Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Voices from the West Coast

Coastal communities have historically had a close connection to marine resources. Many coastal communities were established due to the available marine resources that supported livelihoods. Coastal communities are changing their connection to marine resources. Some are expanding from fishing and transportation to tourism opportunities. Vacation and retirement homes are the focus of some coastal communities, altering the relationship between people and marine resources. As these changes progress, the people in the communities are changing as well.

While local residents may reside in coastal communities year around, and still depend on resources such as commercial fisheries, others may be seasonal residents or visitors who utilize resources such as beaches and tourism destinations.

As the use of marine resources for livelihoods changes, such as commercial and recreational fishing activities, a potential loss of local knowledge is evident. This project aims to collect, document, and preserve knowledge connected to these activities through the collection of oral histories.

We are interested in hearing people’s unique views and their history of working in coastal communities. For example: How did people get started in commercial fishing? How long have they fished? What fisheries are important and why? Do entire families fish; has this changed? What are some great memories? This is just some of the information we would like to learn through oral histories.

Voices from the West Coast

‘Voices from the West Coast’ was developed to support Voices from the Fisheries. Efforts to collect oral histories in fishing communities on the East Coast started in 2003 with NOAA Fisheries Local Fisheries Knowledge Pilot Project. Over time, hundreds of oral histories from the East and Gulf Coasts have been collected and made available on the Voices from the Fisheries website. However, fewer contributions from the West Coast are evident. This project seeks to contribute oral histories from the West Coast.

What is an oral history?

The definition of an oral history varies depending on multiple factors including the discipline that is utilizing the methodology. These disciplines include anthropology, sociology, history, folklore, and cultural geography to name a few. One definition from the Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interview Guide states an oral history is "a process of collecting, usually by the means of a recorded interview, recollections, accounts, and personal experience narratives of individuals for the purpose of expanding historical record of a place, event, person, or cultural group." Donald A. Ritchie explains in Doing Oral History (2003), "…oral history collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interview."

For more information on oral histories, please refer to the following organizations:

Oral History Association
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
Baylor Institute for Oral History
The Library of Congress - The American Folklife Center


Everyone has their own history, perceptions, perspectives, and knowledge they’ve gained through their experiences. Individual stories contribute greatly to our understanding of a subject, such as commercial fishing. Many stories together build a strong foundation for history. We aim to preserve the knowledge of individuals, so we can learn from it.

While our goals are to preserve local history and local knowledge, we also aim to make this available to other interested parties. The information collected can inform local community members, students, museums, as well as assist researchers.

Many people can learn a lot of information from what participants have to tell!


We are interested in hearing from people who are currently living and work or have lived and worked in coastal communities. Our initial focus is on those who have participated in fishing in coastal communities, but we would indeed be interested in other aspects of coastal community life related to marine and environmental topics.

While we are interested in learning directly from fishermen, we would also like to hear from fishermen’s wives and other family members as well as other individuals involved in fishing such as processors, net suppliers, managers, and many others in the industry.


To capture oral histories, project partners are currently located in various communities in Washington and Oregon. Please see the project partners for details. People who are interested can contact either the project manager, Suzanne Russell, or one of the project partners in the closest community to your location. A project partner will contact participants to schedule a meeting.

Oral histories are collected via audio recordings, video recordings, or both. A location will be selected that is relatively quiet and will help ensure a good quality recording. A project partner will meet with the participants and conduct the oral history.

What happens with the information?

Once collected, the audio/video recording will be transcribed and checked for audio quality. Once transcribed, the audio/video and transcription will be uploaded to the Voices from the Fisheries Database. It is possible that all or only a portion of the audio/video will be loaded depending on the quality of the recording. It will become available to all interested parties.

Project Partners

Principal Investigator:

All States

Suzanne Russell
Social Scientist
NOAA/NWFSC/Human Dimensions Team
2725 Montlake Blvd. East,
Seattle, WA 98112
(O) 206-860-3274
(C) 206-437-2755


Multiple Oregon locations
Sarah Calhoun
Graduate Student
Marine Resource Management Program
Oregon State University

Newport Fishermen’s Wives

Warrenton High Fisheries Inc.