What if you could find a career that fuses the things that you know, love, and want to explore into one? Lange Sulberg did just that as soon as he graduated from graduate school and hasn’t looked back since. Lange works with commercial fishermen, scientists, and software developers to help fishermen keep up with the changing regulations, which in turn helps scientists collect data on costal ecosystems. Lange grew up in a commercial cockeye salmon fishing family and knew he wanted to follow in the family business, just...with his own spin on it. Listen in to hear the details of this sockeye fishing scientist!
Starting at a young age, Lange Sulberg knew he wanted to spend his life and career in Pacific waters. He is a third generation Bristol Bay commercial sockeye salmon fisherman and when the time came for him to choose a career path he couldn’t think of anything else he’d rather do with his time than continue the business and make it his own.
“It was just a pure love, I guess, for the industry, for the products that it creates…. I believe wholeheartedly in the protein source that comes from the sea [and] the environmental advantages that go with harvesting protein from the sea…. I love the people of the industry…I don't know if I already said this, but I love boats. I just love boats, that's as simple as it gets, you know?”
After graduating from the University of Washington with his Master’s degree, Lange embarked on a journey involving the boats and business he knew and loved as well as the ecosystem he was interested in to find a career. Lange is intimately familiar with what fishermen need as far as reporting their daily catch and the importance of these reports for biologists to make regulation decisions, so when he found a business that formatted a system for fishermen to use that was congruent with the needs of biologists, he jumped into action and got involved. He has been working for that company, Deckhand Logbook, since he graduated from the University of Washington, helping the business expand across the globe.
The Logbook Comes to America
One Halloween night while in graduate school at the University of Washington, Lange was doing some research on businesses he might want to work for, and came across an Australian company called Deckhand Logbook, a company who created an electronic record keeping system for fishermen to report their catch in compliance with state regulations. Lange called the crew at Deckhand Logbook immediately and asked to get involved. He was thrilled when they said they needed someone to headway business in the United States and as Lange says, “the rest is history”. Lange has been leading business development for Deckhand since he graduated from the University of Washington in 2018. This job is a marriage of his two favorite subjects: commercial fishing in the Pacific Ocean and scientific data relating to the industry and ecosystem. Lange enjoys expanding his knowledge of the science, growing his relationship with the fishermen, and staying connected with the industry he grew up in.
Fish Come First
Along with the tips and tricks of the industry, Lange’s father and grandfather passed down to him understanding and care for salmonids and their ecosystem. Commercial fishing in Bristol Bay is heavily regulated by state biologists. The timing of fishing seasons is based on the health of the fish in the area at the time. Data is collected by state wildlife agencies, university students, and fishermen in their required catch reports, and all data is compiled, analyzed, and used to determine the opening and closing dates of fishing season in southeastern Alaskan waters as well as the number of permits issued each season. It is very important for data to be accurate and punctual, which is routine for biologists and university students, but fishermen have their hands full with so many things during the fishing season that they need a straightforward system to keep their data organized.
“Doing the compliance related tasks are really only one of a hundred different things on a fisherman's mind when trying to run a boat, run a business, keep a crew safe, and bring catch on board…We want to be the easiest solution on the market to get fishermen compliant and good to go on the reporting side.”
As Lange describes, fishermen are not only concerned with the health of the ecosystem because it is good for business, but because spending time on the water creates and fosters a deep care for those that inhabit it. Commercial fishing as a business depends on fishermen to be stewards of the sea, and Lange’s work focuses on bringing this goal to fruition in the most efficient way possible.
“...It's our job to make sure that [fishermen] understand this technology, that the onboarding is clear, that the use of it is clear and that it's going to be a product that works with fishermen instead of works against fishermen in flexible ways.”
The Deckhand Logbook team works exceptionally hard behind the scenes to ensure the software is user friendly and smooth for the fishermen who use it. This is quite a challenge considering the different regions of the world that the software caters to. There are different species of concern, jurisdictions, and regulations in the diverse waters that the system covers and they only plan to expand further in the future.
Deckhand Logbook has been thriving in the industry on the Pacific coast and is looking to expand to new regions of the United States and the globe. Lange enjoys talking with the fishermen on the dock to continuously improve his product for the betterment of both the commercial fishing industry and the scientific data of the areas. Interested listeners can find more information on the Deckhand Logbook website - www.deckhandlogbook.com as well as all social media platforms. The company is planning to offer webinars this upcoming year for any interested participants as well. It is never too late to learn new things for increased scientific research and Lange is doing just that.