As a young fisherman the question of how to successfully invest in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry is constantly on my mind. I grew up longlining for halibut alongside my family and have continued to embrace the industry as a central part of my life. I still treasure my parents’ stories of how they first made their way to Alaska, bought a rickety boat, and started fishing for whatever the canneries were buying. However, the industry fishermen are facing today is very different. Higher entry costs and the uncertain effects of climate change are making entering the industry a high-risk endeavor. The young fishermen of today must be more strategic when it comes to reducing their risk and planning for the future of their business.
My Fishing Fellowship with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council was focused on addressing this need for fisheries business planning tools and resources. I worked with the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR) to create a business planning tool called the Alaska Fisheries Resilience Index. This is a self-assessment fishermen can complete on their own to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business, especially when it comes to withstanding and adapting to change. It is comprised of a series of questions relating to business planning, disaster preparedness, marketing, workforce, disaster response, and resource advocacy. Paired with these questions is a comprehensive list of Alaska-specific resources to help fishermen to take the next step and make the necessary changes to strengthen their business. It is intended as a one-stop shop to help Alaskan fishermen with resilient business planning.
While developing the Alaskan Fisheries Resilience Index I was challenged to step outside my comfort zone and become a source of knowledge on the challenges facing Alaskan fishermen. We held focus groups with local industry professionals to get their feedback on how to make the AKFRI better suited to their needs. Through this I learned to guide discussions with fishing industry leaders, and how to use their feedback to improve our product. By hosting these discussions, I gained a better understanding of the challenges facing our industry and the possible solutions. I also grew confident in advocating for sustainable fisheries management and development of resources for our fishing communities.
Most importantly I helped develop a tool that will benefit my community, and I learned how to increase my own fishing business’ resilience along the way. For other fishermen looking to expand their skill set and get opportunities to advocate for their fishing communities, I highly recommend applying for a Fishing Fellowship with AMCC.
More resources and information about the Alaska Fisheries Resilience Index can be found at the NERR Science Collaborative Website.