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So long, and thanks for all the fish

Posted June 27, 2024

Dear neighbors,

For my last writing as AMCC’s Executive Director, I’ve been challenged to share just three main points with you - lessons learned and wishes for the future. This is what came to heart.

1. Reductionism is risky. 

This point is partly in jest, because I sometimes struggle with writing that doesn't wander, but also very relevant to AMCC’s work. Done mindfully, distilling truth does make it possible to realize what’s essential. Still, it is important to stay oriented toward the expansiveness and mysteries of existence.

Through my investigations into issues AMCC has engaged with in my time as ED, I consistently found that the gaps in understanding which made room for harm and exploitation existed because important context was left out.

Context is inherently relational. And everything, absolutely everything, is interconnected.

This relational worldview is predominant, yet it is not practiced by the institutions affecting fisheries management. Many assumptions made in the name of science-based management defy what is intuitive. But if one starts from deep awareness of the dangerous myth of a mechanistic world, a dead world ready to be “made right” through some measure for order and control, then one can see when gaps in context are trap doors into systems of exploitation.

Take, for example, the five-year-reviews of Essential Fish Habitat, which are absent any consideration of the Essential chemistry of sediment and its disturbance, of how Fish overlap in biodiversity hotspots, or of the basic functionality of Habitat components themselves. Analyses fill out hundreds of pages, take thousands of hours to review, and still allow for the sustainability certification of the world’s largest food fishery that drags trawls along the seafloor in sensitive areas; all while the ecosystem screams in ways that ears can’t hear.

But there are some people who feel deeply what interconnectedness means, and who raise their voices in protest. I wish each of you strength in this practice. Which brings me to:

2. Speaking up makes a difference.

Even while the gears of the machine turn and the dizzying whirring of “Efficiency” dominates landscapes, speaking up for that which is sensible, too complex to know, and sacred is vital. 

In physics, resistance can generally be described as generating heat through exchange. In this line of work, resistance is the art of building power through community.

At AMCC, relationships are built through genuine connection: to fish, to the ocean, to our values and working in partnership with others. Our strength lies in the holding power of grassroots. And when we speak for that which we love and protect, we water the seeds of love that are held within this community.

I have had times in this work where I characterized my efforts as telling a brick wall to tear itself down. In those moments of hopelessness, I was forgetting that my voice was part of a chorus that echoed against and beyond those walls. 

Voice strengthens when we remember that we speak for many, especially those yet to come.

What we honor in word and in ceremony, we keep alive. I wish you abundance and gratitude for the earth’s gifts, and ample reminders that:

3. Joy and celebration are essential to vitality.

A dear friend and AMCC Ocean Guardian, Rika Mouw, once asked me what brought me hope in my work. In a time with pervasive calls to action and reasons to fight, I appreciated the peace that her question brought even before I found words for my answer: that this good earth appears to insist on offering its medicines, even in times of apparent scarcity. 

We are held by these lands and waters, just as our more-than-human kin are held, even through changing social and ecological arrangements. I am reminded every time I close my laptop after an NPFMC meeting to hear the birdsong, notice clouds moving, appreciate rain and wind against my skin, marvel at the transformations of my plant neighbors. I can find no better word to describe the fortitude of the earth expressing itself generously other than magic. That force is beyond what each of us individually can control through our efforts to honor and protect it, though it remains important to help awaken people to their constant connection to our earth and ocean home.

And there’s no better way to share that love than to live in love. 

This realization came to me as I looked for ways to maintain my energy for my advocacy. I am replenished by the art of harvesting, transforming and sharing food. The bright, glimmering scales of a fresh salmon are more valuable to me than diamonds. Running a blade along bones produces vibrations that are music to my cells. The broad smiles and bright eyes of cherished elders holding fresh fish is more fulfilling than a paycheck. In the depth of winter, I came to understand that my spirit needed more time with these medicines in order to be replenished with joy and celebration, and I made the decision to pass AMCC’s torch to its next leader.

This organization is now thirty years old, and its mission spans generations. It is vital that each of us holds fast to that which we love about the ocean, that we speak to it with conviction, and that we recognize and celebrate our interdependence. This will be a lifelong learning project for me, one that will continue to inform my advocacy for the ocean, its critters and our fishing ways of life.

My advocacy will continue, as will my support for the community of AMCC. I ask that you join me in AMCC’s Tide Pool as a monthly member. I’m beginning my next chapter by committing a dollar a day to this essential work to protect what I love, and what loves me back.

Thank you all for your support over the years. My gratitude can’t be captured in words, but I hope to live it over my lifetime.

I wish you fair winds and following seas, and of course, good fishing.


Marissa Wisniewski

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