Son of a farmer, Jeremy Brown is an artisanal fisherman who works and lives on the West cost of the United States. When he's not at sea, he works on restoring habitat and networks with various associations like Slow Food and the Commercial Fishermen of America.
"My father was a farmer in England. I did not want to be a farmer, but fishing appealed to me. So when I arrived on this coast, it all looked very exciting. I like working with my hands, and the idea of small businesses. In my area, most fishers are artisanal. I've been fishing for 30 years now. It's not a lot of money, but you get to do some good. Seafood itself is good for health, but most particularly, it's basically one of the last wild foods you can still get.
I use lines and hooks to catch fish. I have my own boat, and I'm also part of the crew on a friend's boat. I line for halibut in Alaska. I also catch wild Pacific salmon for the premium market. The salmon I fish is an Ark of Taste product. I fish it one at a time; it takes a lot of effort. The fisheries I work in are all small, with strict quotas. On the West coast in general actually, especially around Alaska, the management of the fisheries is very strict. For salmon, I'm usually out 4 days at a time. I work whenever it's not dark, and I sleep when it is - which means 3 to 4 hours in Alaska. All the fisheries I work for are MSC certified, some also recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. They are very good fisheries.
My wife used to fish with me, but now she's an acupuncturist. So we don't see much of each other in the summer since I work at sea, but in the winter I'm on shore, so I can catch up with my personal life. Also in the winter, I work on restoring habitat and other community issues.
I sell my catch through a cooperative when I can. For the salmon, I usually sell half of them to restaurants (I sell to about 6 or 8 restaurants), and the rest to wholesalers. I'm engaged with the Commercial Fishermen of America as Vice President.
I fish mostly on my own, but our community is strong. We help each other, we tip each other on where to fish or not, we have a cooperative for marketing, and most crews on long-line boats are union organized. I am also a Slow Food member, as active as I can, and I was a Terra Madre delegate 3 times already!
Every year, we organize an event with Slow Food, a day-long fish canning workshop. People learn to prepare and can the fish themselves. We did it for last Terra Madre Day and over fifty Slow Food Seattle members attended - it was a lot of fun. It always is.
The sea and I share a strong bond. It's my home really, where I belong. It's a strong feeling, the sense of being here and understanding the environment in a way. It seems to me that too often experts know about the sea, but they don't stop to feel it.
We fishers are constantly trying to improve, but the solutions to the main problems don't depend on us entirely. We can do everything to fish sustainably, but the bigger problem lies higher up. The global ocean situation is very serious, and I think we have to act on the environment first. We have to do something about climate change, about the acidification of the oceans, about the use of fossil fuels and pollution in general.
Academics and experts suggest measures that are sometimes very remote from the actual issues. I think fishers should be consulted more often; we definitely spend more time out there than anyone! We notice all the changes locally - our understanding of the sea is profound.
I love my work. If I were to start afresh I would do just the same. The fish I catch is one of the best you'll find anywhere, it's also caught in a respectful and sustainable manner, and I feel good about that.
Fishing is very hard work physically, but if you like it, it's worth it. I grew up on a farm - I know what hard work is! - so I mostly see the rewards. For one thing, the scenery is truly fantastic up in Alaska. And then, I get another reward on shore, when I deliver quality fish to a restaurant and the chef is all excited!"