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
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
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.