Marissa Wilson hails from the seaside hamlet of Homer and has spent time on boats fishing halibut, sablefish, and salmon. Throughout her life, Marissa has always had a deep appreciation for the ocean and what it provides. Studies in anthropology and work in the nonprofit sector inspired her to turn what started out as a summer job into a lifelong commitment to preserve the ocean-dependent lifestyle that she and so many others hold dear. Marissa serves on AMCC’s Board of Directors as secretary.
How long have you been commercial fishing? What drew you to this work?
I am what is referred to as a “boat baby.” My connection to the ocean and a fishing lifestyle began at birth; even the prefix of my name, Maris, means “of the sea.”
Marissa catches the king of kings weighing in at 23.9 pounds!
How did you become involved with AMCC?
My involvement with AMCC is entirely thanks to former board member, Pete Wedin. It didn’t take long to bond over our love of halibut, and when the conversation turned to bycatch, Pete told me about the work AMCC did. I immediately felt a sense of duty to the organization.
What truly connects me to AMCC is the community of passionate, spirited ocean dwellers who dedicate themselves to the preservation of this deeply rewarding way of life. Even more than shared ideals, the strength of shared experience is deeply binding.
Why do you support AMCC’s work?
When a fisherman, a coastal resident or seafood consumer supports AMCC, they can expect the best from AMCC’s staff and volunteers. The sheer dedication of this entire group is an inspiration.
What really makes AMCC unique is its ability to address current and emerging issues in our state. With marine environments as variable and susceptible to change as they are, this is critical for the health of all. AMCC’s work is important to me because its core mission supports a way of life that has shaped me both physically and spiritually. Protecting Alaska’s wild fisheries is a no-brainer!
Marissa and Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah Heimbuch, enjoying the inaugural voyage of Hannah’s first fishing vessel.
What is your most vivid fishing memory?
One of my favorite fish stories is actually a conglomeration of stories. I loved fishing from a very early age—standing in the rain, clumsily casting a pixie into the river; dropping a handline over the rail of our longliner; jigging for bait fish in the harbor—but when it came time to decide the fate of my wiggly prey, I buckled. Dad often had to deliver the mercy blow to the head as I walked away, teary-eyed, the hollow thud of a “bonk” punctuating my life choice. And then, we usually ate our catch. I realized, with time, that my love for fish never wavered through the process of turning life into life. I revered my harvest. That, I think, is the best kind of soul food.
What do you see as the biggest threat to your way of life as a small-boat commercial fisherman?
The number one issue facing Alaska’s fishing industry, in a nutshell, is a gap in perception of what our role is on this planet. Some see us as conductors of our environment, others understand we are simply a conduit in it.
What is your favorite kind of fishing?
My favorite kind of fishing is the kind that involves catching!