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Alaska Fish Factor: Fishing Lives and Wives to Hit US TV Screens

15 February 2016
 Alaska Fish Factor: Laine Welch Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska’s seafood industry for print and broadcast since 1988. She also has worked ‘behind the counter’ in wholesale and retail seafood businesses in Alaska and Cape Cod, MA. Laine lives in Kodiak, Alaska.

US - Fishing lives and fishing wives are set to be showcased for a national audience; one as a documentary and the other, on reality television. The first, an hour-long feature called Last Man Fishing, focuses on the lifestyles and challenges facing our nation’s small-scale fishermen.

“We’re from Indiana and we realized there is a disconnect between the consumer and where their fish is coming from,” said JD Schuyler who is co-producing the documentary with his wife, Kelley.

“We want to bridge the gap of people appreciating seafood, while also understanding the struggles of the small scale fishermen.”

The Schuylers, who have long been involved in the sustainable foods movement, first made the connection with fishermen/co-owners of Sitka Salmon Shares, a “boat to doorstep” seafood company with hubs in the Midwest.

“Working with them allowed us to learn a lot about small scale fishing and see some of the struggles some have,” JD said. “With our historical connections with food and small-scale farming, it really connected with us and motivated us to start the project.”

“We’ve learned a lot about how fisheries are being privatized, and how that keeps the younger fishermen from entering. It really makes it difficult for people to get into the trade,” he added.

The team has since filmed fishing lives in Kodiak, St. Paul Island, Maine and the next stop is the Gulf of Mexico.

“A lot of people are losing their livelihood and the coastal communities are losing families and generations of practices and culture,” echoed Kelley. On the flip side, the documentary highlights how many fishermen are now making their own inroads with direct sales to chefs and other consumers, and learning how to get the most value out of their fish.

“We’ve seen that in Southeast Alaska and in Maine, and I think that is empowering small scale fishermen,” she added.

To help tell their story, the film makers have launched a $35,000 Kickstarter campaign in hopes of getting Last Man Fishing on the national film festival circuit next year.

“This isn’t about us making money,” the Schuylers said. “It’s about us telling an important story that is so meaningful to fishermen and communities. We are thankful to be a part of it.” Learn more at and on Facebook at Twitter.

Fishing women wanted - A nationwide search is underway for fishermen’s wives or fishing women who are willing to share their day to day lives with a film crew.

“We want to find a community of women who work together, who help watch each other’s kids - who may not be related by blood, but they might as well be family,” said Amberlee Mucha, manager of talent development for Discovery Studios in L.A.

She added that most reality shows focus on men who fish, and it’s time to put women in the spotlight.

“In all of our research, we have found that fishing is a way of life and it takes a whole community to support it,” Mucha said.

“So we are looking at it from another angle, how the women pull it all together to keep things going.”

“The fishing lifestyle is not just a job or career; it is a way of life,” she added. “And the community supports the fishing and the fishing supports the community. We feel this is a really incredible thing and we would love to see a show that showcases that.”

The producers are looking for a wide variety of personalities, she added, and most importantly, women “who can keep it real in front of the cameras.”

No air date is scheduled for the new program as the crew is still searching for the right fishing town and talent.

Signal saved - Plans to pull the plug on a GPS signal still counted on by many mariners have been put on hold, thanks to an outpouring of comments from sea goers, mostly from Alaska.

Claiming declining usage across the country, the federal government planned to shut down 62 Differential Global Positioning Systems (DGPS) last month, leaving 22 sites available to users in coastal areas. Alaska has 15 DGPS sites; six were scheduled to close.

The DGPS came on line in 1999 to supplement satellite-based GPS. The augmented signal provided better accuracy using land-based reference stations to transmit correction messages over radio frequencies. Many believe it has outlived its usefulness.

“The technology for GPS satellites and receivers has increased so much, the need to have so many signals really isn’t there anymore,” said Petty Officer John Gallagher who serves aboard the USCG Cutter Spar based in Kodiak. “A Federal Aviation Administration study in 2014 showed that GPS without the Differential antenna signal achieved accuracy of position of less than one meter, in most cases.”

That’s fine for open seas, others argued, but operating in harbors, fjords and other tight spots prevents a line of sight.

Most of the nearly 170 comments to the Dept. of Transportation argued in favor of keeping the back up system. A USCG memo said that given the range of comments received, DGPS will get a closer review.

It added that “all lights remain on” for sites in Kodiak, Cold Bay, Kenai, Potato Point, Gustavus, Biorka Island, Level Island and Annette Island. One site - Cape Hinchinbrook was lost due to an equipment failure.

Council names – More than a dozen names are in the hat for two upcoming seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. They would replace members Duncan Fields of Kodiak who has served a maximum three, three year terms. David Long of Wasilla, whose first term also expires this year, could be reappointed. Also in the mix:

  • Alan Austerman of Kodiak, a former Alaska legislator and Fisheries Policy Advisory to Gov. Frank Murkowksi.
  • Linda Behnken of Sitka, is a commercial fisherman, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and a former Council member.
  • Julie Bonney of Kodiak is director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank and has helped shape fishery management structures in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
  • Ed Dersham served eight years on the state Board of Fish, and was a former two –term Council members.
  • Theresa Peterson is a commercial fisherman, and Kodiak Outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
  • Art Nelson is director of the Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association, based in Anchorage, and also serves on the Council Advisory Panel. Buck Laukitis of Homer is a commercial fisherman and past president of the North Pacific Fisheries Association.
  • Paul Gronholdt of Sand Point, represents the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands on the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference. He is also a commercial fisherman.
  • Rhonda Olivia Pitka of Beaver is a village chief and participated in a roundtable discussion with President Obama during his Alaska visit.
  • Jim Sepel of Juneau is a retired Coast Guard commander who served on the Alaska Boating Safety Advisory Council under former Governor Parnell.
  • Rebecca Skinner of Kodiak is an attorney, serves on the Borough Assembly and the Southwest Alaska Municipal Council.
  • Emilie Springer of Homer is a fisherman holds a master’s degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington.
  • Jed Whittaker of Anchorage has been active in Alaska’s Green Party and on various fishing and community-related programs.
  • Governor Walker will soon make his recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval. 


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