I grew up on the bounty provided by the waters of Bristol Bay. My son, who is a crewman for me, is a fifth-generation Bristol Bay fisherman. I continue to make part of my living as a commercial fisherman in the Bay. Our season just finished and as a recent commentary noted, we waited anxiously to see what kind of a season 2015 would produce. It started slow and closed with quite a bang. Unfortunately for many of us, the price we will get for our salmon is likely not anywhere near what we’ve been compensated the last several years. It’s simply the nature of the business.
As an Alaska Native and a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman, the end of the season and the potential visit by President Barack Obama leads me to a few observations about current issues. I am concerned about the future of the region and likely not in the way you might expect.
Our region does OK, but we face many challenges. This year many who remain connected to my home village learned the final remaining fish plant will close and the facility will be shuttered due to perpetually high operating costs. Many believe this is a potential death blow to the future existence of a place I continue to call “home.”
I’ve read about the 14,000 jobs associated with the fishery. but conclude many are not “living-wage” jobs. They supplement other income. That’s how it is for me. I live in Anchorage so I can work when I’m not fishing. It’s how my family makes ends meet. It’s how I, and many in my family have lived throughout the duration of our existence.
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