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The offer still stands. Last year, at the National Fisherman Panel at the Pacific Marine Expo, I promised to write more personal stories about the people who make up our industry. I want to extend that invitation to you today. 

Since PME '22 and, most recently, '23, I learned our industry is vast with nuances, rules, and regulations that treat each fishery like its own kingdom. 

Yet the people – fishermen, partners of commercial fishermen, families, friends, and supporters –  share experiences that elicit the camaraderie of a small town, with similar joys, needs, and challenges that only we can understand and must stand for. 

In this case, the pen can be mightier than the sword when changing the industry. 

For example, a recent article in National Fisherman titled "Canadian government threatens B.C. closures; what fishing families are doing to survive" spread throughout the Sunshine Coast. It was an interview from the Partners of Commercial Fishermen private podcast with Melissa Collier of West Coast Wild Scallops, explaining their community's two-year struggle working with the government on impending regulations. Sources shared that the B.C. fishing community used the National Fisherman piece as leverage for more online and T.V. media coverage, hoping government officials would notice.

We also want to help you and your fishery achieve that exposure. 

Wielding the power of the pen: N.F. Associate Editor Kirk Moore taking notes during a main stage presentation. (Hey, Kirk!) 

National Fisherman is a credible and reliable source with trusted writers, editors, and publishers who want what's best for the people in the commercial fishing industry, and we want to help make your voices heard. 

Let our team be your soapbox for change.

If you have a challenge or an issue in your fishery that would benefit from media coverage, please reach out to me at [email protected], Editorial Director Jeremiah Karpowicz at [email protected], or Content Specialist Carli Stewart at [email protected], and we will do our best to support you.

If you want to contribute, National Fisherman would love to hear from you! Here's a link to review the writers' and photographers' guidelines to get your images and stories in print: https://www.nationalfisherman.com/about/contribute

Bottom line: we are here for you with options to expand your reach. If you've been waiting, this is your sign to get your story out there. We hope to connect with you soon! 

Our individuality and unity were significantly represented at this year's expo through the education programs featured on the main stage and the National Fisherman booth. (You can read extensive coverage of the Pacific Marine Expo by National Fisherman writers here.)

As a partner of a commercial fisherman with a mission to curate resources to better serve POCFs and their families, my highlights from this year include:

  1. The main stage session on "Mental Health for Commercial Fishermen: Strategies for Addressing Stress on the Water." N.F. Content Specialist Carli Stewart has excellent coverage on this one. Panelists discussed first-hand challenges with mental health as well as a resource called Project Gabe, led by Denise Damewood, a public health nurse who started the organization to provide "opioid overdose response tools, misuse education, and recovery resources in Alaska's industrial workplaces in a manner that is accessible, easy to understand, and easy to implement." Project Gabe was founded in honor of her stepson, who tragically died of an opioid overdose at sea. 

    Panel addressing Mental Health for Commercial Fishermen: Strategies for Addressing Stress on the Water. AMSEA Executive Director Leann Cyr, Ph.D., led the discussion.

I appreciated panelist Tav Amu's personal experience with mental health and the stigma of needing help that may translate into weakness in an industry that is fueled by the mantra to "suck it up." He also touched on the differences between "toxic masculinity" and "grit." Amu, who is the Marine Advisory Program Agent for Alaska Sea Grant, mentioned what signs to look for in yourself and crew members who may be struggling (fatigue, lower patience, irritability, less vocal) and ways to address them (proactive with one-on-one and group conversations to address issues that may be remedied with simple breaks for food or a quick nap, humor, and knowing your limitations). Leading by example will serve green fishermen well as Amu and his team gear up for the Alaska Young Fishermen's Summit (AYFS), a three-day training and networking event in Anchorage, Alaska, from December 5th to 7th. Click here to learn about their effort to help the transition to fish, from deckhand to captain, smoother for all AYFS attendees.

  1. Did you know sexual harassment and misconduct are required to be reported by law as of April 2023? As it should be! The Coast Guard took the stage to discuss commercial fishing vessel safety in Alaska, including the newly enacted law against sexual misconduct to keep mariners safe. According to their website, an anonymous report can be made through the CGIS Tips app, a free download from the App Store or Google Play Store. You can also email Coast Guard Investigative Services at [email protected] or call the Coast Guard's National Command Center (NCC) at 202-372-2100. They are available twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year.

  2. National Fisherman's Dockside Chat's were on fire. Photographer and POCF Bri Dwyer and Highliner Matt Alward, at their discussion called "Money for Fishing: Selling Direct, Grant Applications and More," shared ideas for reliable income streams, grant writing, and how to connect with your audience to keep them coming back for more. 

N.F. Content Specialist Carli Stewart, Photographer and Partner of a Commercial Fisherman Bri Dwyer, and Megan Waldrep
N.F. Content Specialist Carli Stewart, Photographer and Partner of a Commercial Fisherman Bri Dwyer, and Megan Waldrep

Trish Whetstone, who runs the British Columbia Young Fishermen's Network, hosted a heated roundtable discussion on "The Greying of the Fleet" and how we can support young fishermen in the industry. One attendee, who owns a fleet, went head-to-head with N.F. contributor Paul Molyneaux as Paul expressed great passion for the industry, while the other gentleman shared concerns for his children joining the ranks. As the conversation circled to a close, Whetstone left a giant question lingering in the air when she said, I'm paraphrasing here, If you don't support the younger generation into the industry, who do expect to buy your business?" Mic drop.

Trish Whetstone of the BC Young Fishermen's Network leads the roundtable discussion: Buoying of the Fleet: Engaging the Next Generation of Commercial Fishermen.
Trish Whetstone of the BC Young Fishermen's Network leads the roundtable discussion: Buoying of the Fleet: Engaging the Next Generation of Commercial Fishermen.

I must say, the Dockside Chat "Women in Commercial Fishing Spotlight" hosted by Julie Kuchepatov of Seafood and Gender Equality (SAGE) had an impressive turnout. I'm diving deeper into this even in a following article. It was an honor to sit next to Kuchepatov and shed light on the contributions of Partners of Commercial Fishermen to the industry, although mostly unseen and underrepresented. Attendees also discussed the importance of female fishermen and ways to encourage more females to be aboard in safe and supportive environments, both on land and at sea. Another takeaway from our open discussion was learning the need for "succession training" and how we can support fishermen and families looking at retirement or a career change. (More on these topics next week!)

Me sneaking a pic while on the panel with Seafood and Gender Equality founder Julie Kuchepatov for "Women in Commercial Fishing Spotlight."
Me sneaking a pic while on the panel with Seafood and Gender Equality founder Julie Kuchepatov for "Women in Commercial Fishing Spotlight."

  1. Suppose you're wondering who the chick in the sequin jacket was crying to herself while listening to the FisherPoets on the mainstage; that was me. I've known about the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, OR, on Feb 23-25, 2024, but to hear fishermen share from their hearts twisted my insides open to understand better what our incredible fishermen go through on deck and behind the wheel. Picturing my husband on the back deck of a boat in Bristol Bay, face glittered with fish scales and body aching from endless work, made the poems come to life and tears come faster. If you want to understand the fishing community more deeply, consider the FisherPoets Gathering the Holy Land. Learn more on how to attend or stream the event at http://www.fisherpoets.org

FisherPoets: One of several fishermen recited stories and poems on the main stage on PME Day 3.
FisherPoets: One of several fishermen recited stories and poems on the main stage on PME Day 3.

  1. The final and most important highlight for me was the outpouring of support for the Partners of Commercial Fishermen (POCF) community. When I first came to PME as my fisherman's girlfriend seven years ago, I felt like an outsider because I didn't understand our role in the game. What I've learned since is that not only do POCFs belong, but we are essential to the commercial fishing industry by how we care for our fishermen, families, our communities, and holding down the fort (and bookkeeping, raising kids, managing the fishing business, maintaining mental wellness for ourselves families, etc....).

Meeting Alaskan Partners of Commercial Fishermen Shelby Hagen and Grace Hagen at the POCF Parlor Dockside Chat. Welcome to the family! #POCFpride

For that reason, I turned my National Fisherman Dockside Chat into a "Partners of Commercial Fishermen Parlor" to celebrate the centuries of fishermen's partners caring for their families and communities since the dawn of time. Fresh and healthy veggie appetizers were enjoyed by many while hydrating under the blaring fluorescent lights after a long day and connecting with like-minded POCFs, fishermen, and families. As one fisherman said, "This is the healthiest thing I've eaten all day." Mission accomplished. Thanks for joining, and I hope you can come next year! 

Besides meeting our community, my favorite part of the "Partners of Commercial Fishermen Parlor" Dockside Chat was feeding our people! Yummy veggies and fresh water were available to all who entered. Let's do it again next year!

What would you like to see more coverage of? Please reach out to me at [email protected], Editorial Director Jeremiah Karpowicz at [email protected], or Content Specialist Carli Stewart at [email protected], and we will do our best to support you! 

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Megan Waldrep is a nationally published writer, columnist, and founder of the Partners of Commercial Fishermen community for girlfriends, fiancés, and wives of commercial fishermen. As a spiny lobster fisherman’s wife, she aims to connect POCFs worldwide through a private online forum, a podcast with inspirational stories and actionable advice, a lifestyle blog filled with helpful resources and real talk, and daily heart and humor on socials to make partners feel seen, heard, and less alone in this unique and adventurous lifestyle. To learn more, visit pocfpride.com, on Instagram at @megan.waldrep, or listen to the Partners of Commercial Fishermen Podcast on AppleSpotify, and wherever podcasts are available.

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