by Hannah Heimbuch, AMCC Community Fisheries Organizer in Homer
“Just peel it off the skin with your teeth,” Bruce Jolma told us, handing over chunks of smoked silver salmon from the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association (AIFMA) booth next door. For me, that order captured what the Pacific Marine Expo had to offer — rich opportunities to sink our teeth into.
AMCC sent a team of five to Expo this year — including Executive Director Kelly Harrell, Fisheries Director Becca Robbins Gisclair, myself, and board members Marissa Wilson and Emilie Springer. We had the opportunity to visit with old friends, and make a few new ones, building membership and communication through three days focused on the livelihoods, lifestyles and ecosystems the ocean supports.
Past board members pulled up a chair to catch up on AMCC’s latest efforts. Seasoned fishermen stopped to tell us stories from their decades of experience living and working on water. Young fishermen came by to ask questions, buy Salmon Sisters hoodies and talk about their journeys into fisheries businesses. And we got a chance to share our ideas and current projects with colleagues from a wide variety of marine industries, advocacy groups, research centers, management and policy organizations, and more. If you had a question about the marine world, you can bet there was a booth there with someone who could answer it.
While the daily smoked salmon was certainly a plus, the real benefit of this event was the rare opportunity to connect with a huge spectrum of people who share a vital interest in our ocean resources. This was especially apparent at the Fisherman’s Reception, held in celebration of Bristol Bay’s thriving fisheries. More than 200 people joined us Thursday evening, sharing food and drink in honor of the people and marine life of Bristol Bay, and the work that is being done to protect those resources. Most of the attendees stopped to sign post cards in support of further protections in Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Basin — messages destined for the offices of President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Jewell.
We look forward to many more years of participating in this excellent event, and building on the important relationships fostered there.