“Six days after graduating from COA, I was standing on the deck of the fishing boat Myriad in Sitka, Alaska. That kicked my ass—sixteen, eighteen hours a day, day after day after day, moving fish, trying to stand up straight, having a miserable time. When I wanted to quit, when it felt just too hard, I remember thinking, If I fail, I’ll never make it as a fisheries manager. Fisheries courses at COA with Sean Todd and Elmer Beal taught me the value of working with communities, that firsthand experience is essential to succeed.

I had to become a fisherman. I had to understand the perspective and speak the language of people on the water, or everything to come would be a waste of time. So I stuck with it through the season. And I thought I was done. The next April, when I was engineer on the schooner Spirit of Massachusetts, I mustered the courage to do it again. Eventually I fell in love with fishing. It’s different than working nine-to-five. It’s work and life and play and big gray areas between. It gets into your system.

Since then I’ve fished commercially in Alaska and in Newfoundland. I’ve also looked at fisheries in Australia, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, the Caribbean, and now the Baltic. My fascination with the sea took off when I started sailing alone as a boy. I found my confidence in adversity, learning the hard way that whatever happened on that little boat, I had only my wits and creativity to depend on. From sailing to winter fishing off Labrador, working on a boat embodies—literally—a vessel to adventure and the unknown.

For a little over a year now I’ve been the fisheries policy officer with The Fisheries Secretariat in Sweden. It’s a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable fishing practices embedded in thriving communities fishing within the limits of the marine ecosystem. Half my job is participating in the Baltic Sea Advisory Council, which provides fisheries management advice to European Union countries. The Baltic EU countries—Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, and Denmark—each have different cultures and social values. Council members from these countries bring different ways of communicating, too. The sea is our unifying factor, and my earlier fishing experience is extremely valuable.

Our biggest challenge is developing more inclusive and representative governance. Luckily, fishing in Alaska gave me a starting point for how fisheries could succeed. Southeast Alaska hosts diverse, small fleets—and it works.

People are involved in their communities; they’re educated and informed about their impact on the ecosystem. There are a few communities in the Baltic like this too, but I don’t know yet if people are aware of just how good it could be.

Fisheries represent one of our most ancient and intimate relationships. To me, they’re human  ecology manifest, and I’m in awe.”


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