AMCC launches young fishing program

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC) and the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network announce the inaugural class of the Young Fishing Fellows Program. Included is Homer fisherman Jamie O’Connor.

“The Young Fishing Fellows Program provides rich leadership and learning opportunities for young fishermen in Alaska,” said Dr. Rachel Donkersloot, director of the program, in a press release. “This is part of AMCC’s ongoing effort to support the next generation of Alaska fishing leaders as stewards, advocates, business owners and engaged community and industry members. We are incredibly proud of the talent and passion of our first-year fellows and can’t wait to see their continued contributions to Alaska fisheries and coastal communities.”

The Young Fishing Fellows Program was created in 2017 in the spirit of AMCC’s broader work to support the next generation of community-based fishermen in Alaska. Each fellowship provides unique opportunity, experience and support to young fishing leaders through mentorship, professional development and hands-on learning through fisheries-related projects, ranging from fisheries management and policy, seafood business and markets, fisheries and ocean sciences, and fishing community sustainability and well-being.

The program is tied closely to the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network. Both initiatives work to better connect young fishermen across Alaska to each other, to experienced community and industry mentors, and to the broader suite of resources they need to be successful. The Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network is the vehicle which supports the continued engagement and growth of fellows as industry and community leaders after fellowships end.

The inaugural class of fellows and host organizations includes:

• Jamie O’Connor, North Pacific Fisheries Association, Homer.

Jamie is a fifth-generation fisherman from Dillingham, Alaska. Jamie grew up on her family’s setnet operation on Ekuk beach in Bristol Bay. She graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in journalism and public communication and spent a year building Sen. Dan Sullivan’s new front office and internship program. Jamie’s fellowship with the North Pacific Fisheries Association focuses on fisheries policy and community engagement with key issues ranging from the Bering Sea Fisheries Ecosystem Plan to the Homer Large Vessel Haul Out facility.

• Ann Robertson, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Juneau.

Ann recently completed a master’s of environmental management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Before attending graduate school, Ann spent four years conducting fisheries research while escaping the laboratory in the summer to deckhand on a gillnetter around Juneau. After completing her fellowship, Ann will head to Washington, D.C. to begin a legislative fellowship through NOAA’s Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. Ann’s fellowship focuses on helping develop a small portfolio of fisheries related policy projects, including Fish 101, a written guide to the practical and political world of fishing in Alaska.

• Brooke Wright, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks.

Brooke is Koyukon Athabascan from Rampart, Alaska. She is currently pursuing a bachelor of arts in fisheries. Her family has a long history of fishing on the Yukon and Tanana rivers.

Brooke learned to harvest and process king salmon from her mother and several other matriarchs. She serves as both Commissioner and Interim Chair for the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and is an adviser for the Yukon River Panel. Brooke’s fellowship with the Tanana Chiefs Conference focuses on supporting local resource users in more effectively engaging in fisheries management decision-making bodies affecting the Arctic-Yukon- Kuskokwim (AYK) region.

• Carina Nichols, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Sitka.

Raised in Southeast, Carina grew up fishing with her family. She continues to fish for salmon and halibut out of her hometown of Sitka. Her fellowship with the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) focuses on providing policy analysis and serving on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Advisory Panel. Her fellowship also focuses on outreach to educate and engage other young fishermen in fisheries management through participation in forums and programs such as the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network, and ALFA’s Young Fishermen’s Initiative.

• Clayton Hamilton, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Anchorage.

Clayton grew up in the Midwest but considers Alaska his home. Based out of Juneau, Clayton has been commercial fishing for the past six years. He is the proud new owner of the F/V Dial West. As a fishing fellow, Clayton is working with the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) to maintain and expand the Alaska Ocean Observing Network. His work with AOOS includes interviewing researchers and community members and driving outreach and engagement efforts with stakeholders in fishing communities.

Visit to learn more about AMCC’s Young Fishing Fellows Program. The application period for host organizations to submit fellowship project proposals opened Dec. 13.