At the intersection of marine conservation and social, economic, environmental and food justice

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meet the Fish Locally Collaborative: 6 questions w/Susan West from Hatteras Island, NC

Welcome to the first edition of our new feature, Meet the Fish Locally Collaborative! This national network we're part of is filled with great, passionate people - fishermen, food activists, CSF managers, and more. Let's get to know some of them, starting with Susan West, from North Carolina. 

FLC member Susan West at her local farmers market

1. Tell us about yourself. 

I’m a journalist on Hatteras Island, NC and write about cultural and environmental issues in the context of the impact on people and places in coastal NC, especially commercial fishermen and fishing villages.  I help organize the Talk of the Villages forum and the Seafood Throwdown at Day at the Docks, an annual celebration of the island’s fishing heritage. I'm co-manager of Coastal Voices, a local community-led oral history project. My husband and many of my friends and neighbors are commercial fishermen.

2. How did you come to the work you do?

Happenstance or maybe fate.  I moved to Hatteras Island nearly 40 years ago and worked as a waitress and a postal service clerk, and helped organize a commercial fishing advocacy group on the island.  The editor of a local newspaper asked me to write a monthly column called “Fishing for a Living” in the 1990s, bringing me full circle back to my childhood ambition to be a writer.  Of course, back then I thought I’d write the great American novel.

3. Why do you do it and what are the values that guide you?

The world could learn a lot from small places.   Policy-makers often latch on to the misguided idea that people in small places are not worldly enough to understand the complexities of issues.   That’s pure nonsense and flies in the face of the intelligence, resiliency, and strength I observe here.

4. What excites you most about what you’re doing?

I like to think that my stories help dismantle the popular notions that local fishing communities are expendable and that commercial fishing is antiquated.

5. What would you say is the biggest challenge community-based fishermen face in the immediate term? What about the long term?

The biggest immediate challenges for community-based fishermen are policies rooted in economic efficiency theory that don’t factor in other values.  A long-term challenge but also one with immediate consequences is how little we really know about fish and about oceans.

6. If you could be anyplace in the world right now, where would you be? And what kind of fish would you be eating?

I like being right here on Hatteras Island, eating sheepshead.

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