This month our Q&A series is shining the spotlight on the newest member of our staff. Meet Connie Melovidov, our fantastic 2016 summer intern! Connie came to AMCC through Alaska Conservation Foundation’s conservation internship program. Connie was raised in the remote Bering Sea community of Saint Paul Island. Growing up in the Pribilof Islands, which are culturally and economically influenced by both a rich subsistence lifestyle and the commercial halibut industry, she became interested in science and fisheries. Her father and brothers are commercial halibut fishermen, and Connie has enjoyed a few long-lining trips herself. Currently, Connie is a senior attending the University of Alaska Anchorage majoring in biology.
How did growing up in a remote Bering Sea community shape who you are today?
I absolutely love that I was able to grow up in Saint Paul Island. Growing up in this small and tight-knit community allowed me to recognize the value of family. I grew up spending a lot of time with my siblings and I was also very fortunate to have been able to grow up around almost all of my extended family. I also take pride in the fact that other members in the community are always looking out for one another and ensuring everyone is being taken care of. The island is filled with an abundance of amazing wildlife and plants for us to gather and subsist on, and and everyone loves to share food.
Now that I’m older and have spent time away to go to college I really value my visits back home. Growing up in the Pribilofs gave me unique and useful life lessons that I probably wouldn’t have had the privilege of experiencing if I had grown up in a larger city.
What is your most vivid fishing memory?
My very first halibut fishing trip was on my dad’s boat, the FV Aleut Crusader. I was 14 years old and I was with my dad, three brothers, and a family friend. I woke up SUPER early because I was worried I was going to sleep in and it was very rare that I was able to go fishing. Good weather is hard to come by! I got lucky. It was a gorgeous day and I didn’t get seasick!
When I boarded the boat I got comfortable in the cab where I started to watch my brothers begin their routine to prepare for the day. I could see and smell the freshly baited hooks, which made me more excited to finally be on the water and observe the long-lining process.
It was finally time to haul our first string and I remember hearing my dad and oldest brother talking back and forth because fish were finally starting to surface out of the water. I eagerly watched my brother gaff halibut after halibut! The whole crew was beaming as halibut continuously came onboard.
All day I listened to the constant communication between everyone, watched how hard each crewman worked, and the teamwork they demonstrated. This is one of my most cherished memories I have with my father and brothers.
Does your family have any fishing traditions?
My mom, sister and I always greet my dad and his crew down at the harbor when they are delivering their fish to the processor. This is one of the best ways to see the halibut, ask how their fishing trip went, and also to see how other vessels did.
You’re majoring in biology at University of Alaska-Anchorage. How do you plan on using your degree?
I haven’t fully decided on what exactly I want to do after I get my degree. I’m very interested in marine biology and Saint Paul’s fishing industry so finding a balance between the two is what I’d prefer.
What are you excited to work on or learn more about during your internship this summer?
I’m excited to be learning more about AMCC’s advocacy programs and how they address the social and economic concerns of other small coastal fishing communities.
What part of AMCC’s work resonates most with you?
I really value AMCC’s mission and how we share information effectively to the general public, fishing communities and policymakers around the state.
Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?
I went to high school in Sitka, Alaska—so gorgeous!—so I would love to spend even more time exploring Southeast Alaska.
New Fisheries Policy Director – Shannon Carroll
AMCC is pleased to welcome Shannon Carroll as one of the newest members of the AMCC staff team. Shannon will fill the important role of Fisheries Policy Director recently vacated by Becca Robbins Gisclair.
Shannon originally hails from Maine where he received a law degree with a focus on ocean and coastal law. He has lived in Alaska for several years and fished in Alaska even longer, crewing on salmon and crab vessels out of Petersburg.Shannon‘s professional experience includes working with the Conservation Law Foundation, NOAA General Counsel’s Alaska Section, the Wild Salmon Center, and the State of Alaska. Shannonalso served on AMCC’s board for two years before stepping down to apply for the position, giving him a strong familiarity with AMCC’s mission, values and programs. Shannon is an avid skier and fly fisherman and lives in Girdwood with his wife Claire.
Please introduce yourself when you see him at North Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings and around town. Shannon will be based out of AMCC’s Anchorage office and can be reached at email@example.com.
AMCC Summer Intern – Kate Vollrath
AMCC is also excited to introduce our Fisheries Conservation & Local Seafood Intern for the summer of 2015, Kate Vollrath. Kate first became acquainted with AMCC as a dedicated volunteer last fall. We are thrilled she is now joining our team as an intern! She will be organizing local seafood and fisheries conservation outreach events this summer, as well as helping with our Community Supported Fishery: Catch of the Season.
Kate was born and raised in Wisconsin where she first developed an appreciation for local and sustainable food systems. Between studying geography and environmental studies at DePaul University in Chicago and working summers on an organic farm, Kate‘s love for the natural environment and her passion for food intersected in a powerful way. After graduating from college, Kate ventured to Alaska to live with family. What began as an Alaskan adventure morphed into a new found passion for local, sustainably-caught seafood. Kate is eager to learn about the challenges faced within the Alaskan fishing industry and to be a part of preserving the world-class resources that Alaskans cherish and depend upon. She is also looking forward to lots of Alaskan seafood this summer!
Be sure to keep an eye out for Kate and AMCC’s newly painted Local Seafood Mobile (below) at festivals, parades and markets throughout Southcentral Alaska this summer. More to come on that soon!
You can read Kate and Shannon‘s full bios and view our entire staff team here.
By Hannah Heimbuch, Community Fisheries Organizer
At the end of February, while Homer basked in 40-degree weather, I ventured out for a visit to a very wintery New England. In Gloucester I was able to spend three days with members of the Fish Locally Collaborative, a diverse group of marine conservationists that work to create a healthy ocean through community based fisheries and other important efforts.
This valuable face-to-face meeting allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of the unique members and joint capacity of the FLC. I have a broader understanding of the social, environmental and economic movements taking shape within the marine conservation world, and how our work in Alaska informs and is informed by those efforts.
I was particularly excited to hear about the ways other organizations have translated positive energy and good ideas into meaningful actions for healthy marine ecosystems, and marine based coastal economies. I met leaders of the Slow Fish movement, individuals doing important research into community-based fisheries models, sustainable seafood marketers building direct relationships between chefs and fishermen, and many others. The diverse projects and programs being run by the independent members of this collaborative reflect a worldwide community of people working hard for sustainably managed fisheries and strong fishing communities.
After several days of conversation with these inspiring people, I ventured up to Portland, Maine for visits with our marine conservation colleagues in the north. An FLC member from Penobscot East Resource Center let me hitch a ride with him up from Gloucester, and gave me the rundown on Maine lobster fishery management. The next day I met with Susie Arnold from the Island Institute to talk about Ocean Acidification awareness and research. (Click here to see an excellent video on ocean acidification that AMCC collaborated with the Institute to create a few years ago.)
I met Lucy Van Hook from the Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association to talk community fisheries. Hugh Cowperthwaite from Coastal Enterprises Inc. took a chilly walk with me through some of Portland’s small, thriving fish markets as well as the Portland Fish Exchange. The PFE is a seafood auction warehouse — one of only a handful on the eastern seaboard — that handles nearly 100 percent of Maine’s finfish. I wrapped this incredible visit up with a conversation with Alexa Dayton from Gulf of Maine Research Institute. I learned about the Marine Resource Education Program’s work to offer expert training to marine industry workers on fisheries management and science, further empowering fishermen to weigh in on the decisions and research that impacts their coastal ecosystems and economies. Before leaving Alexa showed me around the gear lab at GMRI, where engineers work closely with fishermen to improve their gear and practices for sustainable fishing.
I flew out of Boston with much food for thought and landed in the other Portland. While in Oregon, before making my way home to Alaska, I headed to the Pacific Coast to participate in the Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria. A whole event just for fisherpeople who write? Sounds like the place for me. To be sure, I found my people on the waterfront that weekend. One of the first people I saw walking down the sidewalk in downtown Astoria was AMCC member and fisherpoet, Steven Schoonmaker. I visited an old wooden seiner, the owners of which are Kodiak fishermen that have long participated in the event (a photo of me next to the seiner is pictured right). I read some of my own work, and listened to funny, beautiful and profound stories from many others — including AMCC Board Member, Emilie Springer. Brad Warren from Global Ocean Health, in addition to sharing some fantastic music at the evening events, gave an excellent talk on ocean acidification at the Maritime Museum. I was also able to see the new film The Breach, an incredible look at salmon throughout human history. This event is an excellent showcase of the deep and complex connections that coastal communities have to our oceans and the traditions and work that take place on and alongside them. It comes out in our professional work, in the skills we pass down to our children, and in the art we create to celebrate it.
What an incredible two weeks, packed with information and introductions that will serve to enrich my work in marine conservation for years to come.
by Sam Baker & Rachel Donkersloot
Last week we returned rejuvenated from the annual Bioneers Summit Conference in San Rafael, CA. The multifaceted event, what speaker, author and activist Naomi Klein describes as a ‘transformational meeting of minds’ melds conversations about indigenous rights, local and sustainable food systems, women’s rights, and other social and scientific topics, and left a strong imprint on both of us and re-ignited a spark of creativity in our work at AMCC.
We were both particularly impressed by the amazing work that is being done by groups like the Greenhorns,and the National Young Farmers Coalition who are actively addressing the challenges that new and young farmers in the U.S. face today through innovations and tools like Farm Hack and Agrarian Trust and epic awareness raising endeavors like the Vermont Sail Freight Project. While we were learning about all of the inspiring work and resources aimed at young farmers, we were reminded that there is overlap and opportunity here in Alaska, and AMCC hopes to help foster the type of community and support for young fishermen that is gaining traction among our friends in the farming world.
While we study issues like the Graying of the Fleet, and work to inform fisheries policy that protects working fishermen and benefits our fishery dependent communities, we hope also to facilitate the creation of forums for young fishermen and to advance the discussion on linkages between intergenerational access, community sustainability and resilient, regional food systems.
We intend to continue our conversations with luminaries like Severine von Tscharner Fleming of the Greenhorns and Dune Lankard of the Eyak Preservation Council in the coming months and to invite others to the table to take part through upcoming events like the Alaska Food Festival & Conference. AMCC has organized two fisheries focused panels at the conference which will hopefully serve as a springboard for potential solutions to some of the challenges Alaska’s community-based fishermen face today surrounding access and profitability.
On a final note, food systems, young farmers and land access rights may have piqued our primary interest at the conference , but various iterations of citizen science also caught our attention. Hearing from groups like Public Lab in the Gulf of Mexico, we were inspired to think of the many ways we could engage Alaskans through citizen science on important research like ocean acidification. We are excited to announce that this approach will fit into some new work we will be doing next year to bring informational and interactive ocean acidification kiosks to communities throughout coastal Alaska.
Overall, the Bioneers Conference was one of great learning and great brainstorming and we are lucky to have had the opportunity to attend. We wish there was space for us to share all of the exciting science and social endeavors we learned about at the conference. For now though, we are happy to be home in Alaska and we are ready to get back to work turning some of these ideas into concrete and collaborative projects aimed at achieving triple bottom line benefits for people, profit and planet.