Alaska salmon fishermen just enjoyed a record season. Over 266 million salmon were harvested this summer and, although the value is still being calculated, it is likely to become one of the most valuable catches in history. The incredible abundance of salmon in 2013 is unique, but the formula for success is repeatable: healthy habitat, conservative management, a little enhancement and some of Mother Nature’s magic. Hard working fishermen, tendermen and processors prepare and make many sacrifices to have an opportunity for a once in a lifetime harvest. Fishermen compete with each other to do well for themselves and for their families, but the overall benefit to the State of Alaska of our healthy salmon resource is huge. Tens of millions of dollars flow into our coastal communities each and every year.
Although fishermen’s earnings are uneven, I always try to think of ways to give something back to my community. I encourage my fellow fishermen to do the same. The needs are great in our coastal communities. Giving your time, money or talent to the less fortunate, volunteering at a non-profit organization or church, or coaching or mentoring kids are ways that you can make your community thrive. On good years like this, consider donating a sum that is significant for you to your favorite local cause, or establishing or adding to a fund at your local community foundation.
Vibrant community foundations exist in many coastal communities. Philanthropy is an interesting thing. We all work hard to earn and save for our families. But giving can become so much more rewarding than acquiring. We all need to work hard on our fishing gear and boats in the off season, but again, coaching or volunteering or donating some of that hard earned money gives us meaning and can make a big difference in our community. It is puzzling, but the more we give the more seems to come back our way.
I also try to think of those who came before me that have helped make my profession successful. Good management and abundant resources don’t just happen. The work of many people over many years made that possible. And there are many challenges to come. I think it is important to support fishing organizations and marine conservation groups that promote good management and healthy habitats. There are long established fishing organizations in coastal communities across the state. Also, devote some time to city and borough issues and perhaps make a trip to Juneau if that is what it takes to make your community thrive.
Salmon fishermen understand the principal of ensuring escapement. Fisherman collectively harvest only to the level where enough fish are left to spawn to sustain future runs. That is not a sacrifice. It is a necessity. If we do it right, we reap the benefits forever. Similarly if we take care of our communities in times of abundance we will ensure better times ahead. Think about what we can accomplish if we all give something back.
• Buck Laukitis is a Trustee of the Homer Foundation, President of the North Pacific Fisheries Association in Homer and a coach.