One fisherman’s story
Jim Lovgren’s grandfather came with six brothers to America from Sweden after World War I. They brought with them the fishing life they had led in their homeland.
Two generations later, Lovgren, who is 48 years old, wonders if there’ll be another generation to follow.
“When I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and my father was a fisherman, generally your father wanted you to be a fisherman, too,” said Lovgren, now a member of the Fisherman’s Dock Cooperative at Point Pleasant. “Now, if your father’s a fisherman, generally he wants you to be anything other than a fisherman.”
Harvesting the ocean’s bounty has never been an easy life, what with long hours, sometimes treacherous ocean conditions and uncertain pay. But foreign competition, strict environmental regulations and numerous opportunities in other fields make it more difficult now to pass on the business to a new generation, Lovgren said.
Lovgren’s two older sons, Eric, 25, and Keith, 21, have already staked out other career paths, although they have helped him with the business in recent years. His youngest, 18- year-old Jimmy, may yet seek the seafaring life, “and if he wanted to, I wouldn’t oppose him.”
For one thing, it’s a business that a high school graduate can enter and make a good living almost from day one.
“I came out of high school in 1974, and I was making $30,000 to $35,000 right out of high school,” Lovgren said. “My friends went on to four years of college and when they came out, they were still making $20,000 a year as teachers. But now they’re retiring with full benefits and big pensions.”
For fishermen just starting out now, the seas are much rougher than in the free-wheeling ’70s. While Lovgren sees a restrictive regulatory climate as the biggest obstacle to fishing success now, he also has been keen on capitalizing on market innovations like the Fisherman’s Dock Cooperative.
The group helps build cooperation not only between the commercial fishermen, but also among the various other businesses – pleasure fishing charter boats and other pleasure- boating operations – that must co-exist at Point Pleasant.
“The Point Pleasant Beach people understand the value of the fishing industry to the town,” Lovgren said. “We’re the town’s biggest employer.”
While that draws a certain amount of cooperation locally, Lovgren worries about the national attitude toward his industry. He sees it as the result of a concerted campaign by other industries to deflect criticism leveled at them for damage done to the oceans.