I know almost nothing about fishing. That’s how fishing works. If you gave me a fishing rod or put me on a fishing boat, my hands would feel disoriented because of the equipment. It’s like telling me to sit behind the wheel when I’m fifteen. I call myself the daughter of the ocean, but for me that connection comes from sitting on the beach or swimming.
So when I joined the Marine Conservation Society as a RAY researcher focused on fisheries policy, I worried that I was going too far. I asked myself: “What does this have to do with me? Do I belong here?” Fisheries policy can be fluid, technical and nuanced. A lot of things didn’t come to me intuitively at first. I am learning a whole new language, immersed in a sea of new acronyms.
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But I do know a few things going into this new territory. I know how to stay curious. I know how to read, text and room. I’ve been curious since my mom introduced me to this amazing place called the Chicago Public Schools library. I know I want to learn and listen and I can experience life and its lessons and share it with others. And I know I’m drawn to stories that I believe hold most of the human intellect and transcend any linear time structure.
As I delved into the work, it was these stories that drew me to it. The people and communities that fish, and the scientists and managers who work with them, have a deep connection to marine ecosystems, and they have a deep understanding of these places and fish that resonate deeply with my story and my own.
I know the world through my feet. They are closer to soil and sand than concrete. I know the world through my eyes. They have seen droughts in California, snowstorms in Chicago and the changing landscape of Oahu. I believe that the environment is built into our bones and is everything to us.
The people I talk to about fishing share the same sensory language of place, meaning and purpose. They all share a common concern about the future of fishing in the face of diminishing climate change.
Fish and Us: Waterfront Climate Stories is a series of interviews and stories about the impact of climate change on marine fisheries, told by the people who fish, manage and study fish from the ocean every day. I talk to fishermen, researchers, policy experts, managers and ordinary people who make fishing a reality. As climate change rapidly permeates every corner of our lives, affecting how we eat, how we migrate, and how we ensure fish travel from ancestor to descendant, this podcast calls attention to the impact of climate on fisheries already affecting our lives .
My concern for community and my love for storytelling and writing, combined with my ecstatic curiosity about fisheries policy, is why I’m here as the host of Fish & Us. Nearly two years after my fellowship, I learned that we all have room—and need—to get involved in fisheries policy. I find myself fascinated by how fisheries represent this interconnected network: fish, people and relationships, and the marine environment. Whether through fishing or communicating at the dinner table, most of us are connected to fish and fishermen. We should be deeply concerned that fish and fisheries are changing – have changed – because of climate change.
For the first part of the podcast, I met four incredible people: three fishermen and a fisheries manager. I love every minute with them. They shared with me their core identities, their upbringings, their homes, their memories and dreams of their loved ones, their life’s work, their observations of climate impacts, their doubts, and their hopes.
Fish are valuable to each other, to us, and to our ecosystem. When you factor in climate change, their health and resilience are compromised, and the livelihoods and means of subsistence of fish-dependent communities can be compromised. Our podcast guests told me that some fish are having to find new homes, some are going through decades of disrupted patterns of wildlife interaction, some are losing productivity, their metabolism is changing, and some are going through more than one cause change due to climate change.
Tony, Dave, Michele, and Hannah presented these challenges, but ultimately brought me back to Mariame Kaba’s words: “Hope is a discipline.” They told me that in fisheries management systems that have a track record of success but still have room for improvement, the need for and Difficult decisions will be made to prioritize climate. They say we are better and stronger together when we work beautifully with multiple roles and differences. These stories helped me find my place in fisheries policy. I hope this podcast helps you see your connections too, as we all need to fight for a healthy ocean for all who depend on it.
Fish and Us: Climate Stories from the Waterfront is available on Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify and most major podcast streaming platforms.
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