Our flight banked beside the National Mall on approach as the sun set orange over Washington D.C. This was my first trip back since I left my job as a Senate staffer eighteen months before. To get my nerves ready to land, I jacked some nostalgic rock into my headphones. Some of the fishermen flying in with me had never made this landing; some, like me, had seen it many times. This time, however, I was a constituent representing my community, an Alaskan, and a fisherman. Much like before, my job on this trip was to connect Alaskans to their representatives in our nation’s capital. But now, I was also here to share my own story.
“My name is Jamie O’Connor and I’m a fifth-generation salmon fisherman from Bristol Bay,” I’d begin. “I was fortunate enough to grow up fishing with my parents and great-grandparents. Which gives me a special, long view on what happens when you manage your resource for sustainable harvest. In Bristol Bay, it’s resulted in the largest, most sustainable salmon fishery in the world.” I’d pause, waiting for that fact to sink in before continuing. “And we maintain those runs through strong, science-based fisheries management. So, I’m here to ask that we maintain that focus in the Capitol, fund the necessary science, and use it to ensure that my great-grandchildren, and the generations that follow them, may benefit from the fishing culture and livelihood that has given me so much. Someday it will be their turn to feed the world.”
I repeated that introduction thirteen times over two days with varying delivery to offices on and off the Hill. So did the eight other fishermen in our group. While each of our stories were a little different, each supported the science-based management policy we’d flown 4,000 miles to discuss and each connected to the staffer or Congress Member sitting across the table in its own way. Sharing your story is sometimes all you can to do to stand up for what you and your industry need, young fishermen. So don’t be afraid to trade out your slickers for a blazer once in a while. This work is equally important and we can’t keep fishing without it.
Jamie is a fifth-generation fisherman from Dillingham, Alaska.
Fishermen, pilots, and a noisy librarian raised her at the family set-net operation on Ekuk beach.
She graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in journalism and public
communication. Then spent a year building Senator Dan Sullivan’s new front office and internship
program, before returning to Bristol Bay with the salmon run. And that’s where you’ll find her, each
summer for the rest of her life.
AMCC is thrilled to be partnering with five incredible host organizations across coastal Alaska for our 2018-2019 Fishing Fellows Program!
Check out our current list of fellowship projects here.
Consider applying for one yourself or share these opportunities with a young fisherman in your life.
The deadline to apply February 28, 2018!
Michelle Ridgway served on the Alaska Marine Conservation Council board of directors from 1995 to 2001. She brought tremendous integrity, energy, and warmth to our work and our family of coastal Alaskans committed to community-based conservation. Michelle gave generously to AMCC, to marine conservation overall, and to the people whose ways of life are closely intertwined with the ocean. Perhaps the most important beneficiaries of Michelle’s single-mindedness were the youth who were inspired by her zest for life and learning, the children who would need to be equipped to carry on the job of care-taking the ocean into the future. Michelle was a force of life. She was an ocean explorer, an invincible advocate, and a beautiful writer and speaker. She was happiest underwater in a wetsuit or piloting a research submarine, being part of the ocean. But she was also a fierce voice in the policy arena promoting sustainable fisheries, protecting clean water, and safeguarding living seafloor habitats. She used her marine ecology acumen to scrutinize decisions that most others at the table considered from narrower perspectives.
We are ever grateful to Michelle’s dedication to conservation
and the spirit that she brought to our collective efforts.
I was lucky to have served with Michelle on AMCC’s board in its early years. I was constantly in awe of her positive energy and enthusiasm for our work—and for everything that had to do with marine science and conservation. Michelle made things happen. One fond memory I have is from a board meeting in Sitka during the spring herring spawn. Michelle (of course) had friends with boats, and soon we were all on the water collecting and eating roe on spruce boughs. It was a celebratory time, a spontaneous outing, during which we could all appreciate the values of coastal Alaska we were working to protect. I’ve seen little of Michelle in recent years but continued to admire her deep commitment to and involvement in conducting science, communicating science, and—perhaps especially—working with young people to share her love for science, exploration, and the providing ocean.
— Nancy Lord
I had the honor of assisting Michelle at the Nuniaq Marine Science Camp in Old Harbor. We spent a week together, sleeping in a wall tent, leading children in a range of science activities which culminated in “deep sea exploration” with the launching of an ROV to view what lies beneath the ocean. Thanks to Kodiak’s Mark Blakeslee, who supplied the “Phantom HD2,” every child had the opportunity to operate the ROV. Michelle made us all scientists and near the end of camp all the children worked late into the night to catalog the species we encountered and the habitat where we found them. Not a moment was wasted — we were all scientists on a very important mission and Michelle did not let us forget that.
Michelle may not have lived a long life, but she lived life more fully than many who live to a ripe old age. She lived with zest, passion, commitment, and unflagging energy.
— Diana DeFazio
Michelle was an amazing marine biologist. Her favorite activities, other than exploring the world’s oceans and discovering their secrets, were sailing those oceans and teaching coastal children how to discover those secrets too.
… and needless to say, she was an awesome and true friend. She had done so much and survived so much, that I always thought I would see her again. Whenever we would depart each other’s company, for our “normal lives,” I would have this fleeting vision of us in our 70’s and 80’s laughing and looking back on all that we had done, filling in the details of adventures … no embellishments required.
— Bob Mikol
Michelle was an invaluable mentor to Kodiak’s small boat jig fleet during her tenure on the Advisory Panel to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. She listened to the fishermen and provided guidance to fleet members unfamiliar with the difficult Council process. Her support was heart felt and genuine and her enthusiasm was contagious. With Michelle’s encouragement those fishermen persistently attended every meeting and saw the action through to the end— successfully carving out a little of the federal Pacific cod fishery for the jig fleet, complete with room to grow.
— Theresa Peterson
Michelle was both fierce and fearless in defending Alaska’s marine life and life ways. I always thought of her as Alaska’s own ocean amazon. She inspired and challenged us all to do more.
I remember her telling me about some project samples she was working on, from around Kodiak, I think. She was totally focused and excited about the results when she casually mentioned she almost did not get the samples. When pressed she said it was at the end of the day when some sea lions showed up and decided to take a closer look. They kept coming up to her – curious or aggressive, maybe both. That’s when I realized she had been diving, near dark, among sea lions, in cold water – alone. Apparently this wasn’t remarkable enough for her to even mention. Absolutely fearless both in water and out.
— Nevette Bowen
Michelle came to AMCC right after the group was formed. She brought science credibility and a new wave of enthusiasm. What strikes me is how young we all were. When Michelle came on board were all in our early 30s working on some really big policy issues — ‘96 Magnuson Act reauthorization, ending wasteful by catch and discards, American Fisheries Act pollock rationalization, and others.
Michelle was a scientist, but she had passion and would take risks. I remember her at a Homer AMCC board meeting holding court for first time admirers. Everyone was instantly attracted to her. She was telling us all about her underwater dare-devil exploits. She played hockey with the boys and rode in a submarine. What more can I say. We were friends for life!
Michelle was savvy politically and new what it takes to get things done. She was a scientist with an edge. She must have felt like a lone wolf on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Advisory Panel on many issues — like calling out the importance of habitat protections for special areas. She was tireless in advocating for clean water in Southeast Alaska as she battled the cruise ship industry lobby.
I spoke to Michelle a couple weeks before she passed away. She was worried about the warming ocean and cod declines. She made a comment about us on the NPFMC being slow in response. And we talked about hockey.
— Buck Laukitis
Local Tanner crab vessels steamed out of Kodiak and Old Harbor on January 18th, with high hopes for a successful crab season. We always leave that way, full of hope. Why else would we keep going out?
The winter Tanner crab fishery is somewhat unique in that it was designed with input from the community-based fleet. Fishermen wanted managers to factor in safety, equity, and conservation into how the fishery operates.
One way managers do this is by using the weather to dictate openings. If the daily weather update for the fishing grounds includes a gale warning, managers delay the fishery for 24 hours. Doing so provides for greater safety and equity in the fishery, as it is dangerous for smaller vessels to travel in rough weather with crab gear on their decks. While it may be an uncomfortable ride for an 80-foot vessel carrying 20 heavy crab pots out to the grounds, it is rarely life threatening. However, for a 42-foot shallow draft seiner, like our boat, it is life threatening and we would have to stay in town. Thus, without the weather stand down, the fishery could be harvested with by a handful of larger boats while the rest of the fleet is tied to the docks. Working together, the fishermen came up with a solution. This year, the season was delayed for three days due to gale winds clocked at up to 106 knots.
The fishery was also designed with input by fishermen to have a minimal impact on Tanner crab stocks. Crab pots can only be hauled from 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night, thereby reducing the mortality of discarded crab—those that are undersized or female. Minimizing the number of times a pot is hauled and therefore how often crab are handled reduces stress on the resource. The daylight-only requirement limits the exposure of discarded crab to colder temperatures in the night. Vessels are also limited to 20 pots, depending on the total allowable catch of crab, which serves to both minimize the impact of the gear on the crab and level the playing field. When the allowable harvest goes up, so does the number of pots the fishermen can use. When the total allowable catch is under 2 million pounds, the limit is 20 pots; as that catch rises, the number of pots allowed stair-steps all the way to 60 pots (when the allowable catch is over 5 million pounds. This year the total allowable catch for the Kodiak Island district is 400,000 pounds, and after a four-year closure due to low crab abundance, fishermen are supportive of the limit and just happy to be fishing.
In a town like Kodiak, which is sustained by fishing, there are few opportunities to make a living other than commercial fishing. As community-based fishermen dependent on the health of the fisheries resource to make a living, many fishermen advocate in the fisheries policy arena in support of sustainable fisheries and opportunities for the next generation. We work hard to share both our experience and knowledge of the industry with management bodies like the Alaska Board of Fish and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Both of these bodies are set up to provide stakeholder input, and policy makers value the contribution of the fishermen to inform decisions. This process, coupled with the influence of strong science, has led to the world-class, sustainable fisheries that are found throughout Alaskan waters. I’m proud to call this state and Kodiak Island my home, and will continue to advocate for policies that sustain the stocks and provide other families the opportunity to make a living from the sea.
AMCC has re-opened the search process for an Executive Director after an initial first round of trying to identify our next leader. Outgoing Executive Director, Kelly Harrell, departed the organization after nearly 7 years at the helm.
AMCC is offering a rare opportunity to lead a thriving nonprofit organization supporting sustainable fisheries, marine conservation, and strong communities. For more than two decades, AMCC has been a respected force in advancing major policies and advocating for marine conservation. The successful candidate for Executive Director (ED) will demonstrate a strong commitment to this vision and have a proven track record as a highly effective and collaborative team leader with demonstrated fundraising skills. Under the direction of a dedicated Board of Directors and working with a highly accomplished staff, the ED will lead the organization into the next chapter of a successful history.
The ED will work with a dynamic board and staff to sustain and increase the capacity of the organization through strategic and annual planning to achieve the organization’s goals. The ED is responsible for all aspects of fundraising, fiscal and operations management, staff development, and program innovation and evaluation. The ED manages an organizational budget of approximately $1 million. The position is based in AMCC’s main office in Anchorage, Alaska. The salary range is $70-80,000, depending on experience.
Applications are being accepted now, and will be considered until the position is filled. Please see https://www.akmarine.org/who-we-are/our-team/jobs-and-internships/ for directions on how to apply and a more detailed description.
An Interim Director has been appointed while our search for a permanent E.D. continues. Our dedicated Board is committed to a successful transition and is working with staff to ensure the organization continues to fire on all cylinders.
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for – the announcement of the 2017 AMCC Raffle Drawing Winners! Thank you to the hundreds of people who purchased a raffle ticket and supported our cause, your contribution will go a long way in helping us maintain healthy oceans and thriving coastal communities. Now, for the drumroll……If your name is on this list, we will be contacting you with instructions about how to proceed. Congratulations and, again, THANK YOU!
AMCC is excited to announce that the application period for Alaska organizations interested in hosting a fishing fellow in 2018 is now open!
If you are an organization working on marine and fisheries related issues please consider hosting a fishing fellow. The deadline for this application period is January 16, 2018. You can submit your application and short fellowship project description at: akyoungfishermen.org
In early 2018, we will select 3-5 organizations to host fellows in the upcoming year. Once we’ve selected host organizations and projects we will put out the call for applicants interested in serving as fishing fellows. AMCC provides each fellow with a stipend. Host organizations provide mentorship, guidance and hands-on learning and leadership opportunities.
You can find more information on AMCC’s Fishing Fellows Program and answers to FAQs here.
AMCC Bids Farewell to Hannah Heimbuch & Jen Leahy; Hiring Two New Positions
AMCC is seeking two talented individuals to complement our current team: a Fishing Community Organizer and a Communications and Development Manager. Deadline to apply for both positions is Monday, September 18th; but apply early as the positions are open until filled.
AMCC bid farewell to Homer-based Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah Heimbuch this summer. Hannah joined AMCC in the fall of 2014 and played an integral role in growing the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network, serving as a voice for fishing communities in Washington D. C., and engaging coastal residents on a wide range of issues from ocean acidification to fishing opportunities and bycatch reduction. We will miss Hannah’s creativity, character, and unrelenting wit, but we are thrilled to know that she will be able to spend more time on the water doing what she loves. Hannah will be focusing more of my energy on her fishing business and creative opportunities while continuing to support the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network as a steering committee member and volunteer.
In September, AMCC will also say goodbye to Communications and Engagement Manager, Jen Leahy. Jen has been with AMCC since early 2016 and has helped enhance social media engagement, improve our outreach materials, ramp up marketing for Catch of the Season, and increase our presence in Seward. The organization is restructuring this position back into a role based in Anchorage and responsible for both communications and fundraising functions from our main office. We thank Jen for her dedication to AMCC and her work during her time with us.
Thank you to everyone who purchased Bristol Bay sockeye salmon shares through our Catch of the Season program this year! Our salmon share ordering period is now closed but stay tuned for Taku River Reds coho salmon, Kodiak jig rockfish, and Norton Sound red king crab which will be featured in September.
For those that ordered salmon, the pickup/delivery information for your salmon shares is below. You should have also received the information below on pickup via email from our staff.
**Meet Your Fisherman! We are pleased to announce that Reise Wayner, a young fisherman and member of the Wayner family that caught your fish will be joining us for pickups in Anchorage, the MatSu Valley, and Fairbanks.
**Don’t Forget Your Coolers! Remember if you got a 10 or 25lb. share to bring your cooler for your fish. Those size shares will be bagged and 50 lb. shares will be in boxes with liners.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (907) 277-5368.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
~The AMCC & Catch of the Season Team
Important Reminder: As stated in our terms and conditions agreed to before your purchase, your ability to pick-up your share at the designated place and time is critical to our program. If there are extreme circumstances that prevent you or someone you know from picking up your share, please contact us ASAP by emailing email@example.com or calling (907) 277-5368. Please ask friends and family first if they can pick up your share before contacting us. If you do not contact us and do not pick up your share at the time and place designated and we cannot reach you, you may forfeit your share.
Hannah Heimbuch will make arrangements with you and will be delivering your salmon share to you personally. Hannah can be reached on her cell phone at (907) 299-4018
When: Monday, August 15th
What Time: 10:00am to 7:00pm
Where: Beaver Sports Parking Lot
3480 College Road
*Look for signs, our seafood mobile & a large reefer van that will be parked in the back of the parking lot by the canoe center.
When: Wednesday, August 17th
What Time: Noon to 7:00pm
Where: UAF Matanuska Experiment Farm (near MatSu Regional Medical Center) located at 1509 S. Georgeson Road
Palmer, AK 99645
*Look for signs and our seafood mobile parked near the entrance to the farm.
When: Thursday, August 18th
What Time: 10:00am to 7:00pm
Where: Alaska Pacific University (APU) Farmer’s Market on the APU Campus
Carr-Gottstein Building Parking Lot at 4101 University Drive
*Look for signs, our seafood mobile & a large reefer van that will be parked in the Carr-Gottstein building parking lot.
When: Sunday, August 21th
What Time: Jen Leahy has made arrangements with you and will be delivering your salmon share to you personally. Jen can be reached on her cell phone at (907) 787-9257