Longtime Cordova agent poised to leave

Torie Baker 1

After 15 years with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, our Cordova agent will be leaving us at month’s end.

Torie Baker is resigning her post to turn her attention to family in the Lower 48. She’s not leaving Alaska permanently though. Baker says Cordova will remain her home.

Over the years, Baker has been a key member of our team, serving the commercial fishing community and the general public with information and expertise in areas including marine safety, ocean literacy, direct marketing, scientific research, safe seafood handling and much more.

She has been a valuable member of our management team and played a leading role in organizing our popular Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, a three-day event for new industry entrants to gain skills and to network. AYFS89-torie copy

Baker originally joined the Marine Advisory Program (MAP) to head the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The program provided education and benefits to Alaska salmon fishermen facing a decline in dock prices due to the influx of farmed salmon to the United States. From that project grew another multi-year effort called FishBiz to provide business management advice to commercial fishermen at different stages in their career. Materials from that project are available on the FishBiz website.

Another early project Baker worked on involved alternatives to streamer lines, a tool for reducing seabird bycatch by small longline vessels fishing in inside waters.

In addition to these statewide efforts, Baker served Cordova and Prince William Sound by organizing marine safety courses and demonstrations, co-creating a science lecture series with the Prince William Sound Science Center, pioneering courses in net mending, marine refrigeration and boat electronics, and answering innumerable questions from her office at the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation. Many an aspiring fishermen got sage advice from Baker as they embarked on their new careers. Torie Baker 2

Most recently, Baker worked with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on a pilot project to examine the health risks commercial fishermen face. The project produced a study that uncovered previously-unknown issues of hearing loss and sleep disruption among fishermen. She took this information, which will inform national and international efforts in occupational health, and brought it immediately to the fishermen in Cordova, arranging to provide hearing tests at the community health fair.

“This is a classic example of what a seasoned extension agent would do,” said Sunny Rice, MAP leader and Petersburg-based agent. “The research was scientifically rigorous and shared in academic journals and at conferences, but Torie made sure the research process worked for people in her community. She brought the results back to them in a meaningful way.”

“I have no doubt the people of Cordova and Prince William Sound will miss having Torie as a partner,” said Rice. “I know I will.”

Baker has been one of the stalwart proponents of marine safety training within the Alaska Sea Grant network.

Her work in this important area has had local, state and national impact. From organizing local survival suit races, to introducing safety as one of the core subjects of the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, to revising national training curriculum for fishermen, her contributions to fishing safety will have long lasting effects.

Her work with fishermen in her community has led to Cordova having one of the highest per capita rates of safety-trained fishermen in the state.

“Torie has a keen eye for emerging issues in Alaska maritime needs and has addressed them with her outreach and research activities,” said Jerry Dzugan, director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA), based in Sitka.

“Her active background in fisheries as a vessel owner-operator, formal education background, AMSEA instructor experience, and her sincerity, enthusiasm and positive attitude has made her a remarkably effective agent for change.  Fishermen she trained have survived emergencies at sea and were grateful for the training she brought to them. The credibility Torie brought to her work will be hard to replace but we know she will bring these same skills with her to her next ventures,” Dzugan said.