by Homer Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah Heimbuch
There’s no place like home. And in my case, that place is Homer, Alaska, location of the first ever Homer Halibut Festival. We set aside a lovely fall weekend in September to kick off this festival of the flat fish in the Halibut Capital of the World, and we couldn’t have asked for a better year-one shindig. We set out to celebrate the halibut resource, to share some great information and great food with the community, and Homer showed up in droves to make it happen.
We hosted some fantastic speakers from Seattle, Anchorage and Homer who filled us in on halibut ecology, examined economic dynamics from the international market to businesses in our own backyard, and provided insight into the policy process that manages the incredible economic and ecological engine that is the halibut fishery.
Did you know that halibut larvae spawned in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska drift on major Pacific currents back to the Bering Sea nursery where they mature into those adult fish we all love? Did you know that the sport halibut fishery has become one of the growing avenues for young people to enter into a fishing career? Or that Homer’s commercial halibut landings have often been higher than any other port in Alaska? Those are just a few of the many things I learned from the great presenters on September 19th.
The community meal was a testament to the power of local food — feeding at least 300 people with halibut donated by local fishermen and produce from many of our local farmers. At the Halibut Cabaret we had musicians and storytellers sharing the personal side of the fishing life, and a generous showing of community support through donations and auction bids on the fabulous buoys donated and decorated by Homer fisherfolk and artists. The Halibut Hustle, a 5K run that zipped us around the harbor trail on Sunday morning, had a great turnout of weekend runners.
The other piece of this that I want to celebrate are the dozens of volunteers that gave their time and resources to help plan the festival, paint buoys, prepare food, put up posters, staff events and more. Dozens of businesses donated funds, goods and services — without which the festival would not have been possible. The community of Homer and beyond truly showed up to make the Homer Halibut Festival a reality.
What did all of this show me? It showed me something that I already suspected — that fisheries are a vital piece of culture and economy here in Homer; and that our community, and many others along the coast, is tied in countless ways to the marine ecosystem. And finally this reminded me that the working waterfronts across Alaska and their coastal residents are vital pieces of the marine web. We are fishermen, neighbors and marine stewards, and together we represent the past, present and future of Alaska fisheries.
Thank you to all of our generous sponsors!
International Pacific Halibut Commission
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Representative Paul Seaton
Alaska Boats & Permits
Captain Mike’s Charters
Homer Chamber of Commerce
North Pacific Fisheries Association
Preventive Dental Services
Salty Girls Gifts and Booking
Alice’s Champagne Palace
Coal Point Trading Co.
Paul and Jennifer Castellani
F/V Captain Cook
F/V Dangerous Cape
F/V Nuka Point
Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
Kachemak Bay Running Club
La Baleine Cafe
Land’s End Resort
*For more information about how you can get involved in next year’s Homer Halibut Festival, you can contact Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org. And be sure to check out homerhalibutfest.org.