Petersburg is filled with fishermen, who spend much of the year fishing and don’t have the time or opportunity to voice concerns regarding the heavily-regulated industry. This is where organizations such as the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association (PVOA) come in. PVOA acts as the voice for these fishermen, and women, who represent a very diverse, multi-gear, multi-species industry.
After six years, PVOA executive director Julianne Curry is leaving her position.
Curry’s main responsibility at PVOA is to be an advocate for those in the fishing industry in the Petersburg area, but she’s now prepared to leave her post in October.
“It’s time for me to do the next thing,” said the 30-year-old Petersburg native. “It’s been a really amazing experience actually. I really believe in this organization. I really believe in the people I represent,” she added.
Curry started fishing full-time during the summer season when she was 14. She worked alongside her family on the 56 foot F/V Jean C.
Curry, a self-proclaimed fish geek, started longlining for halibut and black cod at 16. After earning a degree in Marketing from Northern Arizona University, Curry began fishing full-time, but soon also took on the duties as PVOA’s executive director.
“There is no such thing as a typical day,” Curry said about her job at PVOA. Her main duties include monitoring the regulatory process, whether that’s through Federal fisheries management in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council or through state regulations through the board of fisheries and the state legislature.
One task of PVOA is to help determine what special projects should be included in the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game budget for the state legislature but PVOA also monitors what happens in Washington D.C with the Congressional delegation, and other issues that affect the commercial fishing industry.
“So, you have to watch on a local level and statewide level and a national level in order to be effective and informed,” Curry said.
Curry has become used to frequent travel and constant meetings, she said.
“We sit, and we watch, and we pay attention, and we talk to people on all of the issues that affect the fishing industry, but especially the issues that affect the people under the umbrella of PVOA,” she said.
There are a few other organizations that work with fishermen such as the Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance (SEAFA) in Juneau. SEAFA represents fishing vessels that are 58-feet and below, while PVOA represents a wide range of fishing vessels 58-feet and above, Curry explained.
“We work hand-in-hand with the people in the other organizations that share similar interests, whether it’s a small boat issue, or whether it’s a halibut issue, or it’s a salmon issue,” she said. “So, we’re not necessarily just hired guns looking out for one client. What we’re looking to do is make sure that we protect and promote the commercial fishing industry as a whole, as well as the fishing industry here in the community,” she added.
Curry also works with the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. ALFA works to monitor, act and protect the commercial halibut and sablefish fisheries.
“It’s very important that we make sure our mutual interests are protected,” Curry said.
Curry admits her job takes a lot of time and energy, but says the experience has been “totally worth it. It’s a pretty amazing way to make a living,” she said. And although she hasn’t committed to any other job past this one, fishing will always be a part of her life.
“There’s just something that keeps bringing me back to fishing,” she said. “I think that it helps keep me grounded. I’m constantly working in the regulatory process. You can get a bit removed from the actual action of fishing, and engrossing yourself 100 percent in the actual act of fishing, you can get removed from what affects your fishing business. So, you need to have a balance of both.”
What attracts Curry to fishing is being out on the open water and working with her hands, she said.
“But it’s more than just killing fish. You get to feed the world with the best protein on the planet, and that’s something to be proud of,” she said.
Curry admits there are a lot of things that are discouraging about the fishing industry today.
“We’re harvesters, like farmers or any other food producers. And we haven’t done as good of a job of providing a face to where this food comes from,” she said. “It’s something I’d like to work on in the future.”
But according to Curry, the Alaska Seafood Marketing is doing a good job at putting a good face on the seafood industry, Curry said. “The American public and the world public needs to know where their seafood comes from. That it doesn’t just magically appear out of the ocean, that there’s people who go out and catch it. And they risk their lives to do it. And it’s a lot of hard work and it costs a lot of money,” she said.
“Start to finish, A to Z, it’s a pretty complex journey for that piece of seafood to make its way to a seafood counter or a restaurant,” Curry will spend the remainder of the 2012 fishing season balanced between her PVOA duties and out on the sea fishing.
“We’re going to really miss her, in her role at PVOA,” said harbormaster Glorianne Wollen, “She’s been a real asset to me in particular in working on the commercial side of things here at the harbor, which is the bulk of our clients. She’s got any easy way about here and she’s always quick to support the city, especially the harbor,” she added.