Salmon Sisters and Xtratuf sponsored two young fishermen, Casey Coupchiak and Baxter Cox, for the 2023 Young Fishermen's Summit in December. As past participants and young fishermen who have gained both knowledge and camaraderie at the summit, we are big believers in the value it offers the next generation of fishermen in our industry. The fast-paced program put on by Alaska Sea Grant welcomes fishermen of any age who are interested in learning more about owning and operating a commercial fishing business. The summit provides three days of intensive training and networking opportunities to create leaders in the Alaska commercial fishing industry. Young fishermen have the opportunity to learn from industry experts in fishing business management, the fisheries management process, and the role of Alaska seafood in the global marketplace. Casey and Baxter, who have experience working in gillnet and longlining fisheries, were excited for the opportunity to attend the recent summit and share their takeaways with the Salmon Sisters community!
“I don’t know what I was expecting attending an Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit in person. The only one I had attended was virtual, during Covid in 2021. I have been commercial fishing since 2011, when I inherited my grandpa’s drift permit and I grew up subsistence fishing with my gramma every summer.
I arrived at the downtown Anchorage Marriott with my younger brother, who is also a commercial fisherman. We sat at a table up front with other young fisher people we hadn’t met. As I looked around the conference room I started to see some familiar faces. Alaska may be the largest state, but working within certain industries you start to realize just how small and connected we all are.
Julie Matweyou welcomed all of us and we got to go around the room and introduce ourselves and what fishery/fisheries we took part in. Our keynote speaker was a seasoned fisherman, Duncan Fields, out of Kodiak. On the first day we learned an “Intro into the Business of Fishing” i.e. starting a fishing operation, financing, taxes, etc. We learned of the fisheries regulatory process and issues directly important to us (individually). We had a safety meeting and the importance of knowing what to do in intense, real-life situations while aboard a fishing vessel and what could and should be your responsibilities as a deckhand, captain, and crewmember.
My favorite speaker of day one was Quentin Fong, an Alaska Sea Grant Seafood Marketing Specialist. He talked about Alaska Seafood Markets here in the U.S. and abroad and how it affects fishermen. This was the most interesting to me because I am a commercial fisherwoman and I direct market my own catch. A few others talked about this topic, but Quentin’s presentation was captivating and he is very knowledgeable on the subject.
We ended the first day with a social meet up and dinner. There we were able to converse with other attendees and get acquainted with our presenters from the day. It was amazing to have one-on-one time with both! I was able to pick Quentin’s brain and have a conversation, rather than asking a question to the entire conference.
Day two was also very interesting. We started the day where we sort of left off from the night before in smaller groups. In the groups we discussed the issues important to us and day two we were able to speak about them with the other fishers. After discussing as a whole we broke out into two larger groups and prepared for a mock regulatory meeting. Meaning we were able to prepare a short 3-5 minute speech on the issues we believe the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council should address and why.
This was pretty daunting if you weren’t big on public speaking, but after having the smaller group discussions and the first day done and dusted, I felt comfortable expressing my concerns. Our presenters, those seasoned within this industry, gave us critical, helpful feedback. We were able to express the concerns we had from first hand experiences and tweak our testimonies for future, live meetings.
We continued “The Business of Fishing” after the mock meeting and then dove into Fisheries Science and Management. This one was specifically important to me because our presenter was an Alaska Department and Fish and Game biologist within my region where I fish. “How Salmon Managers Make Decisions” was the title of this session. I thought it was helpful and not. I felt I couldn’t get a completely straight answer. Which is true within the fishing season too. To conclude day two we broke out into small groups and discussed our observations and data we collected ourselves in each of our fisheries. I thought this was also helpful, but could have been more organized and more time managed. Still an amazing opportunity.
The evening of day two we had a reception since day three would conclude after the presentations. I was particularly interested in this meet up because there were guests from the NPFMC, ASMI, CFEC, university scientists, and other fishermen that have stood up and made a difference throughout their fishing career. Networking was by far one of the best things I was able to take away from attending the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit. I unfortunately wasn’t able to attend the last day due to a conflict in schedules. I am a shareholder for Bristol Bay Native Corporation and they started their Leadership Forum on the last day of AK FYS. My brother was able to take notes and give me feedback on what I missed out on day three. I hope that next year I am able to attend the full three days and I am excited to see what new topics and interests they bring! I recommend attending the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit and I am forever grateful for the sponsorship from Salmon Sisters. Quyana!”
"Attending the Young Fishermen’s Summit was an eye-opening experience for both Casey and me. It was remarkable to see so many passionate individuals from all over the state, eager to learn and share their experiences in sustainable fishing. A particularly impactful part of the summit for us was learning about the diverse fisheries across Alaska. Each session brought to light the unique challenges and practices of different fishing communities, yet underscored the common goals we all share: sustainability, environmental stewardship, and a commitment to the longevity of our industry. These discussions not only broadened our understanding but also fostered a sense of unity and purpose among us. The panel discussions on market trends and adapting to changing ocean conditions offered valuable insights into the future of the fishing industry. Moreover, the networking opportunities were invaluable, allowing us to connect with other young fishermen and industry experts. We left the summit feeling more equipped and inspired to contribute to the sustainable future of fishing. With so much gained from this year’s summit, we are already excited and looking forward to attending next year’s Young Fishermen of Alaska Summit."
If you are a young fisherman who feels inspired to take your career to the next level and learn more about what the Young Fishermen's Summit has to offer, you can find more information and past years' presentations here. For more helpful information, check out our blog post Resources and Opportunities for Young Fishermen and Mariners.