By Hannah Heimbuch and Rachel Donkersloot
This has been an exciting year for the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network. We’ve celebrated, made new friends, and are laying big plans for the future. It’s been a busy January so far. Network coordinator Hannah Heimbuch and three other Alaska fishermen recently traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, observing the annual meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). Heimbuch, along with Keith Bell and Peter Neaton of Homer, and Carina Nichols of Sitka (who was recently appointed to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Advisory Panel), participate in halibut fisheries that span Alaska’s coastline.
Young fishermen at IPHC’s annual meeting in Victoria. From left: Carina Nichols, Keith Bell and Peter Neaton.
The IPHC process is a robust management collaboration between two countries and multiple gear types, spanning nearly a century. Just as we’ve seen our fleets greying, we’ve seen the same among the leaders and advocates in these important decision-making bodies. As the Network develops, an important part of our mission is giving fishermen an opportunity to experience this and other management and policy processes. Meeting decision makers and mentors in the policy arena, and gaining insight and experience in the process helps expand fishermen engagement and build a new generation of skilled leaders.
Also taking place in Victoria this week was a Young Fishermen’s Gathering geared toward supporting young harvesters in British Columbia, the first of its kind. Our group took some time to participate in this important discussion, an event modeled after Alaska Sea Grant’s robust Young Fishermen’s Summit. This gathering has been an excellent time to learn from those in other sectors, and better understand our shared strengths and challenges as North Pacific fishermen.
In other developments, Network participants around the state are gearing up to support spring workshops and events, including a fishing finance workshop in Sitka, a ComFish panel in Kodiak and a young fishermen’s happy hour in Anchorage. Details for these events are still developing, but we’re excited to see the Network helping to create regional opportunities that support their fishing businesses and communities. On the creative front, the Young Fishermen’s Almanac is underway and in the policy realm, the Young Fishermen’s Development Program continues to gain Congressional support.
In the coming year, the AYFN is going to be growing in some important ways and we’re going to need lots of help and ideas along the way from folks like you. We’re putting together a steering committee and regional AYFN chapters that will help create a vision for the AYFN in the future. If you are a young or a more experienced fishermen that wants to be engaged, please reach out to Hannah Heimbuch.
Young fishermen at the Network’s Fishmas event in Homer in December.
As part of this growing effort, we are excited to announce the pilot of the Young Fishing Fellows Program! The program will match the goals and needs of young fishermen today with host organizations across coastal Alaska engaged in fishery-related issues and projects. The aim is to provide young Alaskan fishermen with valuable learning, leadership and career-building opportunities through projects focused on fisheries management/policy, seafood business, fisheries and ocean science, marine conservation, or fishing community sustainability issues.
We are currently working with potential host organizations to develop and refine fellowship projects and plan to place 3-5 young fishing fellows in the next year. If you are interested in learning more about the Fishing Fellows program, please contact Rachel Donkersloot.
If you would like to learn more about developing the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network in your community, please contact Hannah Heimbuch to sign up and join the Network’s Facebook group. Stay tuned for more information!
Hannah Heimbuch is AMCC’s Community Fisheries Organizer. Rachel Donkersloot is AMCC’s Working Waterfronts Program Director. Both can be reached via email or by calling 907.277.5357.