Fish Aid: Benefit Friday helps Gulf of Mexico fishermen affected by hurricanes

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2005

A group of Juneau fishermen has organized a benefit concert this Friday for Gulf of Mexico fishermen affected by hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

"Fish Aid," inspired by the success of the international "Live Aid" and "Farm Aid" concerts, is set for 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Sept. 30, at Centennial Hall. Salsa Borealis will play, as will two out-of-town guests, Shawn McCole, of Lummi Island, Wash., just north of Bellingham; and Michael Sullivan, of the Boston area. Juneau's Sean Tracey will emcee.

Organizers are asking for $10 donations at the door.

The night will include a silent auction, with art by Alan Munro, Dianne Anderson, Paula Wright, Rie Muñoz, Mark Vinsel, Cindy Burchfield and others. The Alaskan Brewing Co. has donated beer, and Petro Marine, Acme Welding, Maritime Hydraulics and Anchor Electric are also contributing items.

All of Friday's proceeds will go to Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission (AFIRM), a new nonprofit organization formed by Alaska fishing industry representatives with help from Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

What: A benefit concert for Gulf of Mexico fishermen affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

When: 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Sept. 30.

Where: Centennial Hall.

Donations: $10 at the door, ages 21 and older only.

Juneau fisherman Scott McAllister has organized the concert with help from the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and Mark Vinsel of the United Fishermen of Alaska.

"The original idea was to try to get gear to them and supply them with some of the things they need to go fishing, but then you realize that most of them don't even have homes," McAllister said. "They're in the process of trying to put their lives back to where they can get back on the beach. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose everything, including the business, and have to think about going back to sea."

Alaska fishermen and Gulf Coast shrimpers have worked together on a number of issues over the years, including the fight against farmed seafood. AFIRM has talked to fishing organizations in the Gulf of Mexico and will work with Sen. Murkowski's office and governing bodies in the gulf states to ensure that aid reaches the affected fishing communities.

"We're making the connection with fishing groups down there and trying to set up a mechanism with some local government to ensure that the funds get to fishermen and to families in a way they can help people," Vinsel said. "Their fishermen are in need, and our fishermen are chomping to do something."

"It's our hope that we can direct the effort of this aid mission directly to getting our fellow fishermen back in the water," McAllister said. "There's infrastructure to rebuild. There's no place to unload even if you go out and fill a boatload full of fish."

McAllister hopes "Fish Aid" will be the first of many AFIRM events to help fishermen on the Gulf Coast. He's heard from a group in Kodiak that's interested in organizing a relief effort.

"There's been an outpouring of talent and willingness of fishermen to donate their time to this effort and to put this party together," he said. "Fishermen, after the fishing season, they all want to get together and have fun. There's always a reason to celebrate the bounty of our harvest, and when you can put it together with a good cause like this, it's a good thing."

McCole and Sullivan are longtime singer-guitarists who used to busk and play together in the Boston area and the Eastern seaboard. McAllister's cook, Paul Burke, is acquainted with them.

Sullivan is from Boston. McCole is originally from Maine, and moved to the Pacific Northwest about four years ago. He often plays at the Pike Street Market in Seattle.

"They both have musical roots that go to New Orleans, having been influenced by American folk music in the southern region," McAllister said. "So they're going to come together here in Juneau and play together for the first time in quite a few years."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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