Gov. Mike Dunleavy establishes Alaska Food Security and Independence Task Force

The first of four pages of Administrative Order 331, which creates the task force.

Today (Feb. 9, 2022), Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued Administrative Order 331  (downloads the full four-page document as PDF) establishing the Alaska Food Security and Independence Task Force.

Alaska currently imports 95 percent of its food supplies at a cost of $2 billion per year. The global pandemic triggered supply chain disruptions on the West Coast of the United States that continue to impact the regular delivery of food and other essential goods to Alaska. The 18-member task force will be responsible for recommendations on how to increase all types of food production and harvesting in Alaska, and to identify any statutory or regulatory barriers preventing our state from achieving greater food security.   

“Over the past two years Alaskans have walked into grocery stores and been greeted by row after row of empty shelves,” Gov. Dunleavy said. “One of the lessons the pandemic taught us is how vulnerable Alaska could be if the regularly scheduled shipments of food shipped up from Seattle were to suddenly stop – even a few days. The good news is Alaska has tremendous potential to grow, harvest and catch more nutritious food for in-state consumption. The recommendations from the task force will draw a roadmap for my administration, legislators and Alaska’s food producers to make Alaska more food secure the next time the supply chain is disrupted.”

The task force will have 10 main duties and responsibilities:

  • Provide recommendations that increase the procurement and use of Alaska-sourced foods within state and local agencies, institutions, and schools, including any administrative and statutory changes that are required.
  • Identify barriers that farmers, stock growers, fishermen, mariculture professionals, and others engaged in the growing, harvesting, or raising of food, face when starting a business or getting their products in to the Alaska market. Provide recommendations on how the state can address those obstacles, including through administrative or statutory changes.
  • Assess the levels of wild game and fish harvests in Alaska. Suggest measures that would increase the abundance and harvest of wild game, fish, and food by Alaskans.
  • Recommend a program to assist communities and households impacted by fishery shortfalls and disasters.
  • Identify factors, including regulatory or statutory burdens, that might discourage or prevent locally harvested and produced food from being purchased by federal, state, and local agencies, institutions, and schools.
  • Identify research needed to support and encourage increased consumption and production of Alaska-sourced food within the state.
  • Engage with the public to seek additional input on ways to promote the above listed goals.
  • Assess the need for disaster food caches within the state; and how the caches can be developed utilizing Alaskan-sourced foods.
  • Provide a report and summary of findings and recommendations, including what administrative and statutory changes would be needed to accomplish the recommendations of the task force.
  • The chair of the task force shall report regularly to the office of the governor on activities conducted and issues that arise under this order.

The task force will be made up of 16 voting members. Twelve Alaskans representing a cross section of the state’s farming, mariculture and seafood industries and four state commissioners (Natural Resources, Fish and Game, Environmental Conservation, Military and Veterans Affairs) or their designees will serve on the board. Two ex-officio members from the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska State Senate are to be appointed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.

The administrative order requests, but does not require, the two legislators be current members of the Alaska Grown Legislative Caucus.

The Task Force will issue a report on its findings and recommendations on or before September 1, 2022.

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association seeks applicants to its Crew Training Program

Eric Jordan of Sitka, back center, poses with crew members (l-r) Alyssa Russell, Sarah Jordan (his wife) and Anya Grenier on his troller, the F/V I Gotta. Eric has hosted more than 40 young apprentices on his boat in recent years.

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), a Sitka-based fishing group, and partner organization Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) are seeking applicants for the Crew Training Program. Through a safe and well-guided entry level experience, the program aims to provide young people an opportunity to gain experience in, as well as an understanding of, commercial fishing and its importance to supporting coastal communities. 

Formalized as part of ALFA’s Young Fishermen’s Initiative in 2015 — in late 2017 ALFA was awarded funds to get more boots on deck statewide. Since 2015, more than 100 apprentices have been trained and placed on local fishing vessels in Southeast Alaska. This crew training program is a way to attract younger entrants into an industry where the average fisherman’s age in Alaska is older than 50. 

Over several years, ALFA Member Eric Jordan of the F/V I Gotta brought more than 40 young people fishing as part of ALFA’s budding Crew Training Program. While on the water, Eric teaches these deckhands the intricacies of commercial fishing and demonstrates sustainable fishing practices to encourage a strong conservation ethic. 

The Crew Training Program aims to 1) provide young people with an interest in pursuing a career in commercial fishing an opportunity to gain experience; and, 2) give young people the opportunity to better understand commercial fishing, the lifestyle it provides, and its important role in supporting coastal communities. All while providing a safe, well-guided, entry level experience.

 In 2022, ALFA and ASFT hope to place several apprentices with local skippers, and fishing vessels and  enhance local employment opportunities. As Executive Director of ALFA, Linda Behnken explains, “With support from numerous funders, we have been fortunate to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities. Our goal is to provide young people with a safe introduction to Alaska’s fisheries and to share the curriculum we have developed through our program with fishing groups in other parts of the State and country.” Already, we have shared the Crew Training Program curriculum with several organizations throughout Alaska and coastal organizations throughout the U.S.

Since the inception of the Crew Training Program, ALFA and ASFT have been awarded several grants to support this program from groups including the Edgerton Foundation, the City and Borough of Sitka, the Alaska Community Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). ALFA and ASFT are very grateful for the support of these organizations and from our community. According to funders, “the work funded by these grants will result in improved management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting healthy fish stocks and healthy fisheries.”

 ALFA and ASFT are seeking applicants for the 2022 fishing season. The crew training application period is currently open and will close March 15.  Applicants must be 18 years or older to qualify. It’s free to apply. Application information can be found at https://www.alfafish.org/crewtraining or by contacting Natalie Sattler at 907-738-1286 or program.director@alfafish.org.

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association seeks applicants for crewmember 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.

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

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), a Sitka-based fishing group, is seeking applicants for its Crewmember Apprenticeship Program. Through a safe and well-guided entry level experience, the program aims to provide young people an opportunity to gain experience in, as well as an understanding of, commercial fishing and its importance to supporting coastal communities.

In late 2017, ALFA was awarded a $70,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to expand this program in Sitka and to support efforts to launch similar programs in other parts of the state. The grant, leveraged with support from the City of Sitka and ALFA members, was awarded as part of NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund. According to NFWF, “the work funded by these grants will result in improved management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting healthy fish stocks and healthy fisheries.”

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

Last year, ALFA’s apprentice program received over 100 local, national, and international applicants, and ALFA placed 13 apprentices on commercial fishing boats over the 2018 fishing season. In 2019, ALFA plans to increase the number of participating apprentices, skippers, and fishing vessels and to enhance local employment opportunity. As Executive Director of ALFA, Linda Behnken explains, “With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities. Our goal is to provide young people with a safe introduction to Alaska’s fisheries and to share the curriculum we have developed through our program with fishing groups in other parts of the State and country”.

Lea LeGardeur, a crewmember apprentice from last year, says of her experience in the program, “Beyond giving me an entry point into an industry that I otherwise would have had a harder getting into … the skippers in the program all wanted to teach, and sign up to take greenhorns so they could pass on what they know.”

ALFA is seeking applicants for the 2019 fishing season. Crewmember application period is currently open and will close Feb. 28. Applicants must be over 18 years of age. Application information can be found at http://www.alfafish.org/apprenticeship/.

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.”

Alaska Sea Grant program offers online class on direct marketing of seafood

The Alaska Sea Grant program will offer an online class, Introduction to Starting and Operating a Seafood Direct Marketing Business, from 5:30-8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6 via distance delivery. The class costs $125.

This introductory course presents content on the development and management of a successful seafood direct marketing business from inception to operation. The practical application of business planning, obtaining financing, permitting, feasibility analysis, marketing, and operational aspects of a seafood direct marketing business will be introduced.

The course will be delivered primarily by lectures and in-class discussions, supported by four homework assignments that are individualized to assist you in developing an action plan for your business.

At the end of the course, the student will understand and be able to use the appropriate managerial and decision-making tools that are needed to start and run a seafood direct marketing business.

Note: The course is designed for commercial fishermen with little or no experience in direct marketing, who want to onboard or custom process and direct market their catch in various ways. The course will be taught in five sessions: Oct. 23, Oct. 25, Oct. 30, Nov. 1, and Nov. 6, from 5:30-8 p.m.

To register, click this link. To see a course syllabus, click this link and scroll to the bottom. For more information, contact Quentin Fong at 907-486-1516 or qsfong@alaska.edu.