Up-and-coming fishermen meet with legislators at summit

Sen. Gary Stevens meeting with fishermen from Kodiak and Prince William Sound. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Haisman

Eight scholarship recipients traveled to a fisheries training and networking event in Juneau, where they met with lawmakers, scientists and fisheries officials.

Cordova District Fishermen United travel scholarship recipients Matthew Adams, Gabrielle Brown, Matthew Maxwell, Patrick Miller, Rita Spann and Nathan Widmann were among 50 people to attend the Jan. 21-23 Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit. Cordova fishermen Andrew MacFadden and Samuel Marchant also received scholarships covering registration fees for the event.

The summit allowed participants to attend fisheries meetings at the Alaska State Capitol and to observe the legislative process in action. Training focused not only on fisheries science, but on public speaking and other networking skills. Participants practiced techniques for making a positive impression with legislators in casual conversation, as well as how to testify in front of the Board of Fisheries and other official bodies. The ins and outs of these procedures can easily seem intimidating to newcomers, CDFU Executive Director Chelsea Haisman said.

Summit attendees also had the chance to chat with legislators including Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, as well as Ben Stevens, chief of staff for Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Attendees also met with professors from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, discussing climate change and the impact of sea ice on fish species like cod.

The summit is designed to equip fishermen to advocate for their interests at the local level, Haisman said.

“It’s an investment in the future of our district,” Haisman said.

Previous Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit attendees have gone on to positions at Cordova City Council and the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Board of Directors Haisman herself attended the summit in 2012.

“Yesterday’s scholarship recipients have become prominent in the community today,” Haisman said. “When I look at the names and the positions of leadership in our community, it’s pretty impressive. It makes me proud of the good work we’re doing here at CDFU.”