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No Bycatch: Turn Around and Check the Other View

By Marissa Wilson

Ten summers ago, I heard a story from a photographer that has stuck with me. He was new to Alaska and described encountering a brown bear with her cubs along the Denali Highway, snapping several great pictures, and then turning around to find a smattering of tourists with big grins behind their cameras. His favorite photo from that outing was of the other tourists’ delight, and he said the experience reminded him to turn around and check the other view whenever he found himself in a particularly noteworthy situation.

I’ve applied this practice to my life since. The cover of our impact report, used again here, depicts a sentiment held by many Alaskans who value bycaught species like halibut, salmon and crab. But while “no bycatch” is an anti-industrial sentiment for most Alaskans, bycatch is also an indicator of biodiversity in a dynamic ocean - if biodiversity no longer exists then neither does bycatch.

What if status quo fisheries management is actually supporting a “no bycatch” goal, as we see the ocean continually clear-cut of the slow-growing habitat that supports life as we know it?

The conversation of fisheries management today is about bycatch, to a degree, but it is also importantly about the ecosystem impacts caused by the gear used for that catch and the power of the fleets that wield it. It’s about what’s happening in our ocean commons now because of short-sighted historical decisions with long-term consequences, and it’s also about looking forward to how we will collectively steward a changing ocean so that generations from now, people will still be able to feed themselves and their communities from the waters adjacent to them.

And in the spirit of building the good while fighting the bad, I want to remind you that we’re in the process of creating our third Alaska Young Fisherman’s Almanac, a beautiful and celebrated publication designed to inspire future generations of fisherfolk by featuring stories, art, poetry, tips, photography and other insights from people with lives rooted in the water. This summer, please take time to look back and capture what’s worth remembering for the journeys ahead. Your content is welcome through September 1st and can be emailed to

Wishing a healthful summer season to you, your families and your neighbors.

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