Alaskan Salmon Fishing Community

Unity of fishers

Fishers are united by numerous social factors. Their mutual reverence for the fishery as a whole contributes to shared cultural values, norms and ideologies among fishers, and creates an what is termed an "occupational community" (Miller and Johnson 1981). The isolation and remoteness of Alaskan salmon fishery locations unifies fishers in their endeavor. Canneries draw fishers together by providing a place for social relaxation and communication.

Cliques of fishers exist to share information about fishing opportunities. Such small, private groups are often based on kinship and create synergistic benefits of sharing information while maintaining the fundamental independence of different boats. Fishers also cooperate in emergency situations by helping repair nets or towing broken boats (Gatewood 1984). They have also formed economic alliances of fisherman's associations to function as unified political groups.

Motivations of fishers

A sense of identification with the Alaskan salmon fishery and the other fishers involved in it derives from comomon experiences of the benefits and drawbacks of the fishery. The fun and adventure of fishing is countered by the risk and danger associated with being on the open ocean. Fishers experience continual underlying fear of being beached by tides, drowning in one's own nets or being attacked by bears. Fishers enjoy the ability to work for themselves and to work outdoors with friends. Fishing in Alaska also provides a unique sense of solitude and pioneering because of the remoteness of the fisheries (Kizzia 1996). The isolation and independence associated with salmon fishing cause fishers to resent government restrictions on their freedom to fish.

There is prestige and pride associated with large catches and associated "bragging rights", which makes quotas limiting catch size socially undesirable (Gatewood 1984). Harvesting salmon is like gambling in that it is a quest to make a lot of money in a short amount of time. Fishers experience a sense of urgency and anxiousness that can "turn your hair gray" due to the limited season (Anchorage Daily News 1996). Potential economic profits from fishing are an obvious advantage and motivation to fish and can help pay for additional expenses such as children's college educations. But the profits from salmon fishing cannot compare to those once earned in failed markets of Alaskan cod and halibut that many fishers used to participate in. This loss of income impacts families of fishers severely (one fisherman attributes his divorce on the excess of salmon on the market (Busch 1996). Fishing involves long trips away from home and family that can also affect fishers personal lives (another Alaskan salmon fisherman quit because of his separation from his new son) (Alaska Journal of Commerce 1985).

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