Like many Alaskans, my childhood was marked by a fascination and unrelenting love of the water. Whether it was the feel of a coho striking my pixie lure in the Eyak River as a child, or the exhausting satisfaction of longlining for halibut with my father in my teens and twenties, Alaska’s waters played an integral role in developing my sense of self. But it wasn’t until 2013 when I started deckhanding for former AMCC board member, Pete Wedin, that my path as a fisherman-conservationist became clear.
After finishing a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Washington, I returned to Homer to find work that connected me to the community. Working as a charter deckhand for Pete was a departure from my commercial fishing upbringing—indeed, it was practically treachery. But seeing the thrill and wonder on the faces of clients as they struggled to reel in their first fish confirmed that the act of harvest satisfies a basic human desire. We are meant to know our food, to understand its story, and ensure its ability to nourish our loved ones. I realized that my role as a commercial harvester and stakeholder in management policies needed to accomplish that feat as well.
The summers I have spent in rubber boots and rain gear did more than shape my shoulders and bank account—they honed my focus. Today, as we are confronting the jarring reality of climate change by witnessing dramatic changes in our oceans and rivers, I find myself called to share a message from the water: the tide has turned. Our ability to predict what’s coming has been muddled, and the tide rip we find ourselves in is full of obstacles.
Fortunately, in the six years I have served on AMCC’s board, I have witnessed the power that a dedicated group of passionate individuals can have in navigating challenges together. From affecting policy change in bycatch reductions to establishing the Fishing Fellows Program, AMCC has been at the forefront of efforts to protect the integrity of Alaska’s waters.
In my new position as AMCC’s Interim Executive Director, I find myself fiercely motivated to not only continue the organization’s robust mission, but to amplify it. I am eager to support the ideas Alaskans have for adapting with our changing climate, through diversifying their small businesses and identifying projects that support their communities and coastlines. I want for this time of transition and uncertainty to be characterized by fearlessness and celebration, hallmarks of Alaska’s hardworking fishermen. I want to double down on what motivates us all.
I look forward to the successes this year is sure to bring, and am thrilled to help shape the future of AMCC.
Marissa Wilson AMCC Interim Executive Director