For ADN: As their visibility and families grow, Alaska’s Salmon Sisters hold fast to fishing life

Two smiling blonde women, one with a baby on her back

HOMER — On a recent afternoon, Emma Privat and Claire Neaton — commercial fishermen, Alaska entrepreneurs and wild seafood influencers known as the Salmon Sisters — were down in Homer Harbor, loading an aluminum bowpicker called the Acadian.

This was only for a day trip, to Privat’s cabin in Peterson Bay for a family dinner.Privat and Neaton have been packing up boats since they were old enough to walk, but, lately, everything’s a touch harder.

For one thing, Privat is eight months pregnant. Bending down to schlep boxes isn’t easy, though she schlepped a couple anyway. Neaton breezed down the ramp a little later than she said she’d be, with her 1-year-old daughter Ingrid on her back. Neaton also balanced a basket containing, among other things, a vase full of peonies and a candied orange upside-down cake. Falcon, a pint-sized, fox-faced dog, hopped aboard. Situated, they set off into the bay.

Last month, the sisters — technically Privat and a basket of Dungeness crab — appeared on the cover of Bon Appétit magazine, which featured recipes from their new cookbook, “The Salmon Sisters: Harvest and Heritage.” They’ve been mentioned or profiled in dozens of national publications — including The New York Times and magazines Outside and Vogue. But the Bon Appétit cover is the highest-profile placement for both them and Alaska cuisine, which tends to be ignored by the Outside food world. It’s a sign of their growing influence, though they tend to downplay it.

“Salmon Sisters itself is just a way that people can connect to salmon in our state and Alaska in general, its wild abundance,” Neaton said. “Salmon Sisters can be a tiny part of that, it just sticks in your mind a bit.”

The sisters are accustomed to hard work — they grew up commercial fishing and living on an off-grid homestead in the Aleutians — but as they are moving into motherhood, managing a growing business and carrying the complicated story of Alaska’s environment, commercial fishing industry and food culture to a wider world, work has never been trickier. The two of them, now in their early 30s, are thinking hard about the future of their business and about balancing it with time spent on the ocean, a source of solace and inspiration.

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Table with a big pan full of boiled shrimp, corn and potatoes with the ocean in the distance out the windows