By Rachel Donkersloot & Shannon Carroll
Genetic diversity, life history and age structure are important attributes of healthy fisheries. For example, we know that life history factors, including changes in population size structure or species composition, and recruitment variability affect the ecological sustainability of fisheries. Same goes for spatial factors such as a reduction in the geographic range of a fish population or the loss of a subpopulation.
But fisheries are not just ecological systems. Fisheries are socioecological systems and attributes of diversity, history and age structure are important dimensions to consider in social and cultural contexts as well.
Weak recruitments into commercial fisheries in recent decades, termed the graying of the fleet, paired with dramatic shifts in the spatial distribution of fishing benefits and ownership rights, threaten the social and cultural sustainability of Alaska fisheries and fishing communities.
Today, more than three-quarters of Bristol Bay salmon permits are held by nonlocals. Kodiak’s Alutiiq villages have suffered an 84% decrease in the number of young people owning state fishing permits, and a 67% decrease in the number of state permits overall. In the southeast villages of Angoon, Hoonah, Hydaburg, and Kake, the number of young people owning state permits dropped sharply from 131 to only 17 between 1985-2013. These shifts have profound consequences for the health and well-being of Alaska fishery systems.
There is a lot of talk about Alaska’s graying fleet today. A central concern is how the future succession of fishery access rights (i.e., permits, quota) will exacerbate the already high levels of loss experienced in Alaska’s fishing communities. These concerns are well founded but it is worth remembering that our aging fleet is, at this moment, an incredible asset to the industry and our communities.
Alaska’s long-time fishermen serve as repositories of wisdom and much needed mentors. These fishermen are integral to intergenerational learning and ensuring multigenerational connections to place, culture and livelihood. The experiences and insights of veteran community-based fishermen are among the many tools that the next generation needs to be successful. This transfer of local and fishing knowledge, values and practices requires more than a willingness to ‘pass down’ knowledge. This transfer hinges on whether the next generation of fishermen has actual opportunity to enter into the commercial fishing industry and become owner-operators.
AMCC has been at the forefront of efforts to support the next generation of Alaska commercial fishermen. Through research on the graying of the fleet, national legislation such as the Young Fishermen’s Development Program, our active participation at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and programs like the Young Fishing Fellows Program and Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network, we are dedicated to developing solutions to ensure the socioecological health of our fisheries.
As part of this effort, we have been watching and weighing in on HB 188, legislation that would enable the creation of Regional Fisheries Trusts in Alaska. AMCC supports HB 188, and the Regional Fisheries Trust concept, because it is a tool that will help ensure that the life history and age structure of Alaska fisheries remains balanced and diverse.
These regional trusts are highly controlled and will provide a path to local and independent ownership for Alaska residents; as a result, they will stem the outmigration of permits from our coastal communities. This is not an untested idea. Other fishing regions, including Maine, Massachusetts, Newfoundland and Norway have created similar tools that anchor access rights in fishing communities to bolster local economies and support new and rural fishermen in overcoming the sometimes impassable barriers to entry into commercial fisheries.
Regional Fisheries Trusts will not single handedly solve the problems affecting our fisheries and communities, but it is an important part of the suite of solutions that Alaska needs to be advancing. Trusts recreate the opportunity (e.g., diversity, history and structure) that is fundamental to the health of our fishing communities and help to recapture some of the benefits currently leaving Alaska in the form of rights, income and livelihood.
This post was inspired by recent conversations on a number of worthwhile texts, including Mountain in the Clouds by Bruce Brown, Poe et al. 2013, Pitcher et al. 2013 and several research articles authored by Courtney Carothers.
Erica Madison is a first-generation commercial fisherman, and owner of Madison’s Salmon Co. An Alaska resident for 20 years, Erica spent 10 years working in the marine ecology field before making the switch to commercial fishing several years ago.
Tell us about your connection to the ocean and Alaska’s wild fisheries.
I am a Bristol Bay fisherman. I set-net on the Naknek and Kvichak Rivers. I have a set-net permit and have been connected to this fishery for three years.
I believe in the promotion of healthy sustainable fisheries. I also want to give support to the communities behind those fisheries and that is what the AMCC does. It is a grassroots organization that is not just looking at the fish, they want the fisherman, culture and ocean to be healthy. As a scientist I found that there was too much “species specific” focus. If you want to make something last, you have to take in all of the parts and pieces. If I as a fisherman can be a part of healthy salmon in the future, then I am on board.
What part of AMCC’s work interests you the most?
AMCC has a lot of great work going on this year. With the upcoming season about to be in swing I am the most excited about the Working Waterfronts project, specifically putting in place a connection between local fisherman and their community. I myself am working with a sea-to-table approach by direct marketing my salmon through Madison Salmon Co. I take pride in knowing that my fish are well taken care of and that locals will know exactly where their fish came from.
What do you love most about fishing?
I was drawn to fisheries because of my at-sea work in the marine sciences. I would see fishermen from afar as I was counting birds and staring at fish monitors and I always thought, I want to work for myself with a species I understand from start to finish. Fishing lets you connect not only to the species you’re working on but also the ecosystem it originates from and the community it directly affects.
What’s happening in the small boat commercial fishing industry that is exciting or encouraging?
It is encouraging to see people take ownership of their oceans and rivers again. Closing down mining projects or damn projects that directly affect salmon is a giant triumph for the salmon. If we as as a fleet of small boat commercial fisherman can come together to protect ecosystems, I believe we can have power in other conservation efforts as well.
I find it scary when I reach out to my friends in the lower 48 and they tell me about cheap “natural” salmon they buy at the grocery store. There is not enough education about where our food comes from, and that leaves the consumer without information about what they are getting. The commercialization of farmed fish is not not only a threat because it steals market share, it also poses genetic threat to wild salmon stocks and spreads disease.
What do you love most about living in Alaska, or in your community?
I live in so many different places in Alaska that I sometimes fear I will lose my community or feeling of community, but Alaska’s great because we take in wanderers, seasonals, and newcomers and treat them like family. After my commercial season last year, I met a woman named Kate Taylor who is an accomplished guide in Bristol Bay and runs her own business Frigate Travel. She took me under her wing and taught me how to fly fish. We talked conservation of headwaters and ways to protect the fishery. She even took a day to come out and learn all about commercial fishing and cheer me on in my work. That right there is community.
Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?
I feel so lucky to have seen Alaska’s waters so thoroughly when I was doing marine research. I also have a passion for traveling over land, and at some point I will make it from Anchorage to Naknek, hopefully on skis. Connecting two places by foot is pretty special.
By AMCC Staff
Our team recently traveled to ComFish 2017 in Kodiak. Hannah Heimbuch and Theresa Peterson reflect on opportunities for fishermen to become more engaged in key issues affecting their businesses.
As our communities and fisheries evolve, the work of fishing has developed in conference rooms as much as over water. Intricate management and policy processes—aimed at shaping dynamic and sustainable harvests—are designed to include input from stakeholders. Even so, the demands on deck often supersede a trip to a meeting or writing a letter, and the relatively complex process can serve as a barrier to those already working full time to make their businesses run.
Alaska Marine Conservation Council has maintained a strong focus on stakeholder engagement at multiple levels of policy processes, encouraging fishery dependent community members to engage where and when they can. This was most recently reflected at ComFish 2017 in Kodiak, where AMCC hosted Dock to Conference Room, a panel discussion focusing on opportunities for stakeholder engagement.
Presenters included Theresa Peterson, a North Pacific Fishery Management Council member; Sue Jeffrey, an Alaska Board of Fisheries member; Natasha Hayden of the Native Village of Afognak; and Bruce Schaectler from the Kodiak Seiners Association. These individuals hail from a multitude of management bodies as well as groups representing unique stakeholders in our marine ecosystem. They discussed the diversity of opportunities to be involved in the decisions that shape the resources we rely on, from joining your local gear group or regularly tracking fishery news, to providing public comment on vital decisions or building community momentum around a change you’d like to see in your fishery or waterfront.
They also discussed dynamics of current engagement. Hayden described the value of strong mentors and learning opportunities, as well as a serious need for more young stakeholders at the table. The time to work with and learn from your mentors is now, she said, before the weight of management decisions rest squarely on the next generation.
AMCC had another opportunity to set engagement in motion during ComFish, through a fishermen round table discussion on ocean acidification. Dr. Bob Foy hosted a dynamic two-hour conversation with community members at the Fisheries Science Center. This dialogue dove into the complexity of OA research and impacts, and explored support for multi-faceted ways to tackle essential monitoring as well as the funding and engagement it requires. “If we don’t monitor ocean acidification, we won’t know until it’s too late,” Foy said.
Though OA issues and their potential impact on Alaska’s marine resources become more concerning all the time, funding streams for programs that collect this baseline data are often unstable. AMCC continues to engage with fishing communities on OA issues, recognizing their role in communicating the importance of OA science and the adaptability it can afford sensitive coastal economies.
This conversation demonstrated the depth of interest from fishermen on OA, including how they can be effective in better understanding this issue. Participating in citizen science programs and advocating for research funding are two good places to start.
To stay current on ocean acidification news and happenings in Alaska, join the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network (see “Subscribe to List Serv” at the bottom right hand corner of the home page).
The last day to Pick.Click.Give to your favorite Alaskan nonprofits is this Friday, March 31!
You can still designate a portion of your PFD to AMCC, even if you’ve already filed. From the PFD home page, select the green “Add or Change Your Pick.Click.Give. Donation” button. You will be prompted to enter your name, social security number and date of birth. Once you click “Enter,” your PFD application details will show your charitable contributions to date and provide a button to change your contributions. Follow the prompts to add new donations. The average Pick.Click.Give donation last year was $108.
Participate in Pick.Click.Give by March 31 and you’ll be entered to win a cash prize equal to this year’s dividend! Ten lucky Alaskans will be selected to win when PFDs are distributed this fall. There’s never been a more important time to support Alaska’s nonprofits and defend our natural resources from exploitation. Thank you for helping to fuel our critical work!
Amy Schaub is a first-generation commercial fisherman, and one of only a handful of female captains in the Southeast salmon seine fishery. In 2015, she bought the F/V Norsel, a 1950 wooden seiner that she maintains using her training from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. In nearly a decade of fishing commercially off the coasts of Alaska, Washington and California, Amy has longlined for halibut, black cod and gray cod; jigged for cod and rockfish; fished for prawn; seined for salmon and squid; and fished for Dungeness crab. Amy lives in Homer.
How long have you been commercial fishing? What drew you to this work?
Nine years. I missed being out on the water. I had been a sailor then boat yard worker and ship wright apprentice for a few years when I wanted to be out on the water instead of under a boat. I also wanted to try something new than sailing tall ships.
What would most seafood consumers be surprised to learn about your life as a small-boat fisherman?
That it is a small independent business that I own and operate. That we are paid cents on the pound for fish we deliver. That this is my life blood and livelihood. That I am one of very few women operating a seiner.
What do you especially love about your fishing livelihood?
That you never know what you are going to get, it is a surprise every day, every season. That you have a fishing community that supports you in good times and especially in bad. That it is seasonal. That life is abundant yet setting your limits to ensure the future of the fish and fishermen. That you are providing the best food for the world- Wild Alaskan Seafood!
What’s happening in the small-boat fishing world that is exciting or encouraging?
I am excited that the AMCC has worked with the Kodiak Jig Association to keep the jig fishing alive, as well as, providing a local source of seafood to the community and a great market for the fishermen. That I own a small boat and I can fish. I can have my own operation.
What part of AMCC’s work resonates most with you?
That they work with fishermen to bring from the sea to locals. That locals get seafood and small boat fishermen have another great market option. I also feel that the AMCC recognizes the greying of the fleet and are working with young fishermen.
Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?
I would like to explore more of the Kenai Peninsula, the Interior and out on the Aleutian Chain.
Describe a moment or day that is one of your favorite memories of fishing.
A day long ago I was pot fishing for prawns in SE. The snow started and slightly receded down the mountain, the weather was calm, the trees turning colors, an old grey wolf came down the to the beach, whales breached beside and us laughing, joking and smiling as we hauled the pots of spot prawns aboard. There was an abundance of beauty, life, smiles and fish.
What is your hope for the future of fishing in Alaska?
That there is a future of fishing. I hope to fish another 30 years. I want the same sense of life, abundance, and sustainability for many lives to come.
Our team is looking forward to be back in Kodiak for ComFish, the largest commercial fishing trade show in Alaska. AMCC is pleased to host three great community events this year. We look forward to seeing you on the Emerald Isle!
Fish Taco Night
Celebrate our island’s bounty with delicious fish tacos featuring rockfish harvested by local fisherman Darius Kasprzak of Kodiak Jig Seafoods and processed by Pacific Seafood on our working waterfront. The tacos will once again be prepared by the Association of Latin Women in Alaska.
Stakeholder Engagement in Fisheries Policy
Learn how fishermen and marine industry workers can get more involved in fisheries management in this panel discussion. Short talks from the panel participants will be followed by a Q&A discussion with the audience to better examine the ideas raised.
Presenters: Duncan Fields, former North Pacific Fishery Management Council member; Sue Jeffrey, Alaska Board of Fisheries Member; Natasha Hayden for the Native Village of Afognak; and a representative from the Kodiak Seiners Association.
Ocean Acidification and the Seafood Industry
White House Seeks To Eliminate Critical Program
The White House released its preliminary 2018 budget proposal on March 16. As reported by The Washington Post, the Trump administration is proposing massive cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget. Included in those cuts is the complete elimination of the Sea Grant program.
Losing Sea Grant would have profound negative impacts on Alaskans. Alaska Sea Grant represents a unique partnership between NOAA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more than 46 years, the program has supported healthy coastal resources, strong economies, and vibrant communities in Alaska through research, education, and outreach. What does this mean in terms of on-the-ground action? Here are a few examples of Sea Grant’s work in Alaska:
- FishBiz Program: This program provides financial and business tools for fishermen, ensuring those looking to get into, remain, or sell out of a fishery have the tools to do so effectively.
- Training Alaska’s fishing workforce: Sea Grant provides Alaskan fishermen with education and training on essential topics such as vessel safety and maintenance, fuel efficiency, refrigeration, direct marketing, and permitting. It has also hosted the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, which has provided critical training to more than 350 young fishermen.
- Mariculture investment: Sea Grant has invested more than $2.5 million in research and outreach in support of Alaska’s growing mariculture industry.
- Practical Research: Sea Grant leads research that addresses coastal community priorities, including the “Graying of the Fleet” project that is working to identify and find solutions to barriers to entry for the next generation of fishermen.
NOAA’s budget will ultimately be decided by a congressional budget resolution. Congress typically makes changes to the president’s proposal, so now is the time to let your representatives know how important Sea Grant is to Alaskans. Senators Sullivan and Murkowski have gone on record opposing the cuts to NOAA’s budget, but it’s still critical that they hear from you about maintaining federal funding for Sea Grant.
Please call your Congressional representative. Phone calls carry more weight with legislators than emails. Listed below is the contact info for each office, along with talking points to guide your call.
- I’m calling today to let [elected official] know that I oppose the president’s proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), specifically the elimination of the Sea Grant program.
- Sea Grant directly contributes to job creation and economic development, the core functions of the Department of Commerce. In Alaska, Sea Grant offers valuable technical assistance to our seafood industry, which employees 60,000 Americans from across the country.
- Federal funding of Sea Grant goes a long way. Each dollar Sea Grant receives in federal funds is multiplied threefold through strategic partnerships with the University of Alaska and other grant funders.
- I personally value [name Sea Grant program or service that is important to you, such as the Young Fishermen’s Summit, the Graying of the Fleet research project, food preservation workshops, educational materials and trainings, etc.]. Click here for more information about Sea Grant’s workshops, trainings and programs.
- Again, I urge [elected official] to maintain funding for Sea Grant in NOAA’s 2018 budget. Thank you for your time.
Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
Contact: Ephraim Froehlich
Office of Senator Dan Sullivan
Contact: Erik Elam
Office of Representative Don Young
Contact: Mike DeFilippis
Andrew Steinkruger is an AMCC volunteer. He recently graduated from University of Alaska Anchorage with degrees in Economics and Spanish. In addition to promoting healthy fisheries at AMCC, Andrew has supported other Alaska-based environmental and political organizations. He lives in Anchorage.
I first heard about AMCC after graduating from UAA, when I was looking to volunteer for conservation work coordinated by and for Alaskans. AMCC’s unique work in developing policy recommendations and engaging with coastal communities really impressed me, and I jumped at the opportunity to help out with the Catch of the Season program.
Working on the retail end of a community-supported fisheries program was a great experience. I learned a good deal about the diverse fisheries marketing their products through the Catch of the Season, as well as the Alaskans who choose to buy from a local, sustainable supply chain.
Why do you choose to support AMCC as a volunteer?
I find AMCC’s commitment to community fisheries and local input really compelling. There are plenty of conservationist organizations around Alaska, but few engage with Alaskans making a living from our state’s resources to the same degree as AMCC.
What part of AMCC’s work interests you the most?
I’m especially excited about AMCC’s work to improve fisheries access for Alaskans through the Young Fishermen’s Network. Any program encouraging community entrepreneurship is worth supporting, and seeing other young Alaskans develop livelihoods in fisheries is inspiring.
In a word, consolidation. The trend toward out-of-state ownership of Alaskan fishing fleets is longstanding, and continues to threaten effective stewardship of the state’s marine resources.
What three things do you love most about living in Alaska, or in your community?
Alaska’s natural wealth, public access, and opportunities for public engagement with regulation are three things I love about living in Southcentral Alaska that I might not find in any other state. The diversity of our natural resources and the countless ways we can go about enjoying them are incredible.
Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?
A few years ago, I turned down a job opportunity in the Bristol Bay sockeye fishery. I’ve regretted that since, and I hope I get the chance to go out to Southwest Alaska for work and general adventure in the next few years.
What have you learned from volunteering with AMCC?
The diversity of projects run by AMCC and the organization’s engagement with communities all over Alaska is impressive. I’ve definitely learned to appreciate the complexity of our state’s marine economy, and the deep connections between coastal Alaskans and the fisheries they’ve built livelihoods on.
By Hannah Heimbuch
Ocean acidification (OA) is a growing field of study across the globe, one that seafood producers and their communities continue to keep a close eye on. AMCC partners with groups around the state to promote this important dialogue throughout Alaska’s coastal communities.
Fishermen and scientists connect in Sitka
Most recently, that work took us to Sitka for a roundtable discussion between fishermen, community members, and OA researchers, supported by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. Twenty-five Sitka residents joined us for this Q&A session with a diverse team of scientists, led by oceanographer Jessica Cross of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Questions from the group focused on the impact of OA on food web dynamics and commercially important species. Scientists highlighted the long-term nature of their work, including the need for sustained monitoring to create a healthy baseline of OA data. This baseline helps us better understand the changes taking place, how those changes might impact the ecosystems we rely on, and how we might respond or adapt to them.
OA data collection and monitoring is a critical component to adaptive, ecosystem-based fisheries management. Understanding how ocean conditions are changing is an important first step towards risk assessment and, ultimately, building a path forward to adapt to changing conditions. Because the waters of the North Pacific are so large, and because the need for data is so great, stakeholder participation and coordination between stakeholders and management agencies is essential.
The Sitka discussion highlighted fisherman and community interest in participating in this process, with a focus on opportunities to meaningfully contribute to data collection. It also highlighted interest from the scientists in pursuing research that helps fishing communities and their stakeholders make strong decisions for their futures. A continuing dialogue between the research field and these communities is an important piece of sustaining the livelihoods and diverse species dependent on a thriving marine ecosystem.
State of the Science workshop draws OA experts from Alaska and beyond
AMCC began promoting this meeting format on the heels of a successful state of the science workshop, coordinated by the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network. This workshop highlighted interest in inspiring a more robust dialogue between OA experts and seafood stakeholders, among other strong initiatives taking place around the state. Additional community Q&A sessions will take place this spring. Follow AMCC on Facebook to stay in the loop.
Regional and nearshore monitoring underway in Southeast
In Southeast Alaska, residents can keep tabs on a variety of projects collecting vital information close to home. This region of the state is unique in the interesting array of OA monitoring efforts being led by Sitka Sound Science Center, the Sitka Tribe and the Alaska Marine Highway. In addition, the Sitka harbor master’s office is currently home to AMCC’s ocean acidification kiosk. This touchscreen device offers a unique learning experience, sharing information about OA and testimonials from stakeholders around the state.
Join the Alaska OA Network and stay informed
New monitoring projects and opportunities to weigh in on this important issue are growing every day. To keep up-to-date on OA news in Alaska and how to participate, join the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network. Another great opportunity to engage in ecosystem observations is the Local Environmental Observer Network, a Northern tribal collective that offers members an opportunity to share observations about local environmental events.
Hannah Heimbuch is AMCC’s Homer-based Community Fisheries Organizer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anchorage seafood lovers: Get your Vitamin Sea this winter with Catch of the Season, our community supported fishery! For two days only, we’ll be offering a pop-up market featuring king crab, rockfish and Pacific cod at our office in Anchorage. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, treat your sweetheart (or your sweet self) to premium quality, frozen seafood harvested by small boat fishermen.
WHAT: Seafood sale, featuring king crab, rockfish, and Pacific cod harvested by Alaskan fishermen
WHEN: February 9–10 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
WHERE: AMCC Office, 106 F St., Anchorage, AK 99501
This event is weather dependent. Any changes due to extreme weather will be posted to this page.
PRODUCT DETAILS & PRICING:
Norton Sound red king crab (10 lb. box): $250
Kodiak Jig Seafoods Pacific cod fillets (3-4 lb packages): $7 per lb.
Kodiak Jig Seafoods rockfish fillets (1-2 lb packages): $13 per lb.
Contact our local seafood sales manager, David Fleming, with any questions: 907.277.5357.