishermen access to the restored fishery has become an obstacle. Essentially no Vineyard fishermen are out harvesting them.
Mr. Mayhew, 66, remembers growing up fishing with his father, Benjamin Mayhew in the Bridget Ann, a 40-foot, Novi hull lobstering boat. “We could harpoon swordfish within sight of the Vineyard,” he said. He recalls how there was once a fleet of fishing boats out of Menemsha that pursued swordfish. The tails of big swordfish were once nailed to the walls of fish shacks in that fish shack neighborhood as a sign of success. The weathervane at Menemsha Texaco is still a swordfish.