Elma Burnham was working as a crew member on a set-netting boat in Bristol Bay in 2017 when she decided to start Strength of the Tides. Burnham felt misogyny was too commonplace in the United States, so she decided to take action within the male-dominated fishing industry and start an organization that aimed to empower and celebrate women and other underrepresented genders in the fishing industry. “It’s a passion project that’s just about building community among the people who live and work on the water,” Burnham says.

The centerpiece of Strength of the Tides is a pledge committing to respect women, trans, and gender queer people. As of early 2021, more then 500 people had signed the pledge. 

To further celebrate other genders, Strength of the Tides shares the story of someone who is not a cisgender male who works on the water every week on Facebook and Instagram. There’s also a private Facebook group for members to ask for advice or share knowledge. 

Though Burnham started the organization with the intent of building a community within the Bristol Bay workforce, Strength of the Tides has garnered support from around the world. 

Burnham says recently the most beneficial portion of the organization seems to be providing hope for young women, trans, and queer gender individuals who want to work on the water but are nervous or don’t know where to start. 

Though activity among the Strength of the Tides community slowed after the onset of COVID-19, Burnham says she hopes to see it continue. “Really I just want to see the community continue to build,” Burnham says. “And I want to strengthen ourselves as a resource for young people who want to join the industry.”

To learn more or nominate a woman, trans, or queer gender individual to be highlighted, visit strengthofthetides.org.


Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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