The family way

don’t think many people would be surprised to hear that Alaska is turning out a suite of future fishery leaders. They have a Young Fishermen’s Summit, young people in leadership roles at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a healthy industry with growth opportunities (assuming young people can afford to buy in), and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council ran a program this year called the Young Fishermen’s Educational Tour.

It brought together young leaders in fisheries, seafood and fishery management to travel to Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and Slow Fish in New Orleans. If you’ve met Claire Neaton, a 26-year-old lifelong Alaska fisherman, you won’t be surprised to know that she participated in the educational tour. Nor would it surprise you to find that Salmon Sisters, the company she founded with her sister, Emma Teal Laukitis, sponsored the program. Even among a pack of top-notch youth leaders, Neaton stands out. Find out more about this dynamic duo and their vision of the fishing future in our cover story by Monique Coombs (a Maine fisheries leader in her own right) on page 18.

But Alaska doesn’t have the market cornered on future leaders. In Florida, a young couple grew up visiting the Gulf Coast independently and came together to take a chance at running their own fishing business and seafood market in a slice of the state that has preserved its historic charm, culture and character. Katie Fischer and Casey Streeter run the Island Seafood Market in Matlacha with the help of family and friends, including Fischer’s brother, Andy, who manages the market. Read the full story by freelance writer Dayna Harpster on page 22.

Fischer and Streeter represent the future of Florida’s family-run, small-boat reef-fish industry that Eric Brazer and his Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance are fighting for. Brazer’s Dock Talk on page 5 is an update on the ongoing battle over Gulf of Mexico snapper allocation.

The snapper battle heated up when the Coastal Conservation Association entered the fray in an attempt to wrest commercial quota from America’s seafood providers and hand it over to the recreational sector.

Broad-spectrum opposition to state-based management of the offshore snapper and grouper fisheries has slowed down the CCA’s quota grab, but can they be stopped? Gulf Coast fishermen are not the only ones asking this question. If there’s anything we can learn from the future leaders featured in this issue, it’s that we are stronger when we recognize that we’re all in this together.

Family-run businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. fishing industry, and I am truly inspired to see young families taking the reins. A foundation of family businesses is what makes the industry as a whole feel like a large (albeit sometimes dysfunctional) family.

In his Simple Life column on page 8, Roger Fitzgerald jokes about some younger folks in the industry being in their 50s. They’re younger to him, and that counts, right? It’s all about perspective. From where I sit, the future looks bright.

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