An Introduction to the PCFFA’s New Executive Director

Lisa Damrosch is the recently appointed executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and its sister organization, the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR). She works primarily out of the principal PCFFA/IFR office in San Francisco, P.O. Box 29370, San Francisco, CA 94129-0370, and can be reached directly at the general PCFFA email address:, or by phone to PCFFA’s general office number: (541) 689-2000. The PCFFA homepage is

Growing up, I believed that most anything could be repaired with a needle of Dungeness crab pot wire and a roll of electrical tape. Both of these things lived in the junk drawer of my childhood home and in an accessible location everywhere I have lived since.

Looking back, I realize that it was not the tools that held that power to make broken things work again, but the commercial fisherman with his resourceful, problem-solving mind and calloused, cracked hands wielding tools that got the job done.

That commercial fisherman was my dad, and at times my grandfather, both of whom regularly entertained me and shared life lessons while weaving crab pots, splicing rope or tying salmon leaders.

I was never interested in working on the boat; that was my brother’s passion (and still is). Still, as a little girl I loved listening to the stories from the ocean and hung on every word as they explained what they were doing and why it mattered, and most importantly how it figured in to harvesting fish or crab.

I was fascinated by the tools and jigs that they invented and then fabricated to make repetitive tasks go faster and mesmerized by what they could create from wire or twine.

I know now that I was being shown how to problem solve, how to adapt and overcome and that sometimes it is important to stop and think if there is a better way to get something done.

I saw what it looked like to do what many would consider an overwhelming amount of work without complaining, because it simply had to get done (and no one likes a whiner).

My life has taken a somewhat long and circuitous course from those days in the shop to my recent appointment as executive director of PCFFA/IFR, routed through a sales and marketing career, marriage, motherhood and business ownership, all with a side of commercial fishing support and advocacy.

Over the years, I have found myself everywhere from meetings with a desk that is a piece of plywood on a garbage can surrounded by fishermen, to most recently sitting on an electronic monitoring advisory committee to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and consulting with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as a member of the Dungeness Crab Gear Working Group.

I have participated in countless meetings, Zooms, workshops, calls and forums working on various projects, always trying to find the best avenue possible for the future of commercial fisheries.

For me, “the future of commercial fisheries” isn’t just one of those buzzword phrases. It is a tangible thing that needs to be fought for. The future of fisheries is an ocean of healthy and sustainable resources for harvest, it is rivers that allow wild salmon to thrive, and a regulatory system that protects commercial fishermen as well as marine mammals, ensuring that both can be healthy and flourish.

The future of fisheries is also my son, the fifth generation of our family called to this job and this way of life. It is every other commercial fisherman, captain or crew member, that is willing to face the complexities of this business, and the physical and mental stresses of trying to make a living on the ocean.

The future of fisheries is vibrant port communities and working waterfronts up and down the coast with gear shops and diesel mechanics and restaurants that serve local, traceable seafood, where the public can see and feel what it takes to put food on their table. This future for commercial fisheries should be attainable—and it’s worth fighting for.

I’ve been around long enough to know that none of this is going to be easy and talk is cheap. Threats to commercial fisheries are coming from what feels like every direction.

Global challenges like climate change, national challenges like offshore wind, regional water management issues, closed salmon seasons, greatly curtailed Dungeness crab seasons, rockfish closures and restrictions, historically high expenses and shamefully low market prices are just the top of the list.

Each of these are complex and very real problems with very real implications for families and businesses and for wild food production.

It can all seem so daunting, but hope is not lost. What I learned all those years ago is still true—commercial fishermen are brilliant problem solvers. Adaptability is in their DNA, right there with the hard work, sleep-optional, stubborn, fiercely independent, and optimistic-for-the-next-haul-of-the-gear genes.

What has not always been the strongest trait of fishermen is organization and communication, or patience with land-based decision making that impacts their businesses without fully understanding them. This is where I think I can help as executive director of the PCFFA.

PCFFA has long been seen as an organization that represents the voice of commercial fishermen. As an association of associations, PCFFA is uniquely positioned to access the ideas and expertise of fishermen in every port who are actively fishing in every fishery, using every gear type and executing every commercial fishing business model.

Now is the time for PCFFA to adapt and change like the fishermen who inspired its very creation almost 50 years ago. It is time to expand membership, increase fishermen engagement, modernize our approach and unite this fishing fleet to fight for its future.

I have been asked many times about my specific vision for the future of PCFFA, and my answer is always the same. My only vision is for PCFFA to be an organization that is of the fishermen and for the fishermen, where the vision and voice is theirs.

My job is to relentlessly work to execute that vision and amplify that voice.

To do that I will call on every lesson about toughness, resourcefulness and ingenuity that commercial fishermen have taught me.

Not all problems can be fixed with crab wire and electrical tape, but I believe that within the fleet we have the expertise, tools and fortitude to make a difference.

I am excited to work with fisheries leaders in every port to address the many challenges we are facing today, and the ones that may be yet to come. I promise to continue learning, keep fighting, and do the work, even when it feels overwhelming (without whining).

Together, we can create a new PCFFA that builds on the strong history of advocating for fisheries and healthy fish stocks and that steps into the future honoring the true meaning of commercial fishing representation.

If you’re a commercial fisherman interested in getting involved, this is your call to action. I urge you to join your local port fishing association and encourage the groups to be actively involved in PCFFA if they are not currently.

You also can be on the lookout for more information on our soon-to-be-launched social media channels and new website and by reaching out to us via email at