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A Quest to Repay the Ocean for its Gifts: Meet the Salmon Sisters

Anyone can imagine life in Alaska, but no one knows the landscape’s stark contrasts like those who grow up there. Endless summer transforms into pitch-black winters. Ice-capped volcanoes roll into green hills. Its hearty residents gain their nutrition and livelihood out of a bountiful, but deadly sea.

If there’s anyone who can capture the final frontier’s paradoxical beauty, it’s Alaskan fishermen and Salmon Sisters founders Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton. Salmon Sisters brings Alaskan fishing to life for the rest of the world through their community stories, practical cold-weather clothes and sustainable wild-caught Alaskan salmon boxes. For every product sold, Salmon Sisters also donates a can of wild Alaskan salmon to the Food Bank of Alaska through their Give Fish project.

No Such Thing as a Fisherwoman

For many Alaskans, fishing is a lifestyle that builds a community rather than a way to make a living. Close personal ties to the career encourage a number of women to join the family business.

“There is an understanding in Alaska’s fisheries that women are as capable, quick and skilled as men on deck, thanks to the tough ladies who paved the way and set an example for younger generation,” the sisters noted. “Women who fish prefer to be referred to as ‘fishermen’ instead of ‘fisherwomen,’ since we are not treated differently than men based on our gender, only by the quality of work we do.”

With that in mind, the sisters still express confusion at the design choices made by most workwear companies when it comes to women’s styles.

“We love how well Moxie and Moss Mavens tuck into our Xtratuf boots, because that’s our main footwear as fishermen, on and off the boat,” Emma and Claire said. “No other gear that fishermen wear in Alaska is like this. Even if it’s supposed to be for women, it’s usually ill-fitting and you realize that it was just a popular men’s version turned into something slightly pinker and shinier, not something design specifically for female bodies.”

A World Defined by the Ocean

Emma and Claire knew fishing from before they could speak. Their father, a commercial fisherman, found their homestead Stonewall Place, the most Westward home on the North American continent, when the sisters were babies.

“Brown bears roamed the tundra around our homestead, looking for salmon and berries like we were,” Emma and Claire recalled. “We carried a shotgun with us for bear protection whenever we went hiking or walked on the beach.”

They began working regularly as fisherman in high school, but were on their father’s boat from since they could remember and were put to work “when we were old enough for responsibilities on the back deck, and strong enough to be helpful.”

Emma and Claire both attended college in the continental United States, but returned home every break and after graduation to work on their 58’ fishing boat. When they returned to Alaska permanently, they also founded Salmon Sisters, as a means to educate the rest of the world about the vibrant and sometimes unforgiving life Alaskan fishermen face.

“It feels like we will spend the rest of our lives on a quest to repay the ocean for its gifts,” the sisters said. “The ocean has provided for us endlessly – from our family’s means to making a living, to our ability to pay our way through college, our inspiration for starting Salmon Sisters, to keeping our bodies and minds strong with it’s wildly delicious and nutritious bounty.”

You can discover more from the Salmon Sisters, like their 2017 holiday gift guide and the Give Fish Project at aksalmonsisters.com.

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