By AMCC Staff
Our team recently traveled to ComFish 2017 in Kodiak. Hannah Heimbuch and Theresa Peterson reflect on opportunities for fishermen to become more engaged in key issues affecting their businesses.
As our communities and fisheries evolve, the work of fishing has developed in conference rooms as much as over water. Intricate management and policy processes—aimed at shaping dynamic and sustainable harvests—are designed to include input from stakeholders. Even so, the demands on deck often supersede a trip to a meeting or writing a letter, and the relatively complex process can serve as a barrier to those already working full time to make their businesses run.
Alaska Marine Conservation Council has maintained a strong focus on stakeholder engagement at multiple levels of policy processes, encouraging fishery dependent community members to engage where and when they can. This was most recently reflected at ComFish 2017 in Kodiak, where AMCC hosted Dock to Conference Room, a panel discussion focusing on opportunities for stakeholder engagement.
Presenters included Theresa Peterson, a North Pacific Fishery Management Council member; Sue Jeffrey, an Alaska Board of Fisheries member; Natasha Hayden of the Native Village of Afognak; and Bruce Schaectler from the Kodiak Seiners Association. These individuals hail from a multitude of management bodies as well as groups representing unique stakeholders in our marine ecosystem. They discussed the diversity of opportunities to be involved in the decisions that shape the resources we rely on, from joining your local gear group or regularly tracking fishery news, to providing public comment on vital decisions or building community momentum around a change you’d like to see in your fishery or waterfront.
They also discussed dynamics of current engagement. Hayden described the value of strong mentors and learning opportunities, as well as a serious need for more young stakeholders at the table. The time to work with and learn from your mentors is now, she said, before the weight of management decisions rest squarely on the next generation.
AMCC had another opportunity to set engagement in motion during ComFish, through a fishermen round table discussion on ocean acidification. Dr. Bob Foy hosted a dynamic two-hour conversation with community members at the Fisheries Science Center. This dialogue dove into the complexity of OA research and impacts, and explored support for multi-faceted ways to tackle essential monitoring as well as the funding and engagement it requires. “If we don’t monitor ocean acidification, we won’t know until it’s too late,” Foy said.
Though OA issues and their potential impact on Alaska’s marine resources become more concerning all the time, funding streams for programs that collect this baseline data are often unstable. AMCC continues to engage with fishing communities on OA issues, recognizing their role in communicating the importance of OA science and the adaptability it can afford sensitive coastal economies.
This conversation demonstrated the depth of interest from fishermen on OA, including how they can be effective in better understanding this issue. Participating in citizen science programs and advocating for research funding are two good places to start.
To stay current on ocean acidification news and happenings in Alaska, join the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network (see “Subscribe to List Serv” at the bottom right hand corner of the home page).