Coco Faulk, F/V Aqua Leo

Fisherwoman and Fishermom

Photo credit:  Nick Rahaim

Photo credit: Nick Rahaim

While in college, Coco Faulk, 54, had to choose a contemporary poem that reflected her life. Instead, she found an ancient Chinese poem about a fisherman.

“I was working my way through college on fishing boats here in Santa Cruz,” Faulk says. “And you know, the thing I love about being on the water is it’s timeless. In fishing so much stays the same.”

Coco and her husband Tom Faulk, who together live in Aptos, own the F/V Aqua Leo that fishes out of Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. It’s a steel 45-foot boat built in 2012 at the Fred Wahl shipyard in Reedsport, Oregon. Their daughter Valerie has stuck with the family business and works on deck with the couple. The family harvests salmon, crab, albacore tuna and catches groundfish by hook and line.

Coco and her husband Tom have also run a wholesale fishing business off their boat. It’s typically been an in-season and call-to-order business.

As is the case in many fishing families, Faulk has often held down a job outside of the fishing business to stabilize the family’s income and provide benefits to weather the inconsistencies that come along with making a living on the water.

“I had to carry a job to be ready for when it goes to hell, which is quite common here,” Faulk says with a hint of both pride and frustration.

While working, Faulk keeps an eye towards the water and has always saved vacation time to be ready for the opening of crab and salmon seasons. She drives the boat, hauls gear and sorts crab as they come on deck.

“Everyone I know in this industry has someone to back them up,” she says of spouses in fishing families. “You need a solid pillar to lean on and hash over everything.”

While women in fishing families are often overlooked, Faulk says “everyone knows they’re the real boss.”

Roger Burleigh