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Field Notes: Elevating Alaska Fisheries Issues in Newfoundland

By Rachel Donkersloot, Working Waterfronts Program Director

 It’s a great time of year. Mornings are cool, my newsfeed is filled with photos of buckets of wild blueberries, and recently I got stuck behind my first school bus of the season. We are headed toward fall. Onward. But what a summer! 

Amidst the community festivals that AMCC attends throughout Alaska, I spent a week in St. John’s, Newfoundland where I presented on AMCC’s work at the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) Conference. Newfoundland captured a piece of my heart early on in life through books like The Shipping News, Mark Kurlansky’s Cod, and Lament for the Ocean. I presented two papers at the conference based on collaborative work I’m engaged in with Dr. Courtney Carothers of UAF and other members of the Graying of the Fleet project team. One of the big messages I wanted to bring to IMCC from Alaska was the need to understand fisheries as complex socio-ecological systems, and to recognize community dimensions as fundamental to the sustainability of healthy fishery systems.

In our paper on reconstructing stewardship, Courtney and I cha

llenge the underlying assumptions driving fishery privatization processes, especially the validity of the ownership-promotes-stewardship thesis. We argue that the outflow of fishing rights from fishing communities, now a predictable outcome of ITQ management, is antithetical to the goals of resource governance and fishery conservation today. I underestimated the value of presenting our work to a room full conservation scientists, some of whom don’t fully see the ways in which conservation tools are felt onshore.

Newfoundland did not disappoint. I made it to Flatrock via Middle Cove. I hiked parts of the East Coast Trail and drank beer in the fishing village of Quidi Vidi. Every evening I walked along some rocky trail of the coastline from vista to vista, all with fellow Alaskan, Willow Moore, who was there to present on the great work being done by Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association. I met many men who used to be fishermen. People there still talk about what it was like before the cod crisis. In Alaska, we sometimes refer to fall as the start of ‘meeting season.’ As advocates, researchers, fishing organizations and fishery managers it’s a great time of year to reassess where we’re at and where we strive to be in managing fisheries and maintaining community access. Onward.

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