Creating a Way of Life by Will Saunders, Jen Jackson and Maria Kjellstrand

Salmon run through the heart of Cordova. Whether fishing commercially or for subsistence, salmon are vital to both the industry and the identity of the region. There are good years and there are bad years; Each generation of fishermen faces change. As waters warm, changes in climate are perched to become the metaphorical albatross to these literal mariners forced to battle the consequences of human actions. Fishermen are among the first to feel these changes, and it will not be the first time they have felt a disruption in their ecosystem.


In 1989 when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground, the fisheries were devastated. Still the fishermen returned, unlike the herring that disappeared in the spill. Nature is resilient, but the impacts of this man-made disaster are still felt decades later.


While they prepare their boats for the opening of the season, some fishermen are doubtful towards this years catch, but most are optimistic. The ups and downs are fresh in their memories. There are scarce years full of worry, and flush years full of fish. For these fishermen, whether this summer is their first or their fiftieth, salmon create more than an opportunity. The salmon create a way of life.

“I got a job on a seine boat on the first all-girl crew on a seine boat in southeast Alaska in 1978 and so I had to learn how to do nets then. (Basically) how I got into it is, I got a job on a boat and then I was forced to learn all the stuff that went with it... Well on a day like this, there's nothing better. I mean look at it, it's absolutely gorgeous... But you know yesterday, I worked for nine hours in the rain, so yesterday didn't rock. But today I'm happy." - Monica Caulfield