Photographer and writer Abner Kingman spends the day with a crew on the Merva W
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Anchovy fishing off the California coast
FV Merva W searches for schools of anchovies in the San Francisco Bay, launching from Fisherman’s Wharf. Each week during the April-to-October season, the crew brings in about 3,200 pounds of the fish, which are sold as live bait for the sportfishing of California halibut, striped bass, and rockfish.
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Swimming in schools
The northern anchovy swims in schools near the water’s surface and averages 5 to 7 inches long. Its life span is generally just four years. About half of the total stock would die each year of natural causes even if no fishing occurred.
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The right net
The crew uses a purse seine to catch the anchovies. One of these nets costs $50,000 to $60,000.
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A fisherman's forte
A successful fisherman must be a navigator, a plumber, an electrician, a mechanic, and an expert fish finder, and must possess endurance and strength.
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Ready to sell after a long day's work
At the end of the day, the fish are moved from the hold to a pen. Anchovies are sold for about $50 per scoop (about 6 pounds). When not fishing for anchovies, the crew members of Merva W also catch squid, sardines, and Dungeness crabs.