Meet J.D. Schuyler, a Midwest film director, cinematographer, and editor who created a short documentary on sustainable fisheries in Sitka, AK.
J.D. Schuyler reflects on making his short film, Sustainable Catch, and spending time with our salmon fishermen, Marsh and John Skeele.
Last year, I left Indianapolis and headed for Sitka to meet the fishermen making sustainable fishing happen there. The idea of a Midwestern video producer working in Southeast Alaska doesn’t sound like a natural fit, but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
Click HERE to watch the short film Sustainable Catch!
I arrived at the Sitka airport and immediately found myself on a skiff heading out to find fisherman, Sara Ohlin, longlining for salmon. The immediate switch from plane to boat wasn’t friendly on my stomach, but I kept my eye to the viewfinder and it was worth the nausea. Finally on The F/V Sultan, I heard Sara's story of how she began fishing and how gear types play into sustainability. I learned that longlining literally means long lines that drag lures and spoons to attract fish. It keeps the bycatch low and has minimal impact on fish stocks.
John Skeele then took us out one beautiful morning to see how gillnetting works. I was able to capture him and his daughter, Nora, laying out a long net to catch salmon as they swam up inlets from the ocean. Fishing is a source of income, but also a tradition for him and his family. John has been in Sitka since the 70’s and took his children fishing with him through the years. We discussed the need for the habitat to be protected as we continue to rely on Alaska for most of our wild caught salmon, echoing what I heard from others around town.
My time on these fishing boats enabled me to see the thought and care put into the Sitka Salmon Share products and made me realize the need for education about our seafood. The Midwest may have limited access to fresh seafood, but that shouldn’t deter us from shopping with an understanding of the industry. We need to invest in good companies so that sustainable practices become financially viable and—no less importantly—to protect one of our country’s last wild foods. It’s my hope that Sustainable Catch plays a small role in educating and encouraging people to learn more about where their fish comes from.