I am a fisherman, so were my parents
Here in Cordova on Prince William Sound
I’m not a treehugger but I love the mountains
And hauling in the gill net with the ocean all around
Life was good here, you could raise a family
With a hundred thousand tons of Herring sent out every year
1989, the tanker grounded
Nothing has ever been the same around here

Senator Stephens said not one drop
Of oil would spill on Alaska’s shores
And if it happened it would be cleaned up
But our beaches were still covered, as was the ocean floor
Four years passed, each run collapsed
It was then we knew for sure the Herring weren’t coming back
Exxon’s promises of compensation
Were about as empty as a used up paper sack

It was August 20th, 1993
When we fishermen decided something must be done
We packed some groceries, we made some banners
We headed out to Valdez Narrows beneath the midnight sun
One hundred vessels took to the water
Pushed through a storm and to the Valdez sea
We lined up our boats, formed a blockade
And waited for whatever might be

A tanker was approaching
It was a sight to see there in the twilight of the day
We saw it turning and we all cheered and cried
As tanker after tanker after tanker turned away
A Coast Guard gunship from Seattle
Would take three days to get up to the sound
We held the line til then, then we went back
Home to Cordova, to this hallowed, oiled ground

I am a fisherman, so were my parents
Here in Cordova on Prince William Sound

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“Cordova” originally appeared in the online album, Ten New Songs (2010), and later on the CD, Big Red Sessions in 2011.

I learned from scientist, activist and “fishermaam” Riki Ott about the 1993 blockade of Prince William Sound, outside the town of Cordova, Alaska. In Riki’s book, Not One Drop, she documents what happened when she and others in the fishing community learned that the herring run would not be recovering any time soon, after Exxon’s 1989 Valdez oil spill disaster. The herring are on a four-year cycle, so it took until 1993 before they could be sure of the impact of the spill on the fish. Outraged, they set out to “escort” an Exxon vessel, and ultimately ended up forming a blockade of the Valdez Narrows for three days and nights, ending their blockade when the Coast Guard eventually arrived from Seattle, a three-day journey.