‘She made sure Hatteras was at the table’

By on November 14, 2022

Remembering fishing advocate and writer Susan West

Susan West.

Susan West, a long-time advocate for the Hatteras Island fishing community and a writer who helped foster improved communications and respect between regulators and fishermen, died on Nov. 10 at age 73.

“She made sure that Hatteras and those small fishing communities were never left out of the conversation,” recalled Karen Willis Amspacher, director of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harkers Island. “She made sure Hatteras was at the table.”

Amspacher fondly remembers being able to pick up the phone to talk to her friend at 4:30 a.m. and engage in long conversations.

“She was the person I would call when I needed clarity and rational thought,” she said. “She understood people and she understood her community.”

West passed away unexpectedly on Thursday at Outer Banks Hospital from complications from cancer treatment, said Sara Mirabilio, Fisheries Extension Specialist North Carolina Sea Grant.

“She was a dear friend, personally and professionally,” she said, adding that besides working on fisheries issues together, they had a close bond as breast cancer survivors.

West has been a part of Mirabilio’s life since she started working in 2003 at Sea Grant, she said. “As a writer, as an activist, she was really good at bringing issues to life,” Mirabilio said. “She was definitely an advocate for the industry…yet her demeanor was very calming and inclusive.”

As a young transplant to the Outer Banks from Baltimore, the course of West’s life was set after meeting Rob West, a surfer from Long Island, when they worked together at a Hatteras restaurant in the 1970s. After they married, Rob became a commercial fishermen.

In the early ‘90s, as tensions started rising around commercial fishing, Susan decided to organize a local women’s auxiliary group to the North Carolina Fisheries Association. For West, a graduate of Towson State University who had worked for the Maryland Historical Society before coming to Hatteras, the women’s group tapped her talent as a dogged researcher and patient communicator who could understand arcane fisheries policies and translate it to watermen and their families with clarity and precision.

Barbara Garrity-Blake, who later co-authored Fish House Opera with West, remembers first meeting her in 1992 at a Hatteras-Ocracoke women’s auxiliary Fisheries Association meeting. “There she was, with that long red braid halfway down to her butt,” Garrity-Blake recalled. The two became fast friends, and in no time, “fisheries conspirators,” she said.

After serving three years together on the Moratorium Steering Committee, a collaborative state legislative panel created to overhaul fisheries policy that led to the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act, the two women agreed that most people had little understanding of fisheries issues or fishermen, Garrity-Blake said. So they decided to write a book from the watermen’s perspective, Fish House Opera, which was published by Mystic Seaport Press.

Garrity-Blake, a cultural anthropologist who teaches marine fisheries policy at the Duke University Marine Laboratory, said that West was not only keenly intelligent and insightful, but she was also unflappable.

With her deliberate speaking style — composed and paced, as Garrity-Blake described it — people listened to West and respected the way she handled herself when she approached problems. “Instead of raising hell, she would raise a question,” she said.

West’s remarkable accomplishments also included an oral history project, “Carolina Coastal Voices,” that involved transcribing old and new interviews with old-timers and community members, a blog with Garrity-Blake, “Raising the Stories,” and a leadership program or “Fish Camp” that hosts dozens of young people interested in or newly licensed in commercial fishing.

She also served on the board of NC Catch and helped organize the Dare County Working Watermen’s Committee.

In addition, West is an award-winning writer who has penned numerous articles for multiple publications. And she was instrumental in launching the annual “Day at the Docks” in Hatteras and its popular “Seafood Throwdown” chef contest that began as a celebration of survival of the village after Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

West appreciated the fishing heritage of the Outer Banks. But she realized that it was more practical — and meaningful to state regulators and policymakers— for the fishing community to focus on the importance of their livelihood and the income and seafood product they produce for themselves and the state, said Lynne Foster, a Hatteras resident and friend who with her husband Ernie Foster, runs the Albatross Fleet.

“She poured all her energy into what she could do to preserve fishing here,” Foster said. But her style leaned into warm, honest and witty rather than aggressive “Susan was always kind. There was a gentleness about her. You never saw her lose her top.”

An informal celebration of her life will be held later, but Amspacher said the “girls” who have worked for so many years alongside West are already planning to meet on Hatteras in the coming months for that purpose.

“For an important life like that, yes,” she said. “I just feel like that everyone needs punctuation at the end of our sentence.”


Barnhill Contracting Company will receive sealed proposals for Manns Harbor – EMS/Fire Facility (EMS-8), Kitty Hawk – EMS/Fire Facility (EMS-9), Manteo – Youth Center on January 09, 2024. Times to be given on via addendum #01. See the following SCOPE OF WORK: BP 100 – General Trades, BP 105 – Final Cleaning, BP 205 – Demolition, BP 390 – Turnkey Concrete, BP 400 – Turnkey Masonry, BP 500 – Turnkey Structural Steel & Misc. Steel, BP 505 – Light Gauge Metal Trusses, BP 740 – Roofing, BP750 – Siding, BP 790 – Caulking/Sealants, BP 800 – Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware/Toilet Specialties/Accessories/Division 10, BP 840 – Curtainwall/Storefront/Glass/Glazing, BP 925 – Drywall/Framing, BP 960 – Resilient Flooring/Carpet/Base/Epoxy, BP 980 – Acoustical Ceilings, BP 990 – Painting and Wall Coverings, BP 1230 – Finish Carpentry and Casework, BP 1250 – Window Treatments, BP 2100 – Fire Protection, BP 2200 – Plumbing, BP 2300 – HVAC, BP 2600 – Electrical, BP 3100 – Earthwork/Turnkey Site, BP 3213- Site Concrete, BP 3290 – Landscaping. Scopes of work may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager.

Bid Location and Time: Bid opening will be held in the Barnhill Contracting Rocky Mount Training & GPS Technology Room: 800 Tiffany Bvld, Rocky Mount, NC 27804. Time is as follows: January 09, 2024 at 10:00am and 2:00pm. Times per packages to be given on via addendum #01.

Barnhill Contracting Company will receive, open, and read publicly all bids received in person in the Training & GPS Technology Room at the main office and listed with the virtual viewing at the link to be posted on Barnhill’s Plan Room.

Bids will not be accepted from bidders that are not pre-qualified. No facsimile or email submissions are permitted. Sealed bids are to be hand delivered to the bid opening location noted above or mailed Sealed Bids can be delivered before 9:00am the day of the bid to the Barnhill Contracting Company Office at 800 Tiffany Blvd., Suite 200 Rocky Mount, NC 27804. Attention “Clint Hardison.”

The pre-bid meeting will be held in Person & Zoom Meeting on December 06, 2023 at 10:00 am at the Barnhill Contracting’s Rocky Mount Main Conference Room: 800 Tiffany Bvld, Rocky Mount, NC 27804.

The pre-bid meeting link can be located on Barnhill’s online Building Division Plan Room ( https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b) and below. A preferred brand alternates meeting will be held via the same link at the end of the Prebid meeting.

Bid Documents can be viewed or downloaded through Barnhill’s online Building Division Plan Room (https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b) after 12/04/2023.

All Bidders are strongly encouraged to include opportunities for HUB participation wherever possible in their respective Bid submission.  HUB participation is a part of this contract and must comply with all requirements set forth in the Bid Documents.

The Construction Manager and Owner reserve the right to add pre-qualified bidders. The Construction Manager and Owner reserve the right to reject any and all bids. Should you require additional direction, please call Barnhill Contracting Company, (Clint Hardison – 252-802-0740).

Clint Hardison is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Dare EMS – Phase 2 Pre-Bid Conference

Time: Dec 6, 2023 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 823 9069 2985

One tap mobile

+17866351003,,82390692985# US (Miami)

+13126266799,,82390692985# US (Chicago)

Dial by your location

  • +1 786 635 1003 US (Miami)
  • +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
  • +1 470 250 9358 US (Atlanta)
  • +1 646 518 9805 US (New York)
  • +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
  • +1 213 338 8477 US (Los Angeles)

Meeting ID: 823 9069 2985

Find your local number: https://barnhillcontracting.zoom.us/u/kbYOel03V

Join by SIP

Join by H.323

  • (US West)
  • (US East)

Meeting ID: 823 9069 2985




  • Russell Blackwood

    This article describes Susan perfectly!
    A wonderful, intelligent, witty, woman!
    I’m honored to call her and her husband friends.
    She will be great missed…………..

    Monday, Nov 14 @ 9:06 pm
  • Peter R. Hornby

    Rest in peace..Saddened to hear of your passing..Hatteras has lost an important citizen and advocate…I miss our conversations, those years, at the post office with your perspective, insightful…

    Tuesday, Nov 15 @ 7:57 am
  • Kathy Kiddy

    While Susan’s passing a huge loss for Hatter Islanders, we are so blessed to have her living, writing, and loving among us! May the Holy Spirit give Peace that surpasses human understanding to her family and friends✨

    Friday, Nov 18 @ 7:08 am