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Alaskan Artist: Meezie Hermansen, Coho Loop setnetter

Letter To Erin

You asked about my most terrifying day of fishing.  I will tell you, but first, let me tell you why.

I have fished every Upper Cook Inlet salmon season of my life.  Forty-five years, minus however long I was in diapers.  I have never lived without fishing.  I have never lived without fish.

Seasons have been bountiful.  Nets sunk.  Fighting against wind and tide and regulations to get our gear in on time.  Long hours spent bent over picking sockeye after sockeye until my hands were sore, my back was sore, my being was sore — and I smiled.  It was the best kind of sore.

Seasons have been bleak.  Waterhauls and a narrative running from, “it’s still early,” to “everything is running late this year,” to “well, there’s always next year.”

Good years or bad, it has all been satisfying.  Fishing is not just something I do, it is who I am.  It is my passion.  And my identity.

Political pressures grew along with the population.  Our voice doesn’t carry.  What does this one little fishery matter?  But to those of us who grew up in it, those whose families have fished these beaches since the Territorial days of Alaska, it seems like everything.

Most of us work other jobs in the off-season.  I strove to become a veterinarian, and it is a profession I am extremely proud of.  I love my work, yet here is the difference.  I became a veterinarian.  I was born a fisherman.  People ask what it is like, being a woman commercial fisherman.  I tell them I don’t know.  I am not trying to be cryptic; the truth is, I knew I was a fisherman before I knew I was a woman.

I am not naive.  I see the handwriting on the wall.  One of these days, my fishery will merely be a small anecdote in Alaskan history.

My most terrifying day of fishing hasn’t happened yet.  But I fear it is close.  The day they close our fishery, the day I have to figure out who I am when I am not a fisherman… That will be my most terrifying day.

Meezie Hermansen

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Cook Inlet Drifters 

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Cook Inlet Setnetters
 
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Cordova

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Homer

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Seward

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Valdez

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Whittier
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