Slow Fish Keynote Speaker Linda Behnken Navigates Fishing,
Policy and Community
Attending Slow Fish 2018 means listening to fish harvesters share stories of life on the water, overcoming challenges to stay financially solvent, and battling policy that could affect their way of life.
Some of those in attendance will represent the next generation, either following family heritage into the business or exploring a new path. Others have been on deck or in the wheelhouse for decades, piloting their boats to productive fishing grounds on instinct. These are the storytellers who speak with authority and color born of experience. They’ve had to adapt to different weather conditions on the water and different policies affecting how, when and where they fish, and often, for what.
Linda Behnken is one of those storytellers. As the Keynote speaker at Slow Fish 2018, she brings a unique perspective: that of a longtime fisherwoman and a policymaker and activist advocating for measures that preserve stock health and the livelihoods of fisher folk. In essence, she has been on both sides of the table when it comes to managing the resource.
Linda has fished commercially in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea for over 30 years, both as a deckhand and vessel owner/operator. She currently fishes the F/V Woodstock with her husband and their two boys, targeting halibut, black cod and salmon. And that would be a full life for most.
But Linda’s passion for the Southeast Alaska fishery, its people and the fish has driven her to be adept not only at finding fish, but also at developing meaningful policy rooted in good science and supportive of vibrant fishing communities.
After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science at Yale, Linda became a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, where she applied her science background and love of fishing to strengthen policies that support small-scale fisheries and fishing communities. For example, she spearheaded new legislation in 1998 to ban trawling in the Southeast Alaska fishery to protect habitat, fish stocks and small-scale fishing operations in that area from industrial trawling.
It is that relentless commitment to the marine environment and small scale fisheries that has buoyed Linda’s success, even as she participated in the last two re-authorizations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (the Fish Bill) and advocated for the Sustainable Fisheries Act amendments.
Despite fishing a full season, she still finds time to wear many other important hats, including: Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA); U.S. Commissioner to the International Pacific Halibut Commission; member of Alaska’s Climate Action Leadership Team; policy co-chair and board member of the Marine Fish Conservation Network; founding board member of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and the Fishing Communities Coalition, and member of the Community Fisheries Network. Linda also served as industry advisor to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the National Academy of Science Individual Fishing Quota Review Panel, and served three terms on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Linda’s resume is a testament to what determination, collaboration and a love of the ocean can do to support community-based fisheries and many of the values we will highlight at Slow Fish 2018 in San Francisco. Her story will inspire and unite attendees as we chart a course to ensure sustainable, clean and fair seafood for all.