The local seining industry is the star of a short video produced by Yonatan Belik, an Israeli filmmaker and traveller who spent the summer working as a skiffman in Kodiak.
The video, titled “Why I came to Alaska,” has garnered more than 17,000 views since it was posted on Belik’s Facebook page, “Borderless Belik,” on Friday. Half of those views came from within Alaska.
Belik, 29, said he happened upon Kodiak by chance. While hitchhiking in Israel, a stranger recommended he go fishing in Alaska.
“I’m so focused on understanding the process of where food comes from, and here’s an opportunity to learn about fish, which I consume frequently, and I get to experience these landscapes and I get to make money,” Belik said.
He filmed his daily tasks, from pursing to cooking meals on a small seiner. The film also shows the celebration of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
“I wanted to make a video to showcase what it looks like, the experience of fishing,” he said. “I was coming from a really ignorant place. I just go to the supermarket and buy my fillet.”
Belik worked between June and August on the Abby Jo, a 37-foot seiner captained by Jake Organ.
Organ grew up in Chugiak but has spent his summers fishing in Kodiak since his youth. At the age of 28, this is Organ’s first summer as captain.
“It was just amazing that he found me and I found him,” Organ said, adding that he was happy to participate in the filmmaking process.
“Everyone has friends or family who (fish), but no one really knows what goes on,” Organ said.
Belik said he hopes to inspire younger fishermen to become captains through the video, but Organ noted that there are already numerous young captains in Kodiak’s fishing fleet.
“I see a lot of younger captains. I think there is a need for it, but I think it’s being filled,” Organ said.
The video highlights Belik’s role as skiffman, a position he didn’t even know existed before this summer.
“When Jake and I first talked, I thought he said ‘stiff man,’” Belik said.
“The skiff man is responsible for a whole other boat that has its own physics and tows,” Organ said. “You have to worry about tide and wind. You have to come together and you have to control the boat, make sure the fish don’t escape. It’s a very stressful position. You need someone experienced to do it.”
But the choice to hire Belik, who had never been to Alaska before, came easily.
“I know I’m a good teacher, but I also needed someone older, more mature, and able to put in that extra effort. If I just hired someone random off the docks, they may just give up,” Organ said.
Belik’s video about fishing in Alaska is the latest in a series of films he has posted to his public Facebook page and which have featured his travels to countries such as Morocco and Togo.
Next, Belik plans to begin a three-month journey travelling 9,000 miles through all 48 states in the continental U.S., making a video about each state he visits.
Belik previously participated in a team that broke the Guinness World Record for the longest journey on a kick-scooter in 24 hours by a team, travelling a collective 1,600 miles.
“It’s all part of one thing, which is being creative and working really hard to achieve goals,” Belik said. “I’d like to do this professionally, where I can experience other people’s lifestyles and make a video about them. When you can visualize a lifestyle, there’s so much you can talk about.”
His video includes tender and cannery workers, among others.
“I tried to showcase other boats and the different people that are part of this,” he said. “I’d love for it to contribute to the community in Kodiak, the self-pride.”
The video is online at https://bit.ly/2MMOkBy.
Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com
Iris Samuels, The Associated Press