Part 3 blog from the Young Fishermen’s Educational Tour #nextgenfishtour
by David Fleming
David, 29, is a third-generation fisherman who was born and raised in Anchorage. He spends his summers fishing Prince William Sound alongside his father and brothers, who are actively involved in the setnet, drift and seine fisheries.
After more than a week on the road we arrived at our final destination: New Orleans, Louisiana. For most of us, this was our first visit to this historical and magical city nestled in the Deep South. After the fast pace of the East Coast, we were all happy to be in the Big Easy—with warmer temperatures and a more mellow, community-focused vibe—for the final leg of our trip.
We were in New Orleans for Slow Fish 2016, the conference’s first ever gathering in the western hemisphere. Fishermen, scientists, chefs, students, entrepreneurs, and Slow Food advocates gathered in New Orleans to discuss food systems issues and preserving local food cultures and traditions.
Many of us felt more at home here than anywhere else on the trip. New Orleans life seemed to tie right in with this philosophy of slowing down the pace. We were happy roaming the streets, meeting locals, and comparing notes with fellow conference goers.
The conference started off a little rocky due to a last-minute venue change because of torrential downpours—20 inches forecast!—and flash flooding possible around the city. Nothing like a little fishy weather to get things started. Many great interactive discussions, presentations, and food demonstrations made for a lively three days. Brainstorming with new friends opened opportunities for future collaborative efforts.
Each day brought something new and we were fully engulfed in fisheries talks with our new acquaintances from all over the world. We were inspired to see some familiar Alaskans who traveled for the conference; it was a great reminder of how tight-knit our community is. We also re-connected with some of our New England young fishermen friends that we had met just a few days prior in Boston. They road-tripped down!
Slow Fish connected us with personal stories and ideas about sustainable fisheries from those involved in our industry. We heard and shared our stories of heartache and pain as well as love for what we do. We were lucky enough to have two of our own young fishermen, Kiril Basargin and Elsa Sebastian, give a personal narrative of their history and strong ties within the fishing industry and their communities in Alaska. Great job Kiril and Elsa!
I had a memorable chat with a gentleman named Jarvis Green. He’s an ex-NFL player from rural Louisiana who returned home after his 10-year career to market local Louisiana shrimp after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I asked Mr. Green why he returned to the Gulf region. He replied, “You should never forget about where you came from. If everyone cared where we came from, our world and fisheries would be in a lot better shape.”
Although we came from various communities, fisheries, and industries, we all shared a common thread at Slow Fish: the passion, respect, and love for our oceans and everything they produce. It was powerful to be surrounded by others who share our deep concern for healthy oceans and sustainable fisheries.
“Listening to fishermen from the East Coast and Gulf share their stories was an immediate wake up call of how lucky we are to have abundant, sustainably managed fisheries in Alaska,” said Claire Neaton, a young fisherman from Homer. “Our generation needs to step up and ensure the same fishing opportunities and healthy oceans we take for granted off of our coast will be available for our children.”
Slow Fish 2016 ended with a unique Cajun-style barbecue known as a “boucherie” which is a day long festival of eating, drinking, and music in a beautiful outdoor setting. It took place at the picturesque Docville Farm in Violet—about 90 minutes south of New Orleans, along the banks of the Mississippi—which looked like a setting out of a Mark Twain novel. We were delighted to see the presentation and preparation of a beautiful hog slaughtered and served entirely from head-to-tail. We glowed with delight while eating pork stew, Cajun-spiced cracklins, and countless other parts of the pig, in addition to local crawfish, shrimp, and other seafood delicacies.
Darren Platt, a young fisherman from Kodiak, described the experience this way: “New Orleans is filled with special places where good food, drink, and music coalesce. Such as a farmhouse on the banks of the Mississippi, where cracklins and boiled shrimp were washed down with ice cold beer, and fish tales were exchanged almost as lyrics to the live Cajun bluegrass.”
Our time at Slow Fish was a great way to wrap up our tour, and I am thankful to have been a part of this great group of fishermen from around our state that were part of the educational journey. I believe that all of us walked away from this experience as “highliners” due to all of the information and knowledge we were exposed to. I know we will all share with our families and communities the power of fisheries, fishing communities and the fishing industry as a whole.
Reach out Hannah to be part of the growing Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the Young Fishermen’s Educational Tour and stay tuned to the AMCC website for future blog posts.
Thanks to sponsors of the Young Fishermen’s Educational Tour: Salmon Sisters, Edible Alaska, United Fishermen of Alaska, BulletProof Nets, United Cook Inlet Drift Association, Marine Fish Conservation Network and many AMCC members!