Bristol Bay Fish Expo supports child care

Viktor Thompson and Julius Savo picking the fishing net near the Port of Bristol Bay on the Naknek River in Alaska.The Bristol Bay Fish Expo trade show event brings the community and seafood industry together to gear up, conduct business and talk fish. Photo courtesy Sharon Thompson/Bristol Bay Fish Expo

Speed hiring for crew jobs, a fashion show, live auction, vendor booths and a gubernatorial debate are all on tap for the second annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo, June 8-9 at Naknek.

The event at the Bristol Bay Borough School is a fundraiser for Little Angels Childcare Academy, Nakenk’s only child care facility.

Incumbent Gov. Bill Walker and Republican candidates Mike Chennault and Mike Dunleavy have agreed to a debate on sustainability in rural Alaska. They are to address how outmigration, economic development, education, transportation, cost of living, mental health services and resource management are impacting rural Alaska communities and fisheries. The debate will be aired live on public radio station KDLG in Dillingham. (

“This will be the first gubernatorial debate to be held in Bristol Bay in more than 25 years,” said Alaska Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham.

“Half of the world’s sockeye comes from Bristol Bay, and for more than 100 years its commercial fishing industry has been a mainstay economic driver for Alaska. It’s fitting that the second annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo will be the backdrop for the candidates to discuss their perspectives on advancing the state’s economic future,” Edgmon said.

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents some 1,400 drift gillnet harvesters who fish in Bristol Bay, will hold its annual meeting earlier on the day of the debate.


The lack of availability of child care had been prompting some families to move away, so last year Katie Copps-Wilson, a physician’s assistant, fisherman’s wife and mother of three herself, took matters into her own hands, to organize the first Bristol Bay Fish Expo, with speed hiring to help captains find crew, a fashion show featuring the latest in harvester attire, an auction and vendor booths.

“The captains were so happy,” said Copps-Wilson. “Twelve people got hired.”

So far this year, some three dozen booths have been spoken for, by federal and state agencies, seafood processors boat builders, shipping companies and airlines.

Grundens is also sponsoring the speed hiring event, while Nomar, a Homer firm offering fishing gear, is sponsoring the fashion show, from which all modeled items will be sold to benefit the child care center.

“This is the right show, the right location, fabulous organizers and they are doing it for the right reason, to generate money for their child care facility,” said Robin Richardson, member manager of Global Foods Collaborative, Seattle, which began several years ago in Alaska to provide networking opportunities for fisheries and others in the food industry. Richardson, who was born and raised in Anchorage, has pitched in to help with Fish Expo’s website.

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