fisheries-conservation

Science Advisory Committee Seeks Volunteers

Date Posted: January 27, 2017       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Federal Fisheries Policy, Fisheries Conservation

Leslie Cornick, Ph.D., led the effort to form AMCC’s Science Advisory Committee, which launches this year. As Dean of Research and Sponsored Programs at Alaska Pacific University, her most recent work includes beluga whale monitoring projects in Knik Arm, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay. Read on to learn more about Dr. Cornick and the Science Advisory Committee’s exciting work.

Dr. Leslie Cornick

Dr. Leslie Cornick

What is your background? What drew you to AMCC’s’ work?

I have a BA in Biological Anthropology, MA in Physiology and Behavioral Biology, and PhD in Wildlife Ecology. I’m a physiological ecologist by training, working primarily on the limits to behavioral plasticity in marine mammals and how they adapt to environmental change. I’ve been a supporter of AMCC’s mission for a long time, so when I took a course in nonprofit sustainability and began looking for local organizations to partner with, I found AMCC to be a natural fit.

Why did you decide to spearhead the development of the Science Advisory Committee?

In my early conversations with AMCC staff it became clear that the organization was looking to build scientific capacity to bolster their effectiveness in the policy arena. Yet, without a full-time scientist on their staff, fundamental scientific advising was a gap that they needed to fill. I worked closely with Fisheries Policy Director, Shannon Carroll, and Executive Director, Kelly Harrell, to craft the concept and identify need areas. I also wanted to give back to the AMCC in a meaningful way by helping them to move the committee forward.

How will the Science Advisory Committee support AMCC’s work?

My goal is for the Science Advisory Committee to provide vital input on the current state of the science in key areas so that AMCC can craft policy positions, create programs, and advocate for their constituencies based on the most up to date and best available science.

How does the Science Advisory Committee recruit members? What skills are you looking for?

We are currently recruiting volunteers to serve on the Science Advisory Committee through a variety of networks, including the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology, the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, and the American Fisheries Society. We are looking for early career or established scientists who are currently engaged in research, to synthesize the current state of the science and provide summaries to AMCC staff. If you’re interested in the Science Advisory Committee, have questions, or would like to submit an application, you can find out more here.



Member Spotlight: Kate Consenstein

Date Posted: January 23, 2017       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Fisheries Conservation, Working Waterfronts

Kate Consenstein is an AMCC member and a champion of wild Alaskan seafood. She grew up picking fish at her family set-net site on Kodiak’s west side. Kate is the principal and chief strategist of Rising Tide Communications, an Alaskan communications firm specializing in public relations, strategic communications, and integrated branding. Kate’s work is centered on fishery-related marketing as well as campaigns of all kinds. She lives in Anchorage with her husband and daughter. 

Tell us about your connection to the ocean and Alaska’s wild fisheries. 

My family history, my culture and my livelihood are all connected to Alaska’s wild fisheries. A large part of my job is telling the story of Alaska’s amazing seafood and the individuals, families and communities that are supported by it.

How did you become involved with AMCC?

I learned about AMCC through their early Catch of the Season work in tanner crab, as well as being an excellent collaborator with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

 What part of AMCC’s work resonates most with you? 

Having been raised in a fishing family, I am truly appreciative of AMCC’s efforts to support young fishermen and increase Alaskans’ participation in our commercial fisheries. I wish everyone could grow up with an appreciation for our fisheries and our ocean.

What is your most vivid fishing memory?

I have so many memories of picking fish with my dad, cutting kelp off our lines, listening to the sounds of whales in the distance. It’s hard to pick.

member profile_kate c_pic 2Have you ever participated in Alaska’s commercial fisheries? If so, please tell us a bit about your experience. 

I grew up spending summers at our family set net site on the west side of Kodiak, where my dad still fishes every summer. My brother seines in Kodiak on his boat, the F/V Atlas. My uncle owned a beautiful wooden boat, F/V Kilkenny for many years, fishing for scallops, halibut and black cod. He still catches salmon and halibut on his hand troller the F/V Godwit.

What’s happening in the small boat commercial fishing industry that is exciting or encouraging? 

I am excited to see so many young people investing in their own boats, especially young women. I didn’t see a lot of women fishing growing up. There’s a lot of positive role models out there now.

Why do you give to AMCC?

I give to AMCC because every dollar they receive contributes to Alaska’s waters, fishermen, fishing communities and the things I love most about Alaska. They have top-notch professional staff that work incredibly hard and it is important to me to support them. I know they make the most of every dollar to support efforts I believe in.



North Pacific Council Postpones Gulf Trawl Bycatch Management Program

By Shannon Carroll

This month, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) wrapped up its final meeting of 2016 by pulling the plug on the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management Program. Citing an impasse in discussions between the State of Alaska and members of the trawl and processing sectors, the Council passed a motion tabling further action on the agenda item. The program, which has been under development for several years, was designed to provide groundfish fishermen with the “tools” to harvest target species while operating under reduced halibut and Chinook bycatch limits.

blog-feature-pic_council-updateFrom the beginning of the Walker administration, the State of Alaska and the groundfish sector differed over the whether a catch share-type program was the right tool for the job. After a contentious meeting in Kodiak this past June, AMCC was optimistic that a middle ground – one that would bring greater stability to the groundfish sector while also addressing community concerns regarding past catch share programs – could be reached. Nonetheless, members of the Council likened the current impasse to being stuck on a sandbar, and in a 8-3 vote decided that it was better to take a step back from the proposed program.

Despite tabling the action, the Council initiated several discussion papers involving the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery. These analyses will evaluate, among other things, modifying season start dates and sea lion closures in the groundfish trawl fishery, current protections and stock information for Tanner crab, and the hurdles to implementing abundance-based halibut bycatch management in the Gulf of Alaska. While AMCC sees value in these efforts, we remain hopeful that the Council will continue working towards a comprehensive management structure that fits the unique characteristics of the Gulf of Alaska.

Looking beyond the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery, and into 2017, AMCC will continue to engage on issues at the Council that affect the sustainability of federal fisheries and impact the next generation of fishermen. At the February meeting in Seattle, the Council’s abundance-based halibut bycatch working group will be hosting a workshop to update and gather input on its effort to develop an abundance index for halibut. While this process has proven more complicated than we initially expected, AMCC continues to support moving towards a policy that establishes halibut bycatch caps based on the abundance of the stock. The Council will likely review the working group’s efforts during its April meeting in Anchorage. Also during the February meeting, the Council will hear recommendations from the Halibut/Sablefish IFQ Committee. These recommendations stem from the 20-year review of the Halibut/Sablefish IFQ programblog-feature-pic_bering-sea-1

Finally, the Council will continue work on the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP)—a tool that will hopefully lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the Bering Sea ecosystem and its relationship to Council management actions. The Council recently appointed members to the Bering Sea Ecosystem Team, which will be the lead on developing the FEP. The team is expected to report to the Ecosystem Committee in February, and to the Council in April.

AMCC continues to champion the Council’s efforts to implement ecosystem-based measures through the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan. We greatly appreciate the work that has gone into the FEP development thus far and look forward to ensuring that the FEP includes defined ecosystem-level goals and measurable objectives and outcomes. 

Shannon Carroll is AMCC’s Fisheries Policy Director. He can be reached at 907.277.5357 or via email



Give back to healthy oceans with a year-end gift to AMCC

I want to tell you about Reise and Harmony Wayner. This brother and sister grew up near the end of the Aleutian chain in Unalaska. Their backyard was a landscape of emerald green hills, streams filled with wild salmon, and a rich ocean filled with a diversity of marine life.

The Wayner Family, courtesy Amy Gulick

The Wayner Family. Photo: Amy Gulick

Taught by their parents, Rhonda and Paul, this generation of Wayners continues the tradition of fishing at their family’s setnet site in Bristol Bay every summer. They have developed a strong sense of respect for the natural resources that support their family and other families like theirs.

Reise, Harmony, and other young fishermen and subsistence leaders from Sitka to Shaktoolik are shaping the future of coastal communities in Alaska. They understand that healthy fisheries are vital to the future of Alaska. And they are concerned about what the alarming pace of environmental change, unsettling national politics, and Alaska’s ailing economy will mean for the future.

Your support is needed now more than ever by Alaska’s fishing communities and families. Alaska Marine Conservation Council helps ensure the protection of Alaska’s marine resources for this and future generations. Please consider making a gift today.

Thanks to you, here’s a sampling of what we have accomplished in 2016:

  • Grown the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network and expanded its impact to help nurture the next generation of coastal community leaders;
  • Catalyzed movement towards practical and informed solutions to keep fishing opportunities in our coastal communities;
  • Fostered smart solutions to bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea that consider the needs of local communities and long-term conservation;
  • Built a national coalition of small-scale fishermen ready to defend the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our nation’s “fish bill;”
  • Advanced an ecosystem-based approach to management in the North Pacific—one that addresses fishing impacts, supports inclusive decision-making and considers the effects of climate change;
  • Supported research, action, and engagement on the impacts of ocean acidification; and
  • Connected more than 600 Alaska seafood consumers with community fishermen through Catch of the Season, our thriving community supported fishery.

None of us know how the new administration’s actions and policies will impact our marine ecosystems. But one thing is certain. We must remain vigilant.

With your support, AMCC will—as we have for over 20 years—continue to advocate on critical issues today, tomorrow and for the next 20 years. We are in this for the long haul.

We have some ambitious goals for 2017:

Donate to AMCC by Dec. 31 to ensure a healthy future for Alaska's fishing families!

Donate to AMCC by Dec. 31 to ensure a healthy future for Alaska’s fishing families! Photo: Rhonda Wayner

  • Remain a steadfast and effective voice for regional and national fisheries policy that prioritizes conservation, communities, and local economies while considering the larger ecosystem and long-term changes;
  • Carry out cutting-edge social science research to generate knowledge and smart solutions to the “graying of the fleet” and support the well-being of coastal communities;
  • Bring our ocean acidification educational kiosk to new communities in southeast Alaska and defend important investments in ocean acidification research; and
  • Harness the power of the local foods movement and social enterprise to expand the number of fishermen and consumers participating in AMCC’s community supported fishery.

Please stand with AMCC by making a gift now. It matters more than ever to Alaskans like Reise and Harmony Wayner and families in communities like theirs.

Thank you and happy holidays to you and yours.

Kelly Harrell
Executive Director



Member Spotlight: Jim Stratton

Date Posted: December 22, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Fisheries Conservation, Working Waterfronts

Jim Stratton is a long-time Alaskan and a founding member of AMCC. He has more than 30 years of public lands advocacy experience, including various roles at Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Conservation Foundation, and an 8-year stint as Director of Alaska State Parks. Jim recently retired from the National Parks Conservation Association as Alaska Regional Director. He volunteers his time to conservation causes and hosts the Arctic Cactus Hour every Saturday night on Anchorage public radio.

How did you become involved with AMCC?

I was actually at the meeting that created AMCC, so have been involved from the very beginning. When I worked for the Alaska Conservation Foundation we explored the idea of creating a community based, grassroots marine conservation organization. We hired Nevette Bowen to talk with fisherman across the state and see if they also thought there was a need for a group. With overwhelming positive responses, we gathered a group in Anchorage and over a three day retreat created what is now AMCC.

blog-feature-pic_strattonWhat part of AMCC’s work resonates most with you? 

How AMCC successfully blends support for small boat fisheries with a strong marine conservation message. AMCC’s support for conservation by supporting community based fisheries will ensue that the organization will be around and relevant for a long time.

What is your most vivid fishing memory?

I remember hooking up two silvers at the same time during one of my Dad’s visits when I lived in and had a boat in Juneau. There is nothing like a silver dancing on the end of your fishing rod and having two on at once was more than double the fun!!

Have you ever participated in Alaska’s commercial fisheries? If so, please tell us a bit about your experience. 

I have not participated in Alaska’s commercial fisheries, but my father did some hand-trolling off the Oregon Coast (he fished out of Newport) when I was in middle school and I was regularly called upon to drive the boat while he worked the gear.

How do you celebrate your connection to the ocean as an Alaskan?

I have always lived within an hour of the ocean and spent a lot of time at the beach or fishing with my Dad growing up in Oregon, so when I moved to Alaska I made sure I lived in coastal communities. I need to spend time walking beaches or just sitting and watching the waves. It is essential for my mental health. I especially like watching waves crash ashore on rocky coastlines. And in a storm is even better! There is something so soothing about the rhythm and chaos of the waves.

What do you see as the biggest threat to Alaska’s small-boat commercial fisherman?

Climate change is the biggest threat, followed closely by policy makers that are climate deniers. The changes in ocean acidification and temperature are having such profound changes and we really have no idea where it is going to lead. This is a threat not only to small-boat fisherman, but to all of us.

What three things do you love most about living in Alaska?

The people, the wildness and sun all summer!

Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?

I would like to spend more time along the lost coast between Yakutat and Cordova. It is so remote, yet not that far away. I did a kayak trip once in Icey Bay and the close proximity of those huge mountains to the ocean really made an impression. I worked on protecting the Yakataga State Game Refuge, but have never been there. I’ve heard the wildlife is plentiful and there are some good long beaches to explore.



Member Spotlight: Ryan Horwath

Date Posted: November 30, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Fisheries Conservation, Working Waterfronts

Ryan Horwath jigs for cod and rockfish out of Kodiak. He and his father moved to Kodiak in 2003 to take the reins of his uncle’s fishing business. Ryan is a member of the Alaska Jig Association and an advocate for sustainable fisheries. Ryan was recently appointed to AMCC’s board of directors. 

What is your connection to the ocean, coastal Alaska, or the fishing industry?

ryan_jig-fish

Ryan jigging for Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska

Growing up in Rochester, NY, I had an elusive uncle who would occasionally show up and describe the harsh winters and stories of adventure in Alaska. One year in the middle of a blizzard he showed up with a box full of king crab. After a night of the adults stuffing themselves with the delicacy, he proceeded to build an igloo on our front lawn informing me, “These are our houses in Alaska.” I was intrigued. After a tragic diving accident in 2003, I was the only one of four siblings who had ever fished with him—or even stepped foot in Alaska—and I was asked to help settle the estate. My father and I both left our lives in the Lower 48 with dreams of independence and freedom. Thirteen years later, I’m the weird uncle in Alaska, jigging for cod and rockfish.

How did you first get involved with AMCC and why you decided to become a member of AMCC?  

A longtime friend and mentor, Darius Kasprzak, encouraged me to join the Alaska Jig Association. Darius helped spread my uncle’s ashes in Kalsin Bay, where I jigged up my first codfish. AMCC shares similar ideals as the Alaska Jig Association, and seemed like a natural fit.

What are the strongest connections between you and AMCC?

Our commitment to sustainable resource development and harvesting.

What do you see as the number one issue facing Alaska’s fishing industry? And how can AMCC help?

I see the privatization of public resources as the greatest threat to the industry and free market. While jobs and access to the fisheries continue to shrink, the distribution of wealth goes into fewer and fewer hands.  AMCC is working to keep opportunities in the industry open for generations to come.

ryan_dad

Ryan fishing with his father

What kind of fishing do you like to do?

My favorite kind of fishing is jigging. The freedom to explore and low impact of jig fishing on the resource and the environment make it an ideal way to harvest species which have been historically over-fished. Slow catch rates present opportunities for direct marketing while adding value to fish that are usually a low ex-vessel price.

Do you have a favorite fishing story? 

One day while longlining on the F/V Miss Lori for cod—on Friday the 13th during a full moon—the skipper stopped the hauler and called all of us to the rail. Thinking we had a large skate or some other creature on the line they needed help bringing aboard, I grabbed a gaff and glanced down to see what the commotion was about. Bill Harrington, the skipper, pointed to the horizon. I saw what looked like a nuclear bomb going off. The ash from Mount Augustine volcano erupting had reached the upper jet stream and started spreading, giving it the appearance of a mushroom cloud. Knowing what was happening almost 100 miles away and realizing the magnitude of the events that were unfolding before us put into perspective something that is often lost in other occupations. Our place on this earth is not guaranteed and there are forces at work beyond our control. But if we can learn to work with these larger unknowns, and accept that we know so little in regard to the bigger picture, we might be able to keep our place at the table and still have enough to go around.


AMCC Visits Sitka’s Whalefest to Talk Acidification and Ecosystems

By Hannah Heimbuch

Unless chemistry is your chosen language, ocean acidification can be a little unwieldy.

It is impressively global and microscopic, a chemical shift in seawater driven by diverse factors, including the absorption of as much as half of our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide. Its impacts and implications are not fully understood, and research and technology in this arena are relatively new. After all, it has been 55 million years since Earth experienced a major acidification event, and it’s happening 10 times faster this time around. This shift is even more pronounced in cold northern latitudes, like the waters around Alaska.

In 2015, Alaska Marine Conservation Council and Cook Inletkeeper teamed up to develop a touchscreen ocean acidification kiosk, an educational tool that features video testimonials from fishermen, scientists, and community leaders all speaking about this complex issue. After its launch in Homer, and a long summer season spent in Kodiak, the kiosk made a Gulf of Alaska leap this last month and landed in Sitka. It’s stationed at the harbormaster’s office, slated to stay through the winter.

hannah-and-sophie-2AMCC staffers Hannah and Jonalyn arrived in Sitka in time for Whalefest, where they shared the kiosk with festivalgoers before its harbor-side installation. Ocean acidity is one of countless critical elements that influence a marine habitat. This aspect of the seawater climate impacts critters from pteropods to the very whales being celebrated in Sitka during Whalefest week. Pteropods in particular (an essential food for many birds, fish and marine mammals) are sensitive to changes in acidity. They need calcium-based building blocks to construct their shells, much like crabs, corals, and clams. In seawater with higher acidity, those calcium building blocks start to break down, and there’s less available to those that need them to thrive.

There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding ocean acidification (OA) and how it will affect our marine ecosystem. AMCC is working to connect coastal communities to quality information and opportunities to stay informed. Part of our goal in Sitka is to link people up with the growing Alaska Ocean Acidification Network. Coordinated by the Alaska Ocean Observing System, this new collaboration aims to bring diverse stakeholders together around this complex issue, broadening the understanding of ocean acidification trends in Alaska, and the potential for adaptation and mitigation. Collaborators include scientists, aquaculture and fishing industries, coastal communities, decision makers and the general public.20161107_140653

The Network serves as a connector, communicator and resource on ocean acidification, working to share information and research practices among those studying this evolving issue, and those impacted by it.

As fishermen we know that we are a part of and dependent on a profoundly complex and dynamic natural system. We also know that when that system experiences significant change, we can expect to see that change ripple through the ecological framework of our ocean world. This is the lens through which many fishermen see ocean acidification. This is why we know it’s time to pay close attention to what comes next.

Because of this lens, we have big questions. How will this fundamental change in chemistry affect the local coastline and creatures? Will there be shifts in food web dynamics that alter marine populations and the industries that harvest them? These are detailed issues, but they address the big stuff: food, work, and environment. And we all have a stake in the answers.

hannah-quoteOur ability to continue living an ocean-dependent life relies on our ability to stay connected to the best possible science and dialogue around this and other major changes in the ecosystem.

While in Sitka, AMCC was able to host a roundtable with fishermen and local leaders, discussing ecosystem-based fisheries management and what it currently and could look like to let an ecosystem-wide lens inform our resource management choices.

With an ecosystem-minded approach to studying and managing our natural resources, we take into account the fact that we are dependent on not one solitary element of a natural habitat, but that habitat in its entirety. That includes the marine mammals off our coastline, the salmon charging upstream, the seasonally blooming plankton, and the chemical composition of their ever-shifting environments.

By participating in and creating opportunities for an active dialogue on issues that impact our marine environment, AMCC will continue to be a connector between diverse stakeholders and important resources.

Feeling inspired to take action? Subscribe to the Ocean Acidification Network listserv to receive information about this issue and upcoming opportunities to learn more. And stay tuned in Sitka for more developments around the ocean acidification kiosk this winter, including development of new videos, naming the kiosk, and more.

Congratulations and thank you to the Sitka Sound Science Center and Whalefest Coordinator extraordinaire Mia Kuartei for an excellent job on this year’s festival. And another thank you to Lauren Bell and Dane McFadden for their help coordinating the kiosk’s installation, and building a sturdy stand for it to live on. AMCC can’t wait to head back to Sitka!

Hannah Heimbuch is AMCC’s Homer-based Community Fisheries Organizer. She can be reached at hannah@akmarine.org. 



Catch AMCC at Pacific Marine Expo

Date Posted: November 6, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Calendar/Events, Fisheries Conservation, Ocean Acidification, Working Waterfronts, Young Fishermen's Network

This year’s Pacific Marine Expo will take place November 17–19 at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle. As the largest commercial marine trade show on the West Coast, more than 450 exhibitors come together to engage and network with buyers in their industry. With three full days of exhibits, education sessions, events and happy hours, this event is a must if you own a commercial fishing business.

Find AMCC in the Alaska Aisle- Booth #544

While you’re at the Expo, stop by AMCC’s booth in the Alaska Aisle #544. Renew your membership with our Expo special and get a Salmon Sisters halibut tee or Kleen Kanteen cup! Staff including our Executive Director will be there chatting about the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network, the impacts of ocean acidification on Alaska’s fisheries and more. 

Young Fishermen’s Happy Hour, Friday Nov. 18th at 5pm 

Also join us at Elysian Fields right down the road from Expo for a Young Fishermen’s Happy Hour, Friday, November 18 at 5 p.m. See you in the Emerald City!

For the full show schedule, exhibitor list and more, visit: http://www.pacificmarineexpo.com/



Member Spotlight: Marissa Wilson

Date Posted: October 30, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Fisheries Conservation, Working Waterfronts

Marissa Wilson hails from the seaside hamlet of Homer and has spent time on boats fishing halibut, sablefish, and salmon. Throughout her life, Marissa has always had a deep appreciation for the ocean and what it provides. Studies in anthropology and work in the nonprofit sector inspired her to turn what started out as a summer job into a lifelong commitment to preserve the ocean-dependent lifestyle that she and so many others hold dear. Marissa serves on AMCC’s Board of Directors as secretary.

How long have you been commercial fishing? What drew you to this work?

I am what is referred to as a “boat baby.” My connection to the ocean and a fishing lifestyle began at birth; even the prefix of my name, Maris, means “of the sea.”

Marissa catches the king of kings weighing in at 23.9 pounds!

Marissa catches the king of kings weighing in at 23.9 pounds!

How did you become involved with AMCC?

My involvement with AMCC is entirely thanks to former board member, Pete Wedin. It didn’t take long to bond over our love of halibut, and when the conversation turned to bycatch, Pete told me about the work AMCC did. I immediately felt a sense of duty to the organization.

What truly connects me to AMCC is the community of passionate, spirited ocean dwellers who dedicate themselves to the preservation of this deeply rewarding way of life. Even more than shared ideals, the strength of shared experience is deeply binding.

Why do you support AMCC’s work?

When a fisherman, a coastal resident or seafood consumer supports AMCC, they can expect the best from AMCC’s staff and volunteers. The sheer dedication of this entire group is an inspiration.

What really makes AMCC unique is its ability to address current and emerging issues in our state. With marine environments as variable and susceptible to change as they are, this is critical for the health of all. AMCC’s work is important to me because its core mission supports a way of life that has shaped me both physically and spiritually. Protecting Alaska’s wild fisheries is a no-brainer!

Marissa and Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah Heimbuch, enjoying the inaugural voyage of Hannah's first fishing vessel.

Marissa and Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah Heimbuch, enjoying the inaugural voyage of Hannah’s first fishing vessel.

What is your most vivid fishing memory?

One of my favorite fish stories is actually a conglomeration of stories. I loved fishing from a very early age—standing in the rain, clumsily casting a pixie into the river; dropping a handline over the rail of our longliner; jigging for bait fish in the harbor—but when it came time to decide the fate of my wiggly prey, I buckled. Dad often had to deliver the mercy blow to the head as I walked away, teary-eyed, the hollow thud of a “bonk” punctuating my life choice. And then, we usually ate our catch. I realized, with time, that my love for fish never wavered through the process of turning life into life. I revered my harvest. That, I think, is the best kind of soul food.

What do you see as the biggest threat to your way of life as a small-boat commercial fisherman?

The number one issue facing Alaska’s fishing industry, in a nutshell, is a gap in perception of what our role is on this planet. Some see us as conductors of our environment, others understand we are simply a conduit in it.

What is your favorite kind of fishing?

My favorite kind of fishing is the kind that involves catching!



Member Spotlight: The Bursch Family

Date Posted: September 28, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Fisheries Conservation, Working Waterfronts

This month we’re delighted to feature the Bursch family of Homer in our member spotlight. Cate Bursch and her family have been commercial fishing in Alaska since the early 1980’s. They are longtime supporters of AMCC’s work. Cate recently took some time to talk with us about her family’s ocean-dependent livelihood. 

What kind of fishing do you do and where?

Presently our family drifts and setnets in Bristol Bay.

How long have you been commercial fishing? What drew you to this work?

My husband Tom and I have been fishing since 1983 or so. Our daughters Frances and Maggie pretty much since they were born in the early 1990’s.

I think what drew Tom and I to commercial fishing in Alaska was that it matched our sense of adventure, love of the outdoors, and work ethic. It also provided pretty attractive financial opportunity. We got into the business during some good years.

bursch-familyWhat would most seafood consumers be surprised to learn about your life as a small-boat fisherman?

They might be surprised that we really do care about what their salmon tastes like when they sit down to dinner. It’s important to us that they love it. We can get behind it because it is healthy, sustainable, and tasty.

What do you especially love about your fishing livelihood?

Well, I think many fishermen would agree that they have a love/hate relationship with their fishing livelihood. Seems like commercial fishing is experiencing a romantic period right now…but there are extremes on both sides of the spectrum. That said, these things keep bringing me back:

  • The freedom of being your own boss.
  • The excitement/risk of never knowing how your season/income will turn out.
  • Using your accumulated knowledge of the bay, tides, weather and salmon behavior to try to guess how to fish that day.
  • The tradition and the friendships developed over many years.
  • The simplicity and focus of the fishing season. All the distractions of everyday life in town falls away and it’s all about one thing for two months.

What’s happening in the small-boat fishing world that is exciting or encouraging?

Nine years ago I traveled to a tributary of the Amazon in a remote and hot part of Bolivia. The fishermen used dugout logs to fish out of, yet this small village had a fisherman’s co-op and an ice machine. It’s encouraging that ice is starting to reach the corners of Bristol Bay now.

What part of AMCC’s work resonates most with you?

Keeping salmon around is all about protecting their habitat. The difficult thing is that Alaskan salmon need huge watersheds, large lakes, broad estuaries, and a lot of the Pacific and Bering Seas to be relatively pristine to thrive. AMCC is helping with the huge and sacrificial task of trying to keep these systems healthy.

Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?

The problem with being a fisherman is you spend every summer in the same place! The place in Alaska I would most like to visit is the setnet beaches of Yakatak. I’m very curious about that area.

Describe a moment or day that is one of your favorite memories of fishing.

A good hard day is behind you, the skiffs are tidy and secure on anchor. Your crew are all safe onshore and sitting around a large table telling stories of the day. You pull pans of fragrant sockeye salmon fillets out of the oven, put it on the table and watch it disappear into appreciative and eager bodies!

What is your hope for the future of fishing in Alaska? 

That we can keep these salmon habitats healthy. That will not only ensure we will be able to continue to pull a healthy resource from the ocean, but by protecting what the salmon need, we will also be protecting the air, water and land that our own offspring need.



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