Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association wins $142,500 for deckhand apprenticeship program

Sophie Nethercut is one of about 25 greenhorns who has served a short stint as a crew member on Eric Jordan’s troller, the I Gotta, in recent years. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF ERIC JORDAN)

Over the last couple of years, Sitka’s Eric Jordan has taken about two dozen young people commercial fishing on his troller, the I Gotta. Now, the Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) has adopted this program and expanded it to other boats in an effort to counter the graying of the commercial fishing fleet.

Eric Jordan, back center, poses with crew members (l-r) Alyssa Russell, Sarah Jordan (his wife) and Anya Grenier in front of his troller, the I Gotta.

Last month, ALFA’s Supporting the Next Generation of Alaskan Fishermen through the Deckhand Apprentice Program received a $142,496 award ($69,996 grant and $72,500 matching funds) from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as part of its Sustainable Fisheries in the United States grant program. The ALFA grant was one of seven grants totaling $766,871 (with $840,887 in matching funds), for a total conservation impact of more than $1.6 million.

“The generous support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will allow us to offer more young people an an entry level commercial fishing opportunity,” ALFA Executive Director Linda Behnken said. “Young fishermen face a host of challenges these days, and ALFA is doing what we can to support the next generation of commercial fishermen by supporting entry level opportunities and policy that safeguards the health of our ocean, fisheries and fishing communities.”

According to the report, “The Graying of the Alaskan Fishing Fleet,” in 2014, the average age of a limited entry permit holder was 50 years old, 10 years older than it was in the 1980s. In 2013, only 17 percent of current permits are held by fishermen younger than 40 years old, a decrease from 38 percent in 1980. This has raised concerns there won’t be enough young people to replace the older fishermen when they retire. Deckhand apprenticeships are one way ALFA and other groups are countering the graying of the fleet.

“With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities,” Behnken said.”Giving young people the opportunity to participate in our commercial fisheries can help us to sustain our fishing communities and create the next generation of resource stewards.”

Cathryn Klusmeier, left, and Jacob Metzger are among the greenhorns who crewed on Eric Jordan’s troller, the I Gotta.

According to the grant profile, “Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association will coordinate and expand a state-wide apprentice program to promote resource stewardship, community viability, and opportunity in Alaska’s commercial fisheries. The project will develop curriculum and resources to guide the program expansion, include additional vessels and fisheries, and promote entry level job opportunities.”

“Finding crew with some experience, who loves fishing in Alaska, is so critical to the future of our individual businesses in the industry as a whole,” Jordan said. “This program gives them the taste of it. Deckhands know they like it, and skippers can recommend them for future employment. It is a win-win for everyone.”

“We are currently developing the curriculum — one for skippers, and one for crew,” said ALFA Communications Coordinator Alyssa Russell, who has crewed on the I Gotta. “We want to give skippers the tools they need to mentor someone, and crew the skills they need to have a successful experience and continued employment.”

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• Alaskans Own community-supported fisheries program announces 2016 season subscription prices

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Sitka-based Alaskans Own seafood recently announced its subscription prices for its 2016 community-supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka, Juneau, and Anchorage.

Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in the state, modeling its program after the successful community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs that let customers deal directly with harvesters so they can buy subscription shares to the year’s crop/catch. In addition to the CSF program, Alaskans Own usually has a table at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer (and plans to have a larger presence at the market this summer).

AO flier no tagsThis is the seventh year of the Alaskans Own CSF program, and there are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally troll-caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

AO logo-01 (2)“We’re so excited to be going into another year of connecting more Alaskans with the best fish out there,” said Anya Grenier, Alaskans Own seafood coordinator. “So little of the incredible bounty of our waters stays in state, or even in the U.S. We want to change that dynamic, and we think the place to start is investing in our fishermen and our community.”

This year’s price for a six-month full subscription (about 60 pounds, or 10 pounds a month) in Sitka is $825 (does not include sales tax) and $435 for a half subscription (about 30 pounds). The price for a four-month full subscription (about 40 pounds) is $565 and $300 for a half subscription (about 20 pounds). Sitka residents are required to pay 5 percent city sales tax if purchased before March 31, and 6 percent sales tax after that. Wholesale orders are available, and the deadline for subscription orders is May 1.

Prices and sales tax charges may vary for the other communities participating in the program. People can use the Alaskans Own online store site to purchase their CSF shares. You also can send a check to Alaskans Own, P.O. Box 1229, Sitka, Alaska, 99835. Delivery times and dates in Sitka will be announced later and usually take place at the old mill building next to the Sitka Sound Science Center (834 Lincoln Street).

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Photo by Joshua Roper / Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI)

The Alaskans Own seafood program is managed by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. It also partners with the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, the Fishery Conservation Network and Local Fish Fund, which have missions to strengthen Alaskan fishing communities and marine resources through scientific research, education, and economic opportunity.

For more information about the Alaskans Own seafood program, contact Anya Grenier at alaskansownfish@gmail.com or 738-2275.

• Northwest Farm Credit Services awards grants to Alaskans Own and Sitka Kitch projects

From left, Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association and Anya Grenier of the Alaskans Own Seafood community supported fishery project receive a check for $4,500 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to help promote local seafood for Alaskans.

From left, Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association and Anya Grenier of the Alaskans Own Seafood community supported fishery project receive a check for $4,500 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to help promote local seafood for Alaskans.

image003Northwest Farm Credit Services recently awarded two rural community grants to help fund a pair of local foods projects in Sitka. The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association received $4,500 for its Alaskans Own Seafood community supported fisheries program, and the Sitka Local Foods Network received $1,975 for a series of basic culinary skills classes to take place in March at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen (which is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society with assistance from the Sitka Local Foods Network).

“The support of Northwest Farm Credit Services will allow ALFA to improve and expand Alaskans Own so we can provide premium seafood to more rural residents,” said Linda Behnken, ALFA’s executive director.  “We believe healthy fisheries and healthy fishing communities go together and with this grant support we will reinvest in both.”

Alaskans Own connects residents of Alaska’s rural communities with great Alaskan seafood through monthly subscriptions. Subscription sales support ALFA’s research and conservation work to promote sustainable fisheries and sustainable fishing communities. Click here for KCAW-Raven Radio’s coverage of the grant.

From left, Dorrie Farrell and Kristy Miller of the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen advisory team and Sitka Local Foods Network president Lisa Sadleir-Hart receive a check for $1,975 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to support a Sitka Kitch project to teach basic culinary skills to people wanting to get jobs in the food/restaurant industry. The classes will take place in March.

From left, Dorrie Farrell and Kristy Miller of the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen advisory team and former Sitka Local Foods Network president/interim Sitka Kitch project coordinator Lisa Sadleir-Hart receive a check for $1,975 from Michael Wittman of Northwest Farm Credit Services to support a Sitka Kitch project to teach basic culinary skills to people wanting to get jobs in the food/restaurant industry. The classes will take place in March.

“Sitka Kitch will use the resources to launch a basic culinary training series taught by Chef Kathy Jones (executive chef for the Westmark Sitka Hotel),” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Sitka Kitch interim coordinator and former Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “Chef Kathy will model the four-session training on a curriculum from Indianapolis. She sees it as a way to get local Sitkans trained on entry-level culinary skills that could land them jobs in one of Sitka’s many restaurants or food-related businesses.”

The Sitka Kitch basic culinary skills training series is modeled after a similar program designed to help give people work skills for the restaurant/catering industry offered by a hunger relief nonprofit called Second Helpings in Indianapolis. More details about the Sitka Kitch basic culinary skills program will be announced in the next week or so. The classes also will be open to Sitka residents wanting to improve their home culinary skills.

Sitka Kitch is a community wellness project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka. The different parts of the project include creating a community kitchen Sitka residents can rent to prepare food for their small businesses or to preserve their family harvest of fish, game, or garden veggies; expanding Sitka’s emergency food storage capacity; and providing education about cooking and preserving food and building family emergency food pantries.

Northwest Farm Credit Services is committed to helping rural communities succeed. In 2015, Northwest FCS awarded 62 rural grants totaling more than $134,000 to projects in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Since the program’s inception in 2007, the company has presented 464 rural grants totaling more than $948,000.

The next rural grant deadline is Feb. 1, with two other deadline cycles later in the year. If you think your rural project may be eligible for a grant, visit http://northwestfcs.com/Stewardship/Rural-Communities for more information and an application.

Northwest FCS is a financial cooperative providing financing and related services to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, commercial fishermen, timber producers, rural homeowners and crop insurance customers in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Northwest FCS provides approximately $13 billion in loans and is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions that provide approximately $221 billion in loans to rural America. For more information, go to http://northwestfcs.com.