"The conference was a forum for concerns and ideas about commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries and the value they bring to Alaska's communities," said Doug Mecum, Acting Administrator for the Alaska Region of NOAA Fisheries. "We discussed the profound and rapid changes to various fisheries in the last 30 years. We also talked about projections for the next 30 years-the challenges and opportunities that may be coming at us and ways to ensure economic vitality."
"This conference built on another held in 2005 titled "Managing Fisheries, Empowering Communities," said Paula Cullenberg, who chaired the steering committee for the Conference, and who is Associate Director of Alaska Sea Grant and head of the Marine Advisory Program with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "The main goal of the conference was to give Alaskan coastal community members a chance to interact with each other and with managers in an open, creative, forum so that new ideas could be explored."
Speakers from Kodiak, Sitka, Old Harbor, Petersburg, Naknek, and a number of other communities in Alaska all noted both the value of fishing to their community's economy and quality of life, as well as major changes ranging from global market impacts to new limited access programs. Norm Wooten, Executive Director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce stated during his presentation that the fishing and seafood industry in Kodiak provides over 2,000 jobs, and significantly impacts school funding and the city's tax base.
Chandrika Sharma, Executive Secretary of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers in Chennai, India gave the keynote speech. She said that "small scale fisheries provide an important source of livelihood, particularly for communities in rural areas, with few other sources of employment," and that "fisheries often form the culture and identity of communities." She advocated that "management systems should recognize the rights of small-scale fishing communities to resources and that they should be part of the decision making process." But she encouraged communities to strengthen their own organizations, to protect their interests.
In the afternoon, conference attendees were broken randomly into two working groups, where they discussed in more depth the points made by presenters.
Conference steering committee members included Cullenberg, Sue Aspelund from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Nicole Kimball and Mark Fina from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Phil Smith from NOAA Fisheries, Dorothy Childers from Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Gale Vick from Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition and Kris Norosz from Icicle Seafoods. Conference sponsors also included NOAA Fisheries, Norquest Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, and Ocean Beauty Seafoods.
Conference proceedings will be available later this year. Conference presentations can be found under meetings at www.alaskaseagrant.org
"Given the strong positive feedback, another fishing communities forum may be organized for next year," said Cullenberg.