OPINION: The seafood industry benefits all Alaskans

As the owner of a commercial fishing boat and sport fishing lodge, it’s easy for me to recognize the importance of the seafood industry for my fellow Alaskans, from sustaining jobs and local economies to embodying cultural connections and a way of life. I know the importance of healthy and sustainable fish populations, science-based management, and healthy ocean ecosystems. Without these, my businesses would fail to thrive — and I know many commercial fishermen and lodge owners across the state who depend on exactly the same factors for their own businesses. Too often sport fishermen and commercial fishermen find themselves pitted against each other in conversations about our state’s wild stocks — when in reality, we all make up the broader community that benefits from Alaska’s seafood industry.

I first started commercial fishing in 1979 on the south end of Kodiak with my mother, uncle and grandparents. I was immediately hooked on fishing. I would sport fish every chance that I got a break from commercial fishing. Fishing taught me the value of hard work as well as educated me on taking care of this valuable resource. My children have learned those same values as they have grown up commercial fishing and working at our lodge. I now have two grandchildren that were born in the last year; I hope to see them have similar experiences and gain the same values and appreciation for this wonderful resource.

The impacts of Alaska’s seafood industry stretch far beyond commercial fishing vessels docked in Naknek and charter captains based in Valdez. All Alaskans — from the Aleutians to the Interior — have felt the benefits generated from this industry in one way or another. Not only does the industry provide fresh seafood to be consumed in the state, it also generates economic activity that reverberates out at the state level. You don’t have to be in a fishing family to benefit from the Alaska seafood industry, and you don’t have to live in a coastal community to feel its positive impacts, either.

In addition to commercial fishing and owning the lodge, I’m also a financial adviser. I know a smart investment when I see one — and Alaska’s commercial seafood industry is exactly that. The industry pays for itself — and then some. Between $5 billion to $6 billion in economic activity in Alaska each year can be attributed to the seafood industry, along with 62,000 direct jobs and an additional 10,500 indirect jobs — all right here in Alaska. I’m proud of those numbers and that impact.

When Alaska’s seafood industry thrives, so does the rest of the state — our position as a global leader in seafood invigorates other industries throughout the state, from tourism to education. Beyond its economic impacts, this thriving industry generates a sense of pride in Alaska and puts on display many of the qualities and values Alaskans hold dear no matter where they live — sustainable resource management, hard work, and deep community connections.

During my short time serving on the Board of Fisheries, I aimed to emphasize these benefits through responsible, sustainable management of all fish stocks throughout the state. Alaska’s seafood industry and its positive impacts do not belong to coastal Alaska alone, and it takes all of us — sport fishermen, commercial fishermen, the Board of Fisheries, and everyone else touched by the industry — to ensure that this industry continues to thrive. Together, we can ensure that all Alaskan communities are able to reap the benefits of Alaska’s position as a global leader in seafood production.

Indy R. Walton is a financial adviser with Edward Jones Investments. He is a third-generation fisherman with 42 years of commercial fishing experience. He also has been in the sport fishing lodge business the last five years. He has four children who are all involved in commercial fishing and the lodge business. He and his wife have lived in Alaska for over 40 years.

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