State Fellow spotlight: Tav Ammu

Jesse Gordon contributed to this story.

Tav Ammu grew up commercial fishing in Dillingham. After completing a B.A. in English literature in 2007 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, he explored the world and a variety of professions. He taught English in France and Turkey, and volunteered with the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan. He also served in the Navy as a surface warfare officer stationed in Japan, traveling throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans to countries including Australia, China and Thailand.

Tav Ammu
Photo courtesy Tav Ammu.

When Tav realized he wanted to focus on marine conservation, he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and earned a master’s in marine systems and policy. His master’s thesis evaluated people’s perceptions about the value of salmon in Scotland compared to Alaska. “Scotland has the earliest known legislation to protect salmon, but it wasn’t successful,” he said. “Now, they’re the third biggest farmed fish producer in the world, and I was interested in how people in Scotland value salmon compared to Alaskans, where we have a robust wild salmon population.”

Tav is now back in Alaska. He works as a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay in the summer, and is several months into his assignment as an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellow. Tav is collaborating with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct surveys to understand community concerns about pollution in harbors, and the best ways to communicate local pollution-related information and concerns.

Tav has been going door-to-door in Ninilchik, Homer and Dillingham to recruit survey participants, and has been advertising through local media outlets. In addition, he has been working with the schools in Ninilchik and Dillingham to engage students in outreach efforts.

“We identified from previous surveys that having signs posted in the harbors have been effective, so we’re creating a competition for students in Ninilchik and Dillingham to come up with poster ideas,” Tav explained. The poster design will answer the question “what do clean harbors mean to me?” and competition winners will have their art turned into a permanent sign at their local harbor.

After completing his fellowship, Tav hopes to continue to fish commercially in the summer and work in the field of conservation to ensure that fisheries are sustainably managed, climate change is adequately studied and addressed, rural communities’ voices are amplified, and Alaska’s pristine natural environment is protected. 

Tav said, “this fellowship gives me the chance to get my foot in the door, communicate with different organizations in Alaska, gain exposure to the different ways of approaching conservation, while hopefully making a meaningful impact.” The clean boating survey is open for boat users and residents. Learn more about the survey.