Erica Madison is a first-generation commercial fisherman, and owner of Madison’s Salmon Co. An Alaska resident for 20 years, Erica spent 10 years working in the marine ecology field before making the switch to commercial fishing several years ago.
Tell us about your connection to the ocean and Alaska’s wild fisheries.
I am a Bristol Bay fisherman. I set-net on the Naknek and Kvichak Rivers. I have a set-net permit and have been connected to this fishery for three years.
I believe in the promotion of healthy sustainable fisheries. I also want to give support to the communities behind those fisheries and that is what the AMCC does. It is a grassroots organization that is not just looking at the fish, they want the fisherman, culture and ocean to be healthy. As a scientist I found that there was too much “species specific” focus. If you want to make something last, you have to take in all of the parts and pieces. If I as a fisherman can be a part of healthy salmon in the future, then I am on board.
What part of AMCC’s work interests you the most?
AMCC has a lot of great work going on this year. With the upcoming season about to be in swing I am the most excited about the Working Waterfronts project, specifically putting in place a connection between local fisherman and their community. I myself am working with a sea-to-table approach by direct marketing my salmon through Madison Salmon Co. I take pride in knowing that my fish are well taken care of and that locals will know exactly where their fish came from.
What do you love most about fishing?
I was drawn to fisheries because of my at-sea work in the marine sciences. I would see fishermen from afar as I was counting birds and staring at fish monitors and I always thought, I want to work for myself with a species I understand from start to finish. Fishing lets you connect not only to the species you’re working on but also the ecosystem it originates from and the community it directly affects.
What’s happening in the small boat commercial fishing industry that is exciting or encouraging?
It is encouraging to see people take ownership of their oceans and rivers again. Closing down mining projects or damn projects that directly affect salmon is a giant triumph for the salmon. If we as as a fleet of small boat commercial fisherman can come together to protect ecosystems, I believe we can have power in other conservation efforts as well.
I find it scary when I reach out to my friends in the lower 48 and they tell me about cheap “natural” salmon they buy at the grocery store. There is not enough education about where our food comes from, and that leaves the consumer without information about what they are getting. The commercialization of farmed fish is not not only a threat because it steals market share, it also poses genetic threat to wild salmon stocks and spreads disease.
What do you love most about living in Alaska, or in your community?
I live in so many different places in Alaska that I sometimes fear I will lose my community or feeling of community, but Alaska’s great because we take in wanderers, seasonals, and newcomers and treat them like family. After my commercial season last year, I met a woman named Kate Taylor who is an accomplished guide in Bristol Bay and runs her own business Frigate Travel. She took me under her wing and taught me how to fly fish. We talked conservation of headwaters and ways to protect the fishery. She even took a day to come out and learn all about commercial fishing and cheer me on in my work. That right there is community.
Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?
I feel so lucky to have seen Alaska’s waters so thoroughly when I was doing marine research. I also have a passion for traveling over land, and at some point I will make it from Anchorage to Naknek, hopefully on skis. Connecting two places by foot is pretty special.