Giving Fish and Fishermen a Voice on Capital Hill
For some, this was a first-time trip to Washington, while others had been to the Capitol to talk fish with policymakers before. Regardless, it was a big change from slurping oysters at the Boston Pier just two days prior. It was time to talk policy.
Although our young group has more fishing years ahead of them than behind them, we realize how important it is as harvesters to be aware of how national law and policies affect us. We spoke to Alaska’s U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski about the health of our coastal communities, and how it is impacted in myriad ways by the food and livelihoods provided by fisheries access. Alaska’s other U.S. senator Dan Sullivan was also able to spend time with our group, listening to our concerns about federal policy decisions, such as the protection of community fishing opportunities, and provisions for resource and community sustainability in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
“After meeting with a group of very receptive advisors to Congress members from Alaska and Washington, it struck me that we were sitting in seats left warm by lobbyists against our precise causes,” said Darren Platt, a Kodiak-based fisherman. “There are powerful interests working diligently in the Capitol to undermine the long term well-being of fishing communities. One can only hope that a group of bright-eyed and passionate young fishermen can form a compelling enough voice to help subvert the influence of these well organized and financially endowed interests.”
Through the AMCC’s partnerships with other small-boat fishery groups, we were able to observe the complexity of finding common ground among the nation’s diverse fishing interests. We learned from meetings with policy leaders, congressional staffers, and lobbyists about current issues and how diverse entities approach policy development.
We also tested the waters for our future in this national arena, developing expectations and goals for the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network going forward. We saw that our ability and willingness to build relationships and find solutions amongst a diverse group of people and fisheries is essential to our future in fish.
We’v e become fishermen in some of the best run fisheries in the world, and we have high standards for management, equity, and conservation. We are also acutely aware of the significant challenges that coastal communities and industry leaders across the nation face as policies and fisheries evolve, ecosystems shift, and major economic drivers challenge the stability of and access to our marine resources.
Our vantage point is a strong one: we are well-informed, invested, and conscientious food harvesters with our careers at stake. As we make choices to build businesses and raise families in the fishing way of life, we are deeply committed to the long term health of coastal communities and their fisheries.
In short, we are an essential resource for people trying to make good decisions about fisheries management. This small group—and our many peers at home—will be the leaders of the next fishing era, with the potential, and perhaps the obligation, to be far less enamored of status quo policies, aging fish wars, and expectations created by yesterday’s catch. As an emerging network of independent fishermen, we are inspired and motivated by the D.C. visit to take serious steps toward growing the skills, knowledge, and relationships needed to be excellent ambassadors for our fisheries.