“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.
AMCC is grateful to the many generous businesses and individuals—
including our great team of volunteers—who made our inaugural Bore Tide Boogie possible! We want to say an extra special thank you to
Jodie Anderson for serving as our amazing emcee for the evening.
Thank you Sponsors
Thank You Contributors
60 North Seafoods
AK Starfish Co.
Alaska SeaLife Center
Allen & Petersen
Bear Creek Winery
Blue Market AK
Boardwalk Pub & Grill
Broken Tooth Brewing
Cabin Fever Gifts
Central Suites of Seldovia
Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
Dark Horse Coffee
From the C
Fromagios Artisan Cheese
Mount Roberts Scenic Tramway
Patty & Dave Hamre
Salty Lady Seafood
Seldovia Bay Adventures
Seldovia Boardwalk Hotel
Side Street Espresso
The Crabby Fisherman
True North Kayak Company
Trustees for Alaska Staff
Van’s Dive Bar
Victorinox Swiss Army
Weston and Kelly Smith
Wild Honey Bistro
by Clem Tillion, Halibut Cove courtesy of Seafood News
I sat on the North Pacific Fur Seal Commission; it was created in 1910 to manage and protect the fur seals of the Pribilof Islands. I’m one of the few Commissioners still around, and I’m still devoted to helping the communities of the Pribilofs survive – and thrive. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has the chance this week in Homer to protect the fishermen of St. Paul and St. George Islands in the Pribilofs, and many more, by protecting the halibut they harvest from the Bering Sea.
Historically, residents of St. Paul Island, most of whom are Unangan (Aleut), were conscripted by the Russian and then the United States Government in the commercial fur seal harvest. After the commercial fur seal harvest was phased out in 1983, St. Paul Island’s residents turned to commercial fisheries for their survival, with the encouragement of the US and State governments. The Pribilofs are the only Aleut region that does not have access to salmon, so the islands were granted all the halibut Community Development Quota (CDQ) in the management area surrounding them (4C). This, in turn, justified critical federal, state, local, and private infrastructure investment. Examples of these investments, which were built in part to support the halibut fishery, include the Small Boat Harbor, concluded in 2010 at a cost of almost $21 million, and the Saint Paul Harbor, which with recent improvements totaled almost $100 million.
In addition to the harbor investments, St. Paul upgraded and built a number of infrastructure facilities and utilities critical to the development of a fisheries-based economy, in which the development and pursuit of a halibut fishery weighed heavily. A bulk fuel farm; an outfall/sewer utility; water and electric utilities; a landfill; airport and road upgrades were all built over a period of 40 years at a considerable cost to the public and to the community. These investments are in the range of $30-40 million. Much of the debt on this infrastructure is still owed by the City.
All in all, over $150 million in public funds were invested on St. Paul Island after 1983 to help develop a fisheries-based economy and provide local fishermen with the infrastructure to develop and pursue the halibut fishery. Individual fishermen in turn invested their families’ futures in boats and equipment and halibut quota, and developed a thriving local halibut fishery.
The halibut fishery is currently the primary source of employment and income for St. Paul residents. Of the 391 residents of St. Paul Island, 75 participate directly in the CDQ/IFQ halibut fishery in the summer months, and depend on a viable halibut fishery for their livelihoods and survival. This figure—which includes 14 to 16 fishermen/vessel owners who each hire an average of 5 to 6 crewmembers and baiters per vessel—represents more than 35 percent of the St. Paul Island’s working-age population.
Numerous other residents of St. Paul are employed in businesses that provide support services to the halibut fishery and fleet, including fuel, storage, groceries, and catch processing and packaging. Like the fishermen, these individuals are also directly dependent upon a viable and economically sustainable halibut fishery. No source of employment is more important to the economic prosperity of the community’s residents. Unfortunately, the income generated and the participation in the local halibut fishery has fallen in the past five years to below the long-term average, as the halibut resource has declined.
St. Paul Island’s reliance on the halibut fishery is not limited to direct employment in the fishery itself. St. Paul Island is a unique community that has the largest concentrated population of Unangan and Unangam Tunuu (Aleut-speakers) in the world. As such, halibut is an important and culturally significant subsistence fishery that is key to St. Paul Island’s cultural and psychological wellbeing.
Moreover, the fishermen/vessel owners who are engaged in the directed halibut fishery are the community’s only small business owners. They are the source of economic opportunity, as well as the community’s political and business leadership. The opportunities in the halibut fishery have also attracted some younger residents back to St. Paul Island, and their children help sustain the St. Paul School. St. Paul Island’s halibut fishermen are the community’s compass holders.
Unfortunately, St. Paul Island’s economic and cultural base is in jeopardy yet again. Having transitioned its economy to halibut with the US Government’s sponsorship, the same government’s failure to place appropriate and necessary limits on halibut bycatch (Prohibited Species Catch or PSC) now threatens to deny the people of St. Paul Island continued access to the resource they were encouraged to depend upon.
From 2012 to the present, the groundfish fleets in IPHC areas 4CDE (much of the Bering Sea) have caught as bycatch in their target fisheries – and discarded as waste – more halibut than the fleet that catches halibut commercially.
Specifically, bycatch mortality in this period has been two and a half times the amount of directed halibut mortality.
The North Pacific Council has been working for four years on a new way to manage halibut bycatch, based on halibut abundance. All groundfish and salmon fisheries in the state and federal waters off Alaska, and the directed halibut fishery, are managed on species abundance. Salmon PSC limits are driven by salmon abundance.
The Council is charged with developing a program for responsible management of halibut bycatch. The groundfish harvesters must be bound by the same principles as directed users. When halibut abundance declines, commercial and sport halibut limits go down. Bycatch limits should also go down, protecting the halibut-dependent peoples and communities of the Bering Sea.
Photo Credit: choja/iStock/Getty Images Plus
North Pacific Fishery Management Council to meet in Homer
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council kicks off meeting season in Homer Sept. 30 for the first time since 1983. This meeting will be both an opportunity for those who have been unable to attend in the past to participate, and for policymakers to hear from coastal community residents.
Community Engagement Committee
The NPFMC Community Engagement Committee will meet at Lands End from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 1 to review Council engagement strategies and practices and to develop recommendations to improve engagement with rural and Alaska Native communities.
BSAI Halibut ABM
The “Halibut Capital of the World” serves as an ideal backdrop to discuss the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Halibut Abundance Based Management (BSAI Halibut ABM). The action would link the amount of prohibited species catch (PSC), or bycatch, limits in groundfish fisheries to halibut abundance. Currently, halibut PSC limits are a fixed amount, so when halibut abundance declines bycatch limits remain the same while the amount of halibut apportioned to directed halibut fisheries decreases. This will be a major item up for discussion at this meeting and we encourage anyone interested to attend the Council on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 3-4. Fishermen, please reach out to AMCC Fisheries Policy Director Theresa Peterson for more information on how to get involved.
Local Seafood Summit
The third Local Seafood Summit will be held at the Redd on Salmon Street campus in Portland, OR Oct. 6-7. The Summit celebrates the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of small-scale, community-based seafood businesses committed to strengthening our local, regional, and national food systems. AMCC staff Katy Rexford, Director of Catch 49 and AMCC board member Darius Kasprzak will be attending the summit.
The Adapt Kodiak workshop will be held Oct. 24-25 at the Afognak Native Corporation on Near Island to discuss the challenges and opportunities for Kodiak residents to build community resilience in the face of a changing climate.
AMCC Heads to Pacific Marine Expo
Save the Date! The Pacific Marine Expo is just around the corner November 21st -23rd at the CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle. The largest and longest-running commercial tradeshow on the West coast will include marine exhibitors, events, informational forums and an opportunity for those involved in the maritime industry to network. Stay tuned for more details and be sure to come visit the AMCC booth, #4322, in the Alaska Hall.
Homer Harbor Tours with Jim Herbert
An introduction to the Port of Homer’s economy, history, future plans, Homer marine trades, electronic monitoring and visit vessels from different sectors.
Look for a gentleman in a lime green vest with a white beard standing outside of the Salty Dog Saloon.
Friday, October 4 at 5:30pm and Saturday, October 5 at 5:30pm.
For the past 25 years, AMCC’s dedicated staff and volunteers have worked to promote healthy ocean-dependent coastal communities while protecting the integrity of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.
To mark the occasion, we will be hosting the Bore Tide Boogie: A Celebration of Healthy Oceans & Coastal Communities on November 9, 2019, from 7:00 – 10:00 pm at the Anchorage Museum.
This festive community gathering will feature high-quality Alaskan seafood from AMCC’s own Catch 49 sustainable seafood brand—prepared by local celebrity chef Laura Cole of The Muse; live and silent auctions; a live band and dancing.
I’m proud to present the Alaska Marine Conservation Council 2018 Impact Report to you. This brief report highlights our work from the past year—successes we could not have accomplished without you.
Our efforts are straightforward—to protect the integrity of Alaska’s marine ecosystems and promote thriving coastal communities. Increasingly, the challenges we face to achieve this mission are incredibly complex, requiring comprehensive solutions that involve intense interaction in diverse communities.
AMCC has remained focused, with work through two key program areas: Fisheries & Marine Life Conservation and Working Waterfronts. Our fisheries conservation work engages in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council process and 2018 was highlighted with the adoption of the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan. Our Working Waterfronts programs engage fishing families and coastal residents and businesses through our Alaska Fishermen’s Network with over 700 members. This network helps us bring a shared voice to local, state, and federal issues including the Young Fishermen’s Development Act and the potential reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA).
Finally, our Catch 49 sustainable seafood enterprise has brought quality Alaskan seafood to Alaskans, creating more opportunities for small-scale fishermen and providing a steady supply of local seafood. This program continues to expand the species it sources, as well as the communities, served.
But we cannot and do not accomplish our work alone…fishermen and coastal residents are confronted with rapidly changing oceans and fisheries policy and it is your support that allows AMCC to understand and address these dramatic changes.
We are grateful to you—our members, partners, and allies—across Alaska and the Lower 48. Thank you again for all of your support.
P.S. To stay up-to-date throughout the year, be sure to sign-up for our monthly e-newsletter.
Conserving Fisheries & Marine Life:
Critical Effort to Protect the Bering Sea Advances
The Bering Sea encompasses over 770,000 square miles of productive marine waters in the North Pacific Ocean. More than 50 coastal communities in the region depend on their resources to sustain their way of life. Countless fishermen from around Alaska and the Lower 48 count on it for their livelihoods. But the Bering Sea—and all who rely on it remaining healthy—are at great risk of its unparalleled wild fisheries being depleted due in large part to a rapidly warming climate that is accelerating the loss of sea ice and ocean acidification. These are unprecedented challenges requiring comprehensive solutions.
One way AMCC accomplishes its mission is by working with our partners and allies to advance policies at the regional and federal levels that promote the health and resilience of Alaska’s fisheries and marine ecosystems. One of AMCC’s highest priorities in recent years has been to advance a Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) for the Bering Sea to protect its wild fisheries, ecosystems, and communities. A FEP serves to strengthen fisheries and ecosystem management in marine environments controlled by the Federal Government.
One of the most significant achievements of 2018 occurred in December when the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (BS FEP) was adopted by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC). This critical document guides Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management for these waters—a way to manage fisheries that considers how all pieces of an ecosystem work together.
AMCC staff member Theresa Peterson serves as co-chair to the Ecosystem Committee (EC) which advises the NPFMC on ecosystem related matters. The EC provided extensive input toward the development of the BS FEP over many meetings and many years; most of their recommendations were accepted. Theresa conveys the importance of the plan:
“The Eastern Bering Sea is an amazing ecosystem experiencing change at an unforeseen rate. The region has provided sustenance to those living adjacent to its waters for thousands of years and the knowledge embodied in the Native culture provides insight beyond Western science. The BS FEP provides guidance for the NPFMC to better utilize all information sources and paves the way for a comprehensive approach to fisheries management.”
AMCC is proud to have influenced the final plan and will work to be a part of the next phase—developing “Action Modules” to evaluate the effects of climate change on the Bering Sea and create protocols for incorporating Traditional Knowledge into decision-making.
Longtime staff member Theresa Peterson was promoted to Fisheries Policy Director in 2018. Theresa, a commercial fisherman from Kodiak, continues to be meaningfully involved with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
AMCC bid farewell to Working Waterfronts Director, Rachel Donkersloot, in 2019. Rachel was a lead on the award-winning Graying of the Fleet research project, which made a tremendous impact on Alaska’s coastal communities. We are thrilled she is staying connected to the organization as a consultant.
Sustaining Working Waterfronts:
Alaska Fisherman’s Network Member Spotlight
Meet JJ Larson, Captain of F/V Lucille
JJ Larson is from Dillingham, a fishing community in Southwest Alaska, and from a long line of fishermen. His mom captained her own boat and his grandma was a set netter. JJ is the third generation of his family to captain the Lucille D, which was named for his aunt. It was originally owned and captained by his grandfather, then his dad. Today, after nine years at the helm, JJ is buying it from his grandmother. The Lucille D is more than a fishing boat to JJ, it represents a way of life he is proud to carry on, and eventually share with his son.
JJ joined the Alaska Fishermen’s Network (AKFN) in 2018. Now over 747 members strong, AMCC started the AKFN in 2013 to empower the next generation of fishermen to become effective advocates for Alaska’s wild fisheries, coastal communities, and conservation. Through such principles as mentorship, stewardship, and accountability, the AKFN creates opportunities for young and rising fishermen to develop skills and connections, build resilient businesses, and be positive members of their communities—all things JJ values.
“Through the AKFN, I have an opportunity to network as well as learn more about the business side of fishing—like the different policies and regulations that affect it, finances, and more. A lot goes into being the captain of a boat. You can be a great fisherman, but without an understanding of the business, you are less likely to succeed.”
AMCC was fortunate to have JJ travel to D.C. with staff recently to advocate for the Young Fishermen’s Development Act. They attend- ed 22 meetings in three days to garner support for creating the first federal program to support workforce development for young fishermen. JJ’s leadership and perspective were invaluable, and the trip had an impact on him too. “It was empowering to see firsthand where and how the laws that affect my ‘little corner of the world’ are made and gave me greater confidence to advocate for the future of our fisheries and my community.”
Jamie O’Connor started as AMCC’s Fishing Community Organizer in 2018 and was recently promoted to Working Waterfronts Program Manager and Policy Analyst. A lifelong Alaskan and commercial fisherman from Dillingham, she has since put down roots in Homer. Jamie participated in AMCC’s first class of Young Fishing Fellows in 2017—an effort she is now proud to coordinate along with the Alaska Fishermen’s Network.
Our Community Supported Fishery
2018 marked seven years since AMCC launched its sustainable seafood enterprise, recently rebranded as Catch 49, in an effort to help coastal communities thrive by creating a direct market for their livelihoods. Every year the program gets stronger and last year was no exception.
- Increased the total pounds of seafood sold over the prior year, and the number of households served to more than 750.
- Secured two major wholesale clients—North Star Quality Meats and Princess-Holland America Lodges—each of which has the potential to significantly increase Catch 49’s output and amplify our message to a broader audience.
- Created branded seafood labels reinforcing the traceability of each species sold, which helps to strengthen our message that knowing your fisherman ensures the highest quality, healthiest, most sustainable seafood available.
A direct impact of Catch 49 can be seen in the coastal communities from which we buy seafood, like Cordova, a fishing community of 2,300 residents on the Prince William Sound. Only accessible by boat or plane, Cordova continues to be heavily impacted by the 1988 Exxon Valdez oil spill, changing ocean conditions altering fish populations, and threats of budget cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway.
In 2018, we developed new relationships there, by purchasing coho salmon from two young fishermen, Tyee Lohse and Hayley Hoover, and by utilizing a fisherman-owned local processor, 60° North Seafoods, for our first-ever fall coho salmon offering. By purchasing seafood directly and processing it at local facilities, AMCC helps keep profits in coastal communities, which in turn supports other local businesses including artists, transporters, and more, further expanding our impact.
Katy Rexford joined AMCC as Director of Catch 49 in July 2018. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from Vassar College and served for eight years as a Program Director for the California League of Conservation Voters. Between 2011 and 2018, Katy split her time between Alaska and Hawaii, founding and operating a music education business in Hawaii and teaching music in rural Alaska. She moved to Alaska full-time in 2017.
AMCC Member Spotlight:
Meet Our Dedicated Supporters
Longtime AMCC member Vicki Clark recently completed her final term on AMCC’s Board of Directors, including one year as Chair. We are grateful to Vicki for the expertise she brought to the board and for her dedication to our mission. We asked her recently why she values AMCC. Here is what she had to say…in her own words.
What inspired you to become an AMCC member?
I wanted to be Jacqueline Cousteau and went to school for marine biology. I got the degree but decided to go on to practice environmental law, thinking I could make a bigger difference protecting habitat and clean water that way. Today I serve as executive director for Trustees for Alaska but I love the marine environment and was missing that connection. I know the great work AMCC does—in fact, I did legal research on Individual Fishing Quotas for AMCC when I was an intern at Trustees back in 1994. Knowing something about organizational governance, in 2013, I joined the board, which was a great place to use my skills and feed my desire to help.
Why do you think AMCC’s work is important?
Humans are mismanaging our fisheries resources around the globe. It is so important to have well-informed and dedicated advocates to work to protect those resources, and AMCC has amazing members and committed staff to do it!
What would you tell someone to encourage them to become a member today?
If you care at all about clean water, healthy oceans, and fish on your table, AMCC is one of the best investments you can make to protect what you care about.
Welcome and Thank You Board Members
AMCC is happy to welcome two new members to our board of directors: Melanie Brown of Juneau and Josh Wisniewski of Seldovia. Melanie works as an Organizer for Salmon State and commercial fishes for salmon in Bristol Bay. Josh is a small-scale commercial harvester, a subsistence fisherman, and an anthropologist.
We give heartfelt thanks to outgoing board members Vicki Clark and Ellen Tyler. We are grateful for their years of service to AMCC and their steadfast dedication to the mission.
Thank You, Valued Members and Partners!
Marine Fish Conservation
Nell Newman Foundation
Pew Charitable Trust
True North Foundation
Robert Bundy and
Joel and Greta Cladouhos
Brian Delay and
Dan Hull and Nancy Pease
John and Rika Mouw
Jon and Stephanie Zuck
Tanner Crab $250-$499
Evelyn Abello and Karl Ohls
Dorothy and Bob Childers
Jay Nelson and
Tom and Ann Rothe
Rolan and Jo Ruoss
Frederick and Laurel
Betty and Fred Bonin
Harvey and Nan Goodell
Harvey Goodell and
Claire Holland Leclair
Amanda Piatt and
John and Mary Pat Sisk
Floyd Tomkins and
Roberta Austring and
Mary Lou Kelsey
Mary Lisa Paesani
Catherine and Joseph
Pacific Cod $25-$49
Mike and Lora Laukitis
Norman Van Vactor
Thank you to the photographers and businesses who
contributed to this report!
Haines, courtesy of Haines Packing Company | Bering Sea FEP Map, courtesy of the NPFMC | Larson Family & Crew, courtesy of JJ Larson
Diving with Sharks, courtesy of Vicki Clark
Hayley Hoover, courtesy of Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association