“He said, ‘Let me call you back when I get to Dutch Harbor later this evening.’ He never responded.
“Even his crew member on another boat said, ‘Yeah, he should’ve been back last night. I don’t know what happened.’ I got really nervous…” – Hannah Samsen
The trip turned into a multi-day job, but without a satellite phone to call as they drove deeper into remote Alaskan waters, there was no way to connect.
Hannah finally heard from her partner, Alex Beckett, a few days later. And the relief after days of worrying is what many partners of commercial fishermen live by. But with our current situation, worrying is taken to the next level.
Hannah and I connected on the private Facebook group, Partners of Commercial Fishermen. With COVID-19 affecting seafood sales dramatically – international borders shut down, resulting in severe financial consequences for American fishermen – several members rallied together to share what it’s like to be partners of commercial fishermen.
These interviews are meant to show that regular people *just like you* make up commercial fishing families. We hope that sharing our stories will inspire others to buy U.S. wild-caught seafood! Together, we are all the faces behind each catch.
Real Talk w/ Partner of a Commercial Fisherman, Hannah Samsen
I noticed on your Facebook profile that you’re a fisheries biologist. Can you explain what you do?
I got my first job out of school as a fisheries observer in the north Pacific. I haul a bunch of gear around with me and go from boat to boat on trips to monitor the catch. I take samples like measuring and weighing fish, telling their sex and age, and collecting specimens so I can bring them back to NOAA to know we are fishing sustainably. I work out of any fishery in Alaska that is federally managed.
That’s actually how I got my man into fishing.
He’s a carpenter and a massage therapist, but he quit what he was doing in Seattle to come to Alaska and find me and ended up getting a job as a fisherman. We got to see each other a lot, which was really awesome. I was originally offered the job as a fisherman and kind of threw it out there to Alex, half-serious. He came up, and within a day, he was out there.
So, this is his second season fishing?
Yeah. He was going to go up in January but we ended up traveling and having a nice break. He ended up being called up there in February because they lost a crew member last minute.
Since you have experience being on boats in Alaska as a fisheries biologist, does it make you more worried because you know how it is? How does it feel to know what you know and have a partner who is a commercial fisherman?
When I went up there, I didn’t think how dangerous things were until I got on land, and I realized, Wow. I made it through that!
Also, I get seasick as hell.
My first trip to the Gulf of Alaska, I was throwing up and couldn’t drink water for seven days, and it was horrible, but I pushed through. People said I wouldn’t make it out on boats, but I’m stubborn and took any medication and natural remedy and really stuck with it.
Every boat is different, and the safest I’ve ever felt was being on the boat that he is on. I’ve been on that boat once, and they were a pretty good crew, and I felt safe with them.
Hannah explains a near-death experience while researching on rough waters. Click the soundbite below!
Do you know when he’s coming back?
His contract was to finish this season out. Unfortunately, their boat had a mechanical failure on the last day of fishing and had to get an emergency tow. He said if the wind had been blowing a different direction, they would have been stuck against the rocks. So, they got really lucky.
They’ve been waiting on boats for a long time. Every day he’s on the boat, he accrues the crew share of food costs, and it just costs him money to be up there at this point.
So, he got pretty flustered and has helped out others in the community. He just hopped on another boat to help with the transport vessel.
They still have to get the fishing boat hauled out for the season and unload everything, including bi-catch.
I’m just trying to stay really positive with everything that’s going on. I hope by the end of the week he’ll come back.
We’re hoping to adopt a kitty cat soon, so we’re stoked about that.
How long have you been together?
We’ve been together for over a year.
So, basically, you’re entire relationship has been with a commercial fisherman?
Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. He was pretty established in his career. He’s 12 years older than I, and has so much knowledge of the world and physics, and was a huge support for me when I finished school and got the job.
What advice would you give to other partners of commercial fishermen?
Hmm. That’s a good one.
I say, journal as much as you can.
It can be easy to vent frustrations that you’re missing your partner to everyone you talk to, but it’s important to have that conversation with yourself and get out those feelings on paper and have an outlet.
It’s a stressful thing. There may be days or weeks that go by without contact and it’s important to check in with yourself.🐟
Connect with Hannah on Instagram at: @HannaMairead
Curious about what it’s like for others to date a commercial fisherman? Catch up on the series: