Growing up in a commercial fishing family, much of my youth was spent fishing the coastal waters of Rhode Island. Working alongside my father on my uncles dragger, every day was full of wonder and excitement. Never knowing what you might see next. In my family, catching fish was always viewed as a positive thing. I was never aware of the true cost.
After high school, I started my career as a commercial fisherman, fishing offshore in the squid industry. Working at sea for 7-10 days at a time and only being home for a day between trips, fishing quickly became my life. I worked hard, I made good money and I was proud of that. But something was missing. It wasn’t anything like I remembered as a kid.
In 2008, I severely injured my hand while working on the boat and was out of work for the next 9 months. During that time I was given the opportunity to see blue sharks for the first time. With my hand in a cast, I watched as several divers interacted with the sharks. I was blown away
not only by their beauty but also by their curious and nonthreatening nature. That day would change my life forever. I fell in love, it was what I had been missing. Shortly after that I co-founded Rhode Island Shark Diving with friend and fellow shark diver, Joe Romeiro.
As time passed my hand healed and I returned to work on the fishing boat but things would never be the same. My experience with the sharks had changed the way I looked at fishing. Especially by catch. I had never been comfortable with the idea of animals dying that we weren’t going to save but as a fisherman you have to accept it as part of the job. Now, it became a painful daily reminder of the things that are wrong with the commercial fishing industry. So many animals killed for nothing. However, my feelings put me in a very unique position. I could now use my camera to document what I was seeing in a way that had not been done before. Being a crew member, I had up-close access that would never be given to an outsider. I was now able to show the hidden side of the fishing industry. The ugly stuff that they don’t want you to see.
I feel that it is important to remember that these images are from one person on one vessel in a single year. This only provides a tiny glimpse of the real issue. Where I was once proud to be a fisherman, now I was ashamed. In 2012, I quit fishing for good.
I now work in ecotourism, photographing sharks and teaching conservation. Summer 2018 marked the start of our 9th season running photography expeditions for Blue and Mako sharks in the emerald green waters off Rhode Island.
WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES