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LAT looks for surprising numbers to track possible fishing recovery

Like its Gulf Coast counterpart, the fishing industry in California has faced hard times. But it doesn’t have an oil spill to blame. Instead, a low population of salmon prompted a three-year ban on fishing. Alana Semuels of the Los Angeles Times takes her audience aboard Duncan MacLean’s boat as he goes out for the first time after the ban was lifted. She writes:

“As dawn breaks on a recent morning, he sits at the helm of his 43-foot wooden boat, the Barbara Faye, guiding it past yachts and pleasure cruisers, two break walls and a beacon. But his enthusiasm to be fishing again is tempered by anxiety over what he will catch.”


Alana Semuels, reporter, Los Angeles Times

Alana Semuels


Alana’s ride-along doesn’t just offer the toils, but the economics as well. She tells us that MacLean lost about $130 for his 17-hour day – a big difference from summers when he could earn $120,000.

Today’s Tip: “Numbers can be useful, but they’re best when they surprise you. In this case, after years of dwindling salmon counts, the fish had returned slightly,” Alana says.

She says this is especially important when writing about shrinking industries such as fishing and mining because readers get tired of hearing about them. The numbers here meant the boats could go out again.

“Whether the numbers are an anomaly or not is the mystery,” she says. “That’s where the suspense is – whether a dying industry is on the cusp of a recovery, or in its last leaps before death.”

In Featured.

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