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Bodega Bay Beat - February 2016

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Bodega Bay Beat - February 2016

by Joan Poulos

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, these are the times that try men’s souls. We have a community based on fishing; charities that depend upon economic support by plugging into the fishery; workers that have very little saved and now no fishing – all caused by a poor salmon season and no crabs. Fortunately The Grange finally found crab so the Grange Crab Cioppino was a go. Rod Moore, working with Tony from The Tides, was able to get a commitment from an Oregon supplier to send us live crabs, so that the Grange Crab Cioppino (number 64) occurred. People scrambled to get last minute reservations. One of the bright lights out of the crisis is the faith people had that we, Bodega Bay Grange, would come through. More than 500 people put their money where their mouth is and sent their checks (confident that we would have returned them if we had not been able to find fresh – not frozen – crabs). We insist on getting crabs live so we know exactly how they are handled. Suddenly they were available. The party went on! The numbers were down slightly, but the event was its usual success.

Unique and picturesque; words used to describe Bodega Bay. But with only one industry (other than tourism) the fishermen are in financial trouble. With no fishing season, no little boats sail in and out of the harbor. Fishermen have trouble paying dock fees. Some reservations were cancelled. Worst of all, some of our fishermen are still hungry. 

It is almost inconceivable the rings of effect from the too warm ocean, and the algae the crabs picked up and became infected with domoic acid, which can be fatal to humans who consume the crab. Our major economy is still based on the sea. Fishermen are most often barely making it financially in a year like this. The salmon season was poor: and now no crab season at all. Deckhands, particularly have no other resources. Very ill often has a beneficial side effect. Bodega Bay, as a community, rallied around to provide food for the fishermen and deckhands. The community found out about the problem from a fisherman at Fisherman’s Chapel in a shared prayer request. Immediately the parishioners acted. Drivers got money to go to Santa Rosa and pick up day-old bread. Parishioners raced home to fill boxes with canned goods and packaged crackers and milk and spread the word. Food was delivered to the harbor. The marina workers there agreed to pitch in and get the food to the fishermen who were hungry. Many, like Noah, Phil, and Lori helped. They agreed to make the cold box available to the hungry fishermen. Vickie Dufton’s yoga class delivered boxes of food .John Hershey jumped in and got the food bank involved. He did a magnificent job of organizing outside charitable contributions. Now the Redwood Empire Food Bank is known and is available to Bodega Bay residents, thanks to his efforts and others. The Bodega Bay Union Church helped and everybody brought food, or certificates for food. The only restriction was: No cash, and no liquor.  The whole response was heartwarming. The community had a problem; the community dealt with it. Now others have joined. Parks and the Chamber of Commerce now have stepped in and there is a 501c3 corporation set up by Sonoma County. Some at Parks have contributed their own personal funds. Now that the Redwood Empire Food Bank is aware of Bodega Bay residents flyers are out advising residents that they can find free food in their neighborhood. Most interesting is the CalFresh program, which took over what was food stamps. Now they tell folks that need food to call 523-7903. You can call in Spanish, too, if that is the language you are most comfortable in. For fifteen years, since I moved from Davis I have been trying to get Meals on Wheels delivered out here. This is the first chink in the armor of “you are too far away.” We still have no crabs locally but Oregon was cleared and the crabs south of Pismo Beach seem o.k. Financial/food help for deckhands and fishermen remains. Many other groups have shown interest and people like Dick Ogg have promoted help for the fishermen especially deck hands.

This holiday season was crowded, crabs or not. Rental houses were occupied; restaurants were crowded. One group insisted that they would come up even if they got only a hot dog (excellent at the Dog House). And then the tourists went home. One unexpected revelation is that many of the problems caused in the village are because of homeowners who don’t live here or spend much time here. We have parking issues; dripping faucets, and spot lights which have been left on for nearly a week even though the house is uninhabited. It makes us realize that perhaps we have unjustly complained about renters. Excess water use remains a serious issue. All of us need to understand that fresh ground water is limited and in scarce seasons sea water rises. Home owners need to step up (if we don’t want to end up drinking sea water).

My current travel leads me to an area where drought is of worldwide concern: Ethiopia. This is an example of what the U.S. does to help alleviate the disasters of the world. We have given more than eighty eight million dollars in aid to help cope with the drought – since October of 2014 more than $435 million in humanitarian assistance (nutrition, sanitation and hygiene support). This is the worst drought condition in the last thirty years. Our Ambassador Patricia Haslach has been proactive in pushing through all the aid programs she could. Ethiopia is a very proud country – one of the only countries in Africa which was never colonized. They are recovering from their previous communist regime and have just had elections focusing on individual freedoms (in a very difficult area – with several warring neighbors). The government estimates that 10.2 million people will need food assistance (plus the 7.9 million chronically food insecure who are supported by USAID). The government of Ethiopia itself provided $297 million in relief resources and mobilized to help provide emergency relief. Hunger, as we discovered, is not just a local problem.

 One thing about travel: You come home glad that we live here and determined to help those in need as best we can. Think globally; act locally. Just keep the thought, that if the local crabs can fight off the problem of this year, there will be a huge crab season next year. Be safe and pray for the fishermen and peace.