Meet an Alaskan fisherman who returns to her family vessel every summer season

Alina fishing 1

For most of the year, Alina Fairbanks is an Account Manager at Rising Tide agency in Alaska. The exception being summer. For close to a decade, Fairbanks has worked the summer season on her family’s commercial fishing boat in Bristol Bay.

It sounds like a unique ‘balance’ of careers, to hold down an office job and know your way around a gillnett. However, it makes perfect sense to someone like Fairbanks, who has a degree in fisheries and marketing and uses her skills to promote, market and collaborate with her home state’s famous seafood industry. 

“I was seasick and exhausted,” Fairbanks admitted to us about the first time she stepped on to a commercial fishing boat at age 12. But it wasn’t long before she was hooked and would join her Dad as a deckhand every summer once she turned 18. 

We asked this proud member of Alaska’s commercial fishing industry to share her journey. And after reading her inspiring answers, think you’ll agree; fishing is a lifestyle and culturally important for many families and communities.

Before we hear your story, how would you describe the culture of Alaska seafood and fishing?

Alaskans are very proud of our seafood industry, whether they’re an active participant in it or not. The lifestyle and culture of working and living in Alaska is tough yet rewarding. 

Tell us about the time you first step on to a commercial fishing boat…

The first time I stepped onto a commercial fishing boat was in 2007 when I was 12 years old. 

My mum and I traveled to Bristol Bay, Alaska, to commercial fish sockeye salmon on my dad's gillnetter. It was a culture shock. 

I was seasick and exhausted, but I loved working hard beside my Mom and Dad — it was rewarding labour. I've worked and commercially fished in Bristol Bay every summer since I was 18 years old.

Are people within Alaska surprised by your career path? 

Alaskans are not surprised by my career path. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to commercial fish with my Dad and that he’s continued to hire me as his deckhand. 

However, it did take some pursuing! I was a messy and un-organised child. I had to earn the position.

You’ve been doing this for nearly a decade. What keeps you coming back every summer season? 

I love that I get to be a part of this sustainable industry. Bristol Bay has the largest wild salmon run in the world. It’s rewarding to be a part of it. In addition, I love working incredibly hard with my family and friends. It’s not just a job; it’s my lifestyle.

You mentioned sustainability just before. What are some of the ways your family’s fishery works ‘with' the ecosystem to ensure sustainability? 

Sustainable fishing was written into our state’s constitution in 1959. It’s the law for Alaska to set harvest limits that prioritise the stability of marine ecosystems first and foremost. 

Fishery managers conduct research and identify when and where Alaska commercial fishermen can fish to ensure the protection of the resource we all rely on. Our boat is careful to follow all the rules since we want to continue to fish for generations to come ourselves!

What ways have ASMI or other industry bodies supported your business and livelihood? 

ASMI helps communicate the benefit of buying and eating Alaska seafood, both nationally and internationally. ASMI staff, contractors and partners help communicate the science, governing, resources and storytelling behind Alaska’s seafood industry. Not only is this organisation important to Alaska, it’s critical information worldwide. 

What would you like to see for the next generation of Alaska's fishing communities?

I want future generations to have plentiful resources and continue the tradition of harvesting Alaska seafood sustainably.


It sounds like the Alaska seafood industry will continue to flourish, with younger generations joining their family businesses full time, or just the summer like Alina Fairbanks. We wish her and her family a brilliant season ahead.