Kids going fishing                                         Credit:

The way that fisheries are managed determines the tempo for fishing families’ lives.  Managers set the dates and times…the when’s and where’s and who’s … and the amounts that fishermen can catch, plus other rules.  What happens to the families when any of those things change?

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“And I think those are important for management to consider and try and integrate into the decision making process because there really are universal themes coming up as far as how management changes have affected fishing families.”

 Marysia Szymkowiak  is a Social Scientist at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center based in Juneau. Her fishing families project has held scoping meetings across Alaska to learn how big management and environmental changes have affected their lives. She cites, for example, the shift to halibut quota shares in 1995. That hurt the paychecks of many women.

“When the IFQ program was implemented she could no longer participate because the season had become too long and it conflicted with her responsibilities as a mom.”  

 A lack of access combined with a lack of some fish is on families’ minds in Alaska.

“For some families there is less of a buffer when a stock declines in terms of their ability to diversify within fisheries. This can really lead to stress within families, having to seek outside employment, and can really change the social fabric of fishing communities. That’s a big thing emerging.”

 The scoping meetings so far have yielded oral histories of thousands of years of cumulative fishing family knowledge, Szymkowiak says.

“It’s really this wealth of knowledge and information that we haven’t tapped into in the past and I feel so privileged to be able to talk to people who have all this knowledge and experience and information and really heartfelt stories about fishing families and the kinds of things that are built from that experience.”

One theme is clear: a sense of pride.

“In terms of shaping young people and creating a work ethic and a sense of place and community.19 A is a sense of resilience and adaptation and innovation within and among families that I think is important and a sense of value beyond the economic component of participating in fishing.”

A fishing families workshop is set for Monday, June 4 at the Kodiak Convention Center.