Elsa Sebastian
Sitka | Commercial fisherman

“A conversation about salmon is an exploration of our relationship with abundance. As Alaskans, we often seem to take abundance for granted. We can only continue to enjoy access to plentiful resources if we work to understand how our subsistence cultures, independent values, and economic structures can coexist sustainably. We must also foster a culture of stewardship and recognize the natural limits of environmental exploitation.”

Elsa Sebastian is a fisherman, conservationist, and adventurer.  She currently holds a Master 100-Ton Captain’s license and is the owner and operator of a commercial salmon troller, fishing for king and Coho salmon in the coastal waters of Southeast Alaska.  She is also the co-owner of Kinglet Consulting, and works as a communications and development consultant for environmental nonprofits. 

 

“In many childhood photos I am dwarfed by king salmon, my eyes as bright as their scales,” recalls Sebastian.  “I grew up in a remote village on Prince of Wales Island - the same home that my parents built together after a season of trolling and falling in love. I fished through college, deck-handing on salmon boats from Southeast Alaska to Bristol Bay. I bought a hand-troller, and then a power-troller. I spend my summers with salmon, and my winters working to protect their habitat. I often fish alone with the radio as my only company. As I look out at the alive and vibrant coastline, the radio provides moments of dissonance through news stories about ocean acidification, warming stream temperatures, and the dangers posed to salmon by mine development. At these times, I think about what we have to lose, and about how much we rely on healthy ecosystems.”

 

Sebastian holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies, with a minor in Cinema and Media Arts.  While in college she participated in Williams College’s Maritime Studies semester and spent a term with in a program with Greenpeace to learn and implement grassroots organizing skills.  Sebastian worked in communications and development for the Alaska Whale Foundation and as an intern for Trout Unlimited before her current position.  She currently serves as a board member for the Alaska Whale Foundation and has also served the Alaska Marine Conservation Council as a board member, and the Island Institute as a New Pathways team member.