Did you know that AMCC’s Working Waterfronts Director, Jamie O’Connor, started out as a Young Fishing Fellow? She’s here to kick off our interview series with former fellows.
What was your Young Fishing Fellowship project?
I worked with the commercial fishing trade association down here in Homer, North Pacific Fisheries Association (NPFA), on a membership audit and community outreach. I called all of their members and got to interview them about their fishing lives, impacts on the community, and what they needed from NPFA. We then presented what we found to the Homer City Council and to the NPFA Annual Meeting. They also introduced me to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Process and took me to my first Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, and United Fishermen of Alaska meeting.
What was your most meaningful takeaway from the fellowship?
I made what I know to be lifelong friendships during my time as a fellow. For me, it was really an aha moment. I’ve been fishing my whole life believing that I’d have to grow up and hang up my slickers during the winter to support my habit. There was an uncomfortable duality there, being entirely fishy in the summer and then barely talking about it all winter as I went to school and worked in other industries. The fellowship showed me a winter gig where I could bridge my education and experience in communications and politics with my heart and life in coastal Alaska fisheries.
What are you working on now?
Now I run AMCC’s Working Waterfronts program working on fisheries access and policy and attend every NPFMC meeting to advocate for small-boat fishermen and conservation. You never know where the connections you make will lead.
Do you have advice for future Young Fishing Fellows?
The fellowships are really flexible, so once you’re hired work with your mentor to make the most of your skillset. Also, learn as much as you can from the host organization. There are so many groups doing important and fascinating work on behalf of our coastal communities and fisheries. Once you’re in you may never get out!
Now Accepting Applications!
The Application period is open for the Young Fishing Fellows program 2020-2021! For more information, please visit the Young Fishing Fellows FAQ page. Read more about this year’s hosts below, and fill out your application here. Applications are open until May 4, 2020.
Fishing Fellows serve as steering committee members for the Alaska Fishermen’s Network. This work will include; coordinating with AKFN on 1-2 events, communications, and planning the direction of the Network at 1-2 strategic planning gatherings and/or calls.
Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Sitka AK
ALFA is an alliance of small boat commercial fishermen committed to sustainable fisheries and thriving coastal communities. Under the leadership of the ALFA team, the Fishing Fellow will focus on the advocacy, policy, outreach and communication of ALFA’s programs.
North Pacific Fisheries Association, Homer AK
NPFA is a multi-gear, multi-species regional organization that represents fishermen and their families out of Homer, Alaska. The Fishing Fellow will learn from a highly engaged group of fishermen focusing on community outreach and the history of commercial fisheries in Homer.
Alaska Fishermen’s Network, Statewide AK
The Alaska Fishermen’s Network works to connect young and rising fishermen to resources and each other so that they may be successful in their careers and communities. The fellowship will focus on strategic planning for the next five years of the network and coordinate the steering committee.
Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Homer AK
The KBNERR fellow will review and assist with the development of a citizen science forage fish project that will include information on chinook salmon diets in the Kachemak Bay area. The fellow will have an opportunity to assist with data collection of chinook salmon stomach contents using community-donated images, analysis of diet composition, and communication of the ecological implications of the science to various community members
Copper River / Prince William Sound Marketing Association, Cordova AK
Copper River / Prince William Sound Marketing Association is a regional seafood development association. A Fishing Fellow will work on the #FishingforAlaska public relations campaign to share the value of small-boat commercial fishermen to Alaska. The campaign currently consists of a website, ads running on the digital displays in the Alaska Airlines terminal at the Anchorage airport, print ads in Edible Alaska, and regular social presence on FB and Twitter with weekly sponsored posts targeting Alaska residents of voting age.
Homer Charter Association, Homer AK
The Homer Charter Association’s Fishing Fellow will work to reach a consensus between impacted user groups in halibut management area 3A ahead of the upcoming Catch Share Program Review at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
One of the many things coming into focus during these trying times is the need to strengthen our local food web. Luckily, Alaskans have some of the healthiest wild food on the planet swimming in our pristine waters. Catch 49 is committed to helping deliver that precious resource to your dinner table while doing everything we can to keep our team, customers, and community safe and healthy.
Starting Thursday, March 19th, the Catch 49 Distribution Center will shift to curbside seafood pickups only. Upon arrival at our Anchorage Distribution Center, please remain in your vehicle and contact us at 907-231-7213. Catch 49 team members will meet you outside of the shop at your vehicle and will load your shares of seafood directly into your vehicle.
We are also implementing shortened operating hours: Curbside seafood pickups are available Thursdays from noon – 3pm. If you have additional questions, please contact us at email@example.com.
Fill your freezer with delicious Copper River and Bristol Bay salmon, spot prawns, tanner crab, and more from Catch 49!
KODIAK, ALASKA, MARCH 12, 2020 — Current world-wide concern over the COVID-19 paired with the State of Emergency Declaration by Alaska Governor Dunleavy requires a reexamination of major annual events. An abundance of caution has led the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce ComFish Committee to postpone ComFish Alaska 2020 until September 17th-19th.
ComFish Alaska has been a leader of fisheries education delivering policy, technology, and scientific connections and networking for the last four decades. Postponement of ComFish Alaska allows both exhibitors and attendees the opportunity to enjoy the highest caliber trade show and forum schedule available without inhibition.
We look forward to welcoming all our exhibitors, speakers, and attendees to the Convention Center, Fishermen’s Hall, and Best Western Harbor Room in September. Still on the schedule will be the first ever Fisheries-Themed Fashion show, hosted in conjunction with the Kodiak Arts Council, as well as the tried and true Rockfish Taco Feed, Public Receptions, Processor Recognition events, and Fishermen’s Showcase.
Information will be updated as it becomes available at www.ComFishAK.com
|RELEASE MARCH 12, 2020|
Contact: Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Sarah Phillips Executive Director
Phone: (907) 486-5557
January 28th, 2020 marked a major victory for proponents of the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (YFDA) (H.R. 1240, S.496) as the House Natural Resources Committee approved the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC)-sponsored legislation.
Championed by Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Seth Moulton (D-MA), and Jared Golden (D-ME), this nonpartisan legislation aims to address the graying of America’s fishing fleet through the establishment of the first federal workforce development program for commercial fishing in the United States.
“I had the opportunity to invest in commercial fishing in the 1980s. After three decades I can say with authority that things have changed. Nearly all the dynamics of running a successful commercial fishing business are more challenging; from the regulatory process to the technological changes to the overall business plan, it’s harder. The bill will support rising fishermen to get education, training, and mentorship to stay afloat,” says AMCC Fisheries Policy Director and commercial fisherman, Theresa Peterson.
Modeled after the Beginning Farmers and Rancher Development Program which aims to support young entrants as they endeavor to join an aging pool of food producers, the bill would institute the creation of a nationally sponsored Young Fishermen’s Development Grant Program. Through partnerships and collaborations with nongovernmental, community-based fishing organizations, and school-based fisheries, fishermen under the age of 35 will be eligible for education and training.
“Commercial fisheries look very different now than they did when my parents and grandparents entered the fishery. My generation is experiencing new barriers and uncertainties from increased political pressure from mining interests and large population centers, to climate change. A program like YFDA could help give us the tools and education to maintain involvement in our historic fisheries and improve workforce development resources for new entrants,” AMCC’s Working Waterfronts Program Manager / Policy Analyst Jamie O’Connor.
The bill, which has been making its way through D.C. since 2017, has deep ties to Alaska Marine Conservation Council’s “Graying of the Fleet” project. Conducted between 2014 – 2017, the project examined the social, cultural, economic and geographic factors impacting local participation in fisheries in the Bristol Bay and Kodiak Island regions. Lead investigator and former AMCC employee, Rachel Donkersloot, worked in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Sea Grant, before presenting her findings nationally and internationally.
Among one of the more startling findings from Donskersloot’s investigation was the average age of Alaska fishery permit holders. In 2015, the average was 50, nearly 10 years older than in 1980. Additionally, the number of Alaska residents under the age of 40 holding fishing permits has fallen from 38-percent of the total number of permits in 1980 to 17-percent in 2013.
In an effort to support commercial fishing opportunities for new entrants in coastal Alaskan communities, AMCC led the charge for the creation of YFDA legislation with support from national partners involved in the Fishing Communities Coalition. Through advocacy trips to Washington D.C., collecting signatures, providing research, and encouraging Alaskans to write their lawmakers, AMCC has championed this legislation for years.
“Alaska’s economy and people are supported by our robust small-boat commercial fisheries, which anchor meaningful livelihoods for families in coastal communities and summon a diverse workforce in the processing sector. Our food systems need young harvesters. Consolidation of harvest opportunity is alarming beyond the implications on fishing culture – increasingly, we find our connection to nutritious food outsourced to entities that have no direct accountability to the people they feed or the ecosystems that sustain their operations. Young harvesters see this happening and, in spite of daunting forces beyond their control, are starting businesses to address the issue. The Young Fishermen’s Development Act addresses a real need for a workforce that is critical for Alaska’s future, and AMCC will continue to be its champion,” says AMCC’s Interim Executive Director, Marissa Wilson.
In early February, the Council met in Seattle and covered a diverse range of topics in fisheries management.
The Council adopted additional charter halibut management measures for 2C and 3A. It also recommended a series of restrictive actions to reduce charter halibut harvest in the two regions based on allocation recommendations to the charter sector after the International Pacific Halibut Meeting in February.
The Council discussed Halibut Abundance Based Management in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and received stakeholder input on methods to streamline the process of linking halibut bycatch to halibut abundance. The Council focused the proposed action on Amendment 80 (A-80) fleet which is made up of BSAI non-pollock catcher processors (bottom trawlers) and is responsible for about 60% of the BSAI halibut bycatch.
In addition, the action will consider an element that factors halibut bycatch at times of low abundance, when the coast-wide biomass of halibut falls below a spawning stock biomass of 30%. The analysis is scheduled to come back to the Council for the initial review in October. In the interim, a discussion paper is scheduled to come back to the Council in June which will focus on breakpoints to consider high, medium and low halibut abundance, performance metrics and incentives for the A-80 fleet to reduce bycatch, and a mechanism to further reduce the halibut bycatch limit in years of low directed halibut harvest limits in areas 4C, D, and E in the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands.
The Council will look at reducing halibut bycatch in other trawl fisheries through another action on the agenda in June. A limited access program for the BSAI trawl limited access fishery includes elements to reduce the amount of halibut bycatch allowed, regardless of abundance, and thus the Council limited the scope of abundance-based management to the A-80 fleet.
The Council reviewed the development of two action modules based upon recommendations from the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan. One module to develop protocols for use of local knowledge, traditional knowledge and subsistence in fisheries management and another to develop a plan to evaluate short to long term effects of climate change on fish, fisheries and the Bering Sea ecosystem. The work plans for these important issues in ecosystem-based fishery management are under development by two task forces which then make recommendations to the Council.
“The resources provided at that Summit proved invaluable to me, and looking back I realize that that experience truly validated my decision to continue commercial fishing in Alaska. It served as the catalyst to my involvement in not only Cook Inlet fisheries management and policy, but to my future as an activist for salmon conservation issues.”GEORGIE HEAVERLEY – COOK INLET DRIFTER
I attended my first Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit in Anchorage in 2017. I graduated from college earlier that year, returning to Kenai each summer to fish with my dad and brother. I was at a crossroads in my life at that time, unsure if I would leave Alaska to pursue a career in the west coast tech industry or remain in Alaska, drift gillnetting Cook Inlet with my family and fighting for the future of our highly politicized fishery.
The resources provided at that Summit proved invaluable to me, and looking back I realize that that experience truly validated my decision to continue commercial fishing in Alaska. It served as the catalyst to my involvement in not only Cook Inlet fisheries management and policy, but to my future as an activist for salmon conservation issues.
I bought a Cook Inlet drift permit at the beginning of 2019, finally becoming a stakeholder in the fishery that has been in my family for over 50 years. Buying a permit is only a piece in the journey to form your own small business on the ocean, and I knew I would need to eventually form a plan for the future purchase of a boat, how I would maintain my vessel, how to run my crew, and everything that venture entails.
The 8th annual Young Fishermen’s Summit was held in Juneau this year, coinciding with the start of the state legislative session. The Summit, organized by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, provides the opportunity for young fishermen to gain the information and expertise required to manage a career in the commercial fishing industry. The event provides information related to buying and financing a boat and permit, how to expand your fishing operation through creating a business plan, managing record keeping and taxes, safety and training, direct marketing, and navigating the federal and state fisheries regulatory process. Most importantly, the Summit provides the opportunity to network with industry professionals and fellow fishermen from around the state.
This year’s keynote speaker was Jim Hubbard. Jim has been fishing in Alaska in some form or another for over 45 years, and has been direct marketing seafood for the past 30 years. Not only does Jim have experience in multiple fisheries, he has been involved in fisheries management and policy, both on the federal and on the state level. Jim spoke to us about his extensive experience in Alaskan fisheries, how the fisherman lifestyle can take a toll on your family, the importance of properly managing your finances, and how passion for the work you do is one of driving forces behind success.
The first day of the Summit focused on the business aspects of commercial fishing. Industry representatives from investment and banking companies, insurance and accounting firms spoke to the particulars of financing your operation and the financial decisions you have to make along the way, such as securing insurance and proper tax preparation. Representatives from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the McDowell Group, and even a seafood retailer from the Pacific Northwest gave an overview of how Alaska fits into the domestic and global seafood market. The day ended with a fun and informal reception at a local brewery, where participants could continue to network with the speakers from that day.
The second day provided an introduction to the fisheries regulatory process, both in the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC). ADF&G staff were there to answer questions along with John Jensen, who happens to be a member of both the Board of Fish and the NPFMC. Receiving this information was particularly important for me, as the Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting begins the first week of February. Aside from discussing how to participate in the regulatory process, there were speakers there to provide information about getting involved with your fishery’s trade organization, regional seafood development associations, harbor boards, and ADF&G advisory committees.
That afternoon Summit attendees took a trip to the Auke Bay Laboratory, a facility that conducts scientific research on marine ecosystems, including stock assessments of several species of fish in Alaska. This research is provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the NPFMC, and other related organizations to help these entities properly manage our fisheries. We watched presentations about ocean acidification and climate change, and then got to tour the genetics lab and see other research projects being done. It was particularly interesting to see the fisheries regulatory process come full circle: how decision makers receive the science and information they need to make informed management decisions.
That evening there was a reception at the Twisted Fish, complete with a hearty spread of appetizers and full bar. Legislators from Alaska’s coastal communities were invited to attend, so Summit participants could have the opportunity to meet and network with our representatives, both in small group settings and one-on-one. I met several representatives from the Kenai Peninsula, where I grew up, and got to touch base with many I had met before.
The following morning we walked over to the Capitol building, where we first met with a panel of coastal legislators including Ben Stevens, Chief of Staff to Governor Dunleavy. We then broke into groups to meet our local representatives and then got to sit in on some of the House Fisheries Committee meeting. Myself and three other fishermen from the Anchorage area met with Senator Mia Costello, where we discussed issues we felt were most important to our industry, including the importance of funding the Alaska Marine Highway and how vital it is for our coastal communities, the Cook Inlet east side setnet buyback program, and generally advocating for the future of the commercial fishing in Alaska.
After meeting legislators we had the choice to participate in one of three different workshops: buying and selling vessels and the maintenance required of them, marine safety issues, and a mock Board of Fish exercise. I chose to attend the Board of Fish workshop, as I am actively involved in preparing for the Upper Cook Inlet meeting in February. Those of us who participated got to practice giving public testimony and even acted as Board members ourselves to learn about the deliberation process.
“I think that’s the perfect way to sum the experience at the Young Fishermen’s Summit in Juneau: we move forward with pride for our way of life, a plan for business endeavors, motivation to get involved, and to not let that “fire in our bellies” burn out.”GEORGIE HEAVERLEY
At the end of the day, attendees had the opportunity to say a few words about their experience at the Summit. A drifter from Cordova stood up and with sincerity told us all that before now he had never been involved in advocating for his fishery, had never paid attention to the policy decisions being made about it. He continued on by saying he now plans to get involved, that he feels like he has “a fire in his belly,” and he’s ready to join the effort. I think that’s the perfect way to sum the experience at the Young Fishermen’s Summit in Juneau: we move forward with pride for our way of life, a plan for business endeavors, motivation to get involved, and to not let that “fire in our bellies” burn out.
The Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit once again proved invaluable for me. I strongly encourage any commercial fishermen that are starting out in the industry, who have big dreams to run their own operation, and who want to get involved but don’t know how to attend this conference. The people you meet there are those you will maintain relationships with for the duration of your career and beyond, and those you will stand side by side with as you advocate for our fishing future. Because that’s exactly what we are – the future of this industry. And if we don’t fight for it, who will?
AMCC and AKFN are proud to have sponsored Georgie’s trip to Juneau last month and look forward to working with her and her new friends as they advocate for themselves and their communities in the years ahead! Please find more information on Sea Grant and future Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summits here.
The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Alaska Ocean Leadership Awards. These awards are given annually to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the awareness and sustainability of the state’s marine resources. The Alaska SeaLife Center appreciates the support provided by the award sponsors and thanks the awards committee members (Betsy Baker, Jason Brune, Lisa Busch, Dale Hoffman, Molly McCammon, Robert Suydam) for their assistance in selecting the award recipients. These awards will be presented at the in Anchorage Alaska Marine Gala on February 8 at the Dena’ina Center and/or at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium on January 27-31.
The following are the 2020 Alaska Ocean Leadership Award winners:
Molly McCammon will receive the prestigious Walter J. and Ermalee Hickel
Lifetime Achievement Award. The late Governor Walter J. Hickel and his wife Ermalee endowed this award for 10 years to recognize individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the management of Alaska’s coastal and ocean resources for more than 20 years. Molly has worked tirelessly to promote the long term sustainability of Alaska’s coastal and ocean resources, and find creative solutions to meet the needs of Alaskans. Molly came to Alaska in 1973, first as a reporter covering a variety of natural resource issues, then homesteading in the Brooks Range, and later working in various fields in state government. Her service to marine conservation began in 1984 as a legislative aide working on the wild fishery stock priority policy and the new community development quota program. At the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Molly worked on salmon management issues and on legislation strengthening Alaska’s response and prevention efforts following the Exxon Valdez oil spill. From there, Molly served as Executive Director of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council for nine years. As Executive Director, Molly managed the largest research and monitoring program in the state, with one of her many accomplishments being the installation of annual, multi-disciplinary conferences focused on marine research. These conferences were initially funded by EVOS, and over time, have evolved into the annual Alaska
Marine Science Symposium that continues today. Her leadership and work for the Trustee Council directly contributed to many significant research programs that provided a comprehensive understanding of marine ecosystems of Prince William Sound, creating a baseline for evaluation of any future oil spills as well as the dramatic changes in the ocean we are seeing now. In 2003, Molly organized and launched the Alaska Ocean
Observing System where she continues to serve as its Executive Director. Molly has direct involvement in the actual development and running of regional coastal and ocean observations systems. She has taken a leading
national role in developing the Integrated Ocean Observing System on a regional level and established the national IOOS Association. Throughout her career, Molly has worked effectively for positive solutions that meet the needs of Alaskans, and, at the same time, foster the conservation and wise use of Alaska’s natural resources, especially its fisheries. Her contributions have made a lasting difference for marine conservation in Alaska.
Alaska Wildland Adventures will receive the Stewardship and Sustainability Award. This award is sponsored by Jason Brune, and honors an industry leader that demonstrates the highest commitment to sustainability of ocean resources. Since 1977 and under the leadership of Kirk Hoessle, Alaska Wildland Adventures has operated natural history tours exclusively in Alaska, providing high quality, interactive experiences in wild Alaska. At the heart of this company’s culture is the strong respect for the environment and unique native heritage of Alaska. AWA recently celebrated its 10th year of operation of the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, which was born from a collaborative partnership with Port Graham Native Corporation. The lodge was created to support community goals of the corporation’s Native residents while also creating an environmentally-conscious lodge to host small groups of Alaskan tourists each summer. It is a solid example of positive stewardship and sustainability in Alaska, from its low impact construction methods, to working with local government agencies to create and maintain the Pedersen Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary that protects native flora and fauna, to supporting the local marine community of Seward. Alaska Wildland Adventures puts a strong emphasis on hiring, shopping, and transporting locally which contributes to the sustainability of the Seward community.
Dr. Switgard Duesterloh will receive the Marine Science Outreach Award. This award is given to a person, team or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to ocean literacy via formal or informal education, media or other communications. It is sponsored by the Alaska Ocean Observing System. Dr. Switgard Duesterloh created the Ocean Science Discovery Lab in Kodiak in 2009 and has run several programs for students grades 3-12. She offers science summer camps in Kodiak Island villages and in the city of Kodiak. Her programs include a diverse study of marine biology from food webs to sea otter ecology to sea star experiments, dissections, oil spill history and response, various oceanography experiments, and more. Dr. Duesterloh is inclusive and creative with her students. During the past year she has partnered with the Island Trails Network, a local nonprofit that does beach cleanups throughout Kodiak. She works tirelessly to raise awareness of the problems associated with plastic pollution. Currently, she is organizing a spring Whale Festival, a program inviting the community to partake and recognize Kodiak’s unique position in whale migrations. She also writes a column in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, educating the community about life in the ocean.
This year, the Awards Committee named two recipients for the Marine Research Award: Carin Ashjian and the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee. This award is sponsored by Drs. Clarence Pautzke and Maureen McCrea. This honor is given to a scientist, team of scientists, or an institution that is acknowledged by peers to have made an original breakthrough contribution to any field of scientific knowledge about Alaska’s oceans.
Carin Ashjian has contributed important insights to marine research and significantly advanced leadership in shaping marine science programs in the Arctic and Bering Sea for the past two decades. Her substantial expertise in oceanography, zooplankton ecology, and biological-physical interactions focusing on Arctic and sub-arctic regions has advanced our understanding of these systems, and how lower trophic levels respond to the physical environment and connect to higher trophic levels. One specific example of her boundary-straddling work is her decade-long work around Utqiaġvik where she and her colleagues Steve Okkonen and Bob Campbell focus on the oceanographic mechanisms that produce a favorable feeding environment for bowhead whales, a species of imminent subsistence and ecological value. Carin has worked to communicate the results of her research to Alaskan coastal communities and local hunters. Carin has been published in top-ranking journals and has made continued significant contributions to Arctic and sub-arctic marine science. That her work and expertise is well-known and important beyond regional scales is exemplified by her involvement in international programs, most recently the interdisciplinary MOSAiC program that explores Arctic processes throughout an entire year on a ship-based platform frozen into the sea ice.
The Alaska Beluga Whale Committee (ABWC) serves as the co-management partner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association for four stocks of belugas in western and northern Alaska. Since its creation in 1988, the committee has encouraged and promoted the conservation and informed, sustainable management of beluga whales through collaboration of Alaska Native subsistence hunters, biologists, and agency managers. They have initiated and continue management of this important resource and conduct scientific research on belugas to address management needs. At the time the ABWC was formed, there was little precedent for hunters and scientists working together. Now the committee brings representatives from beluga hunting communities in Alaska; local, state, tribal and federal governments; and beluga researchers together to discuss management and conservation issues, the biology of belugas, and the needs for additional information. Because of this committee, there is now information on the annual harvest of belugas since 1988, population estimates, satellite tracking of belugas, and sampling for genetics from approximately 2,500 beluga whales. The information and transparency shared by the ABWC provide assurances to Alaska, the U.S., and the international community that belugas in western and northern Alaska are being well managed.
Fran Ulmer is this year’s recipient of the Ocean Ambassador Award. The Ocean Ambassador Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made outstanding contributions in promoting public awareness and appreciation of Alaska’s oceans, coasts, and marine ecosystems. Fran Ulmer’s legacy of public service spans over 40 years and is still going strong. Her achievements reflect an exceptional contribution to management of Alaska’s coastal and ocean resources, a commitment to community, and first-hand appreciations for Alaska’s unique people and resources. Fran has had a significant impact in terms of coastal and ocean public policy. As the first director of the Alaska Coastal Policy Council, she was instrumental in the early formation and development of Alaska’s coastal management program. As a mayor, legislator, and lieutenant governor, she advocated for responsible use of the marine environment by Alaska’s growing tourism and cruise industry, as well as commercial and recreational fisheries. She was a strong voice for the careful management of Pacific Ocean fisheries as a commissioner on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission for over a decade. Her advocacy for enhancing relevant science and policy research as Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage continues beyond Alaska, as a Visiting Professor at Stanford and now a Senior Fellow at Harvard. As chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, she has ensured that the U.S. maintains a strong focus on marine research and has built collaborations with other nations across the Arctic to ensure that activities in the Arctic are conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner. Fran lectures internationally about the rapid changes happening in the Arctic, why people everywhere should care, and why conservation of our oceans is essential to everyone’s wellbeing.
About the ASLC
Opened in 1998, the Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium, with wildlife response and education programs. It generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. To learn more, visit www.alaskasealife.org.
Like many Alaskans, my childhood was marked by a fascination and unrelenting love of the water. Whether it was the feel of a coho striking my pixie lure in the Eyak River as a child, or the exhausting satisfaction of longlining for halibut with my father in my teens and twenties, Alaska’s waters played an integral role in developing my sense of self. But it wasn’t until 2013 when I started deckhanding for former AMCC board member, Pete Wedin, that my path as a fisherman-conservationist became clear.
After finishing a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Washington, I returned to Homer to find work that connected me to the community. Working as a charter deckhand for Pete was a departure from my commercial fishing upbringing—indeed, it was practically treachery.
But seeing the thrill and wonder on the faces of clients as they struggled to reel in their first fish confirmed that the act of harvest satisfies a basic human desire. We are meant to know our food, to understand its story, and ensure its ability to nourish our loved ones. I realized that my role as a commercial harvester and stakeholder in management policies needed to accomplish that feat as well.
The summers I have spent in rubber boots and rain gear did more than shape my shoulders and bank account—they honed my focus. Today, as we are confronting the jarring reality of climate change by witnessing dramatic changes in our oceans and rivers, I find myself called to share a message from the water: the tide has turned. Our ability to predict what’s coming has been muddled, and the tide rip we find ourselves in is full of obstacles.
Fortunately, in the six years I have served on AMCC’s board, I have witnessed the power that a dedicated group of passionate individuals can have in navigating challenges together. From affecting policy change in bycatch reductions to establishing the Fishing Fellows Program, AMCC has been at the forefront of efforts to protect the integrity of Alaska’s waters.
In my new position as AMCC’s Interim Executive Director, I find myself fiercely motivated to not only continue the organization’s robust mission, but to amplify it. I am eager to support the ideas Alaskans have for adapting with our changing climate, through diversifying their small businesses and identifying projects that support their communities and coastlines. I want for this time of transition and uncertainty to be characterized by fearlessness and celebration, hallmarks of Alaska’s hardworking fishermen. I want to double down on what motivates us all.
I look forward to the successes this year is sure to bring, and am thrilled to help shape the future of AMCC.
AMCC Interim Executive Director
“The Alaska Young Fishermen’s Almanac Volume II,” is the second installment of the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network with support from the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Alaska Humanities Forum. The almanac features art, stories, advice and more from young fishermen across Alaska.
The Almanac is a first-of-its-kind cultural touchstone that communicates and celebrates our unique, shared and cherished fishing ways of life. The Almanac project captures the ingenuity, persistence, humor, and passion of the next generation of community and fishing leaders in Alaska and conveys the importance of community-based fishing livelihoods.
By buying an Almanac you are supporting the development of educated and engaged young fishermen and helping them to take on leadership roles within their communities and fisheries.
Alaskans love sharing a good fish story. We are famous for it, and often with each retelling, the size of the fish and direness of the circumstances increase. Fish tales are fun to share. The impacts of climate change on our region are not. The stories of what we are experiencing in Alaska need no embellishment.
A group of Alaska women involved in commercial and subsistence fisheries traveled to Washington D.C. this month to share the magnitude of change we have seen first-hand. As fishermen living in remote areas, interacting with the natural world harvesting fish, we see things that others don’t. Our relationship with our respective regions run deep, often spanning decades and generations. The change we are seeing is happening now, and we feel a responsibility to bring awareness to the degree of change we are experiencing in the Northern United States.
Alaska fishermen are innovative, resourceful, and willing to act to maintain resilient fishing communities. Storytelling and first-hand experiences help to bring awareness to our policymakers, influencing actions to address climate change. We will keep talking; we must. Our future is at risk. Fishing communities nationwide need policies that help fishing livelihoods adapt to rapid change and work together to mitigate carbon emissions contributing to climate change. We all need to act, and perhaps those of us coming from the North, where the conditions are shifting the fastest, can help others understand what’s coming.
“In Alaska, we have left behind the days of discussing climate change in hypothetical terms. As coastal communities, as small business owners and people intimately connected with the landscape, we are witnessing what can only be described as systemic and unprecedented change — in terms of its speed and scale. Dry stream beds and die-offs, erosion, and mass fish migrations; these are the stories we brought to Washington, D.C., along with requests for practical steps to help our coastal communities and fisheries stay resilient in the face of sweeping change.
It is more important than ever that our federal leaders support fishery and oceanographic research, community infrastructure that bolsters resiliency efforts, and policy processes that integrate considerations for climate change impacts. We need management processes agile enough to adapt and thrive with those impacts, and rigorous enough in its standards to conserve at-risk stocks, habitats, and food webs. It is an honor to be a storyteller for our northern ecosystems, helping to connect what we’re seeing on the grounds to these long term policy needs for our regions and nation.”
From Hannah Heimbuch, a second-generation fisherman from Homer and Senior Consultant with Oceans Strategies.
“Our family business is unique in that we set net using pickup trucks to work our gear from shore. Historically, sea ice protected our gravel and bluff from the Bering Sea winter storms. That’s no longer the case. We’re seeing decades of our former rate of erosion disappear in mere years. And while the current temperatures are positively impacting our salmon runs, we’re headed for a tipping point when our fish can no longer adapt to changing conditions. I am grateful for the opportunity to bring these stories back to D.C., where we can help inform policymakers as they tackle these complex issues, and look forward to working with them to make our fishing communities adaptable and climate-ready.”
From Jamie O’Connor, fifth-generation set-netter from Bristol Bay and Working Waterfronts program manager and policy analyst with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
“Just this year, we had multiple, unusual wildfires in my region. Our creeks were the driest that many residents had seen. Incidentally, these last few years have also had the largest recorded sockeye runs. I’m told that the heat has actually motivated these runs. But what of the other creatures that we are seeing suffer in our regions? I haven’t seen the caribou migration for over 15 years, and while commercial fishing this summer, we caught dozens of dead shearwaters in our nets. Some of the changes could be natural, and some could be unnatural. But I believe it’s safe to say that civilization has been at fault in the past, so why not again this time? For the wellbeing of our fisheries and local biology, we must continue to adapt.”
Mli Lundgren, second-generation Bristol Bay drift-netter and subsistence fisherman.
“This summer on Kodiak Island felt apocalyptic. As I flew the length of the island in August, streambeds normally bubbling with salmon were bone dry, reminding me of a desert wash. After 40 days of no rain and unprecedented heat, the northern rainforest was shriveling up, and our salmon dependent livelihoods felt extremely vulnerable. Processors were running out of reservoir water, leaving them down to only a few days of the water needed to continue to process fish. Smolt released from salmon hatcheries died, unable to live in the warm waters. Remote fish sites were out of water, hauling drinking and washing water in by hand. The fish were stressed and unable to enter the streams they were bound for due to lack of water and high water temperatures, which influences salmon movement. The salmon were exhibiting behavior no one had seen before. Sunburned pink salmon were repeatedly jumping out of the water in the mouth of the rivers. Along beaches, red salmon were traveling deep, seemingly seeking cooler temperatures as they traveled under nets while sunburnt fishermen on deck watched. Those who live in the last frontier are now living on the front lines in a changing climate. Harvesters and managers must be ready to change course under these conditions, and we all need to work together to influence policies that reduce carbon emissions and support measures that help coastal residents weather abrupt changes to our livelihoods and traditions. We need to provide adequate funding to the National Oceans and Atmospheric Association and the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide the monitoring, fish surveys, stock assessments, and research to provide the best science possible to guide management practices. We need to continue to come to policymakers in D.C. from Alaska homes and paint a picture with our words. We did just that last week, and it was clear our stories resonated in each of the offices we met with. Keep talking, Alaskans, our voices matter.”
Theresa Peterson, a commercial fisherman from Kodiak, Alaska, and Fisheries Policy Director with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
“The Alutiiq people have inhabited the Kodiak region for at least 7,000 years. Recent years have brought a series of events that, once considered unprecedented, have become the new normal. These events include drought, flooding, forest fires, multiple record heat waves, seabird, and marine mammal die-offs, irregular fish returns, warm climate, invasive species, and extreme fish mortality. The Alaska Federation of Natives declared climate change a state of emergency in Alaska at the 2019 Convention and reinstated its Climate Action Leadership Task Force to advocate for strong climate policies. I came to Washington D.C. to help others with less interaction with the natural world we call home in Alaska to share my experience and offer myself as a resource.”
Natasha Hayden, P.E., Kodiak Island Native Alaskan, subsistence and commercial fisherman, Registered Professional Engineer, and the Director of Lands & Natural Resources for the Afognak Native Corporation.
Every fisherman has their account of how our warming environment is impacting their fishery, business, and community. Thank you to the offices that met with these fishermen to hear theirs.