Dillingham honors fishermen at Blessing of the Fleet

Jun 11, 2018

Dillingham gathered Sunday to salute Bristol Bay fishermen who earn their living from the sea. KDLG’s Austin Fast was in attendance and has more on how this ceremony honors both the living and the dead.

Aileen Walsh of Holy Rosary Catholic Church (left) leads the 2018 Blessing of the Fleet in Dillingham.
Credit Isabelle Ross / KDLG

"We are gathering together by the shores of Bristol Bay; We come to ask your blessing on our fishers and our fleet," a crowd of faithful voices sang out in unison across a nearly empty harbor at the annual Blessing of the Fleet Sunday afternoon in Dillingham.

In just a short time, commercial fishing vessels will pack the channel as 2018’s sockeye salmon fishery gets underway.

Clergy from area churches offered up prayers for a safe, productive season at the ceremony. This year, Aileen Walsh of Holy Rosary Catholic Church led the decades-old community tradition.

"For all who fish the waters of Bristol Bay and the Nushagak Bay area, we come to pray for their safety. May our mighty God be with you," Walsh said. "Although this bay is productive, it is nonetheless dangerous. For those who are gone today we come to pray and to remember."

A bell tolls for each of the 101 Bristol Bay men and women lost at sea as the crowd observes in silence.

Retired teacher Teresa Duncan has led the event’s music for years. For her, the event is all about creating community across the denominations.

"We have many different background beliefs, but we all believe in God, and I think that it's really crucial to see everybody come together in one cause," Duncan said. "Many people lose their lives and we should honor them for going out fishing is dangerous. We should honor them for being willing to provide for their families and the community and base that on their living." 

Walsh said many in attendance come to hear the names of their loved ones read, and she hopes the ceremony gives them some peace.

Contact the author at austin@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.