Last Friday was Julia Tawney’s first time catching a salmon, something she has wanted to do since she moved to Alaska one year ago as a Jesuit Volunteer with JVC Northwest. The adventure began at 6 am with a stunning boat ride to Cape Edgecomb with a stop at Lazaria Cave. Though early, it was already bright and sunny.
Once they arrived and giddy with excitement, Julia and her friends began to fish. Unsuccessful at first, they were afraid that the whole day would be filled with bad luck, but they were soon proven wrong. They reeled in a few silver salmon, then a king bit the bait. Julia began to reel the fish in, and the joy on her face was contagious. She says that the feeling of pulling in such a strong, glimmering, fish was incredible.
Beyond the excitement of reeling in a fish is something deeper: the experience of sharing the bounty with friends and community. From eating a fish caught that day to having fish to share with others for months to come, Julia says that the whole experience of catching her first Alaskan salmon connected her to the land in a new way. In Alaska, sense of place is tied to sense of food.
Through living in Sitka, Julia has grown to treasure the opportunities to harvest wild salmon and game. Julia was a vegetarian for eight years because of the disconnect between food and plate, but being in Alaska has changed that for her. Because of access to public lands, people in Southeast are able to have autonomy over the foods they eat, including salmon.
Alaska is the only place in the world where wild salmon continue to thrive, and it’s critical that it remains this way. Currently, Alaskans are working to strengthen the laws that protect wild salmon habitat. Currently, there is no definition of what constitutes “proper protection of fish and game.” This language is too vague to guide decisions on projects that have the potential to harm our salmon. By updating this law, we can ensure that our wild salmon runs remain healthy for generations to come.
To take action and Stand For Salmon, text SALMON to 877-877 or go to standforsalmon.org/action.