Bellingham to Bristol Bay Women of Commercial Fishing
By Regan Bervar, Alaena Fletcher, and Alissa Vanlandingham
An insular but large community exists in Bellingham, Washington, during the majority of the year: the commercial fishing industry.
For some of the people in that community, commercial fishing is a family business. For others, it’s something taken up on a whim during a college summer. Regardless of how one starts commercial fishing, one thing can be said about the majority of people who spend their summers out on the water: they always come back.
Most fishermen and women living in Bellingham end up fishing in Alaska’s Bristol Bay each summer to fish for salmon. Bristol Bay is currently facing threat from the proposed Pebble Mine, a copper mine in one of the largest salmon runs in the nation. Groups have been organizing for years to fight Pebble Mine, and some in commercial fishing are working to make change in other areas of the industry, too.
Having gotten word of a local organization, Strength of the Tides, which helps women in the maritime industry, we got curious as to who the commercial fishermen in our community are. What we found is that often times, they’re women.
We profile three women, Elma Burnham, Shelly Larsen and Sophia Marinkovich. (Click on their photos below to learn more about these women in the commercial fishing industry.)