Sitka-based community supported fisheries programs give back to the community

These are tough times, with an outbreak keeping people at home and closing many businesses. It’s also been a tough time for some fisheries, with unusual season closures and reduced catch limits.

Two community supported fisheries (CSF) programs based in Sitka — Alaskans Own Seafood and Sitka Salmon Shares — are doing what they can to give back to the community to try and help ease the strain. The Alaskans Own Seafood program is targeting struggling families, while Sitka Salmon Shares is looking to help struggling families and fishermen.

Similar to a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, where people buy shares from a local farmer to help forward-fund a season of crops and receive monthly boxes of produce in exchange, people sign up to buy subscription boxes from a CSF program so they receive a monthly box of selected fish based on what’s in season. The Alaskans Own program distributes its CSF boxes in Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seattle. The Sitka Salmon Shares program takes its CSF boxes to several Midwest states, such as Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and others.

The Alaskans Own Seafood program, operated by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, is partnering with Seafood Producers Cooperative so people can go to the Alaskans Own website for people to donate to cover a box of IQF (individually quick frozen) fillets delivered to the doors of Sitka’s families in need. Boxes are $30 and weigh approximately 10 pounds. Families will be identified through partnering Sitka wellness and aid programs. The donating person can specify a family to receive the box or allow families in need to be identified through mutual aid programs such as SAFV (Sitkans Against Family Violence) and other programs, such as the Sitka Mutual Aid — COVID-19 page on Facebook. The SAFV shelter is happy to take weekly donations.

ALFA and SPC are covering costs and will adjust as appropriate. Additional funding support for this program is welcomed.
“This past week we launched a seafood donation program.  We are delivering seafood to families in need every Thursday afternoon,” ALFA executive director Linda Behnken wrote in an email. “The three-dollar-per-pound contribution covers processing and door to door distribution — the fish is donated. Seafood is being delivered via an electric car.”

On Friday, April 10, Sitka Salmon Shares donated 100 pounds of salmon collars to the Salvation Army food bank and soup kitchen in Sitka and plans to donate a few hundred more pounds that we have in the freezer to them and other local causes over the coming weeks, Sitka Salmon Shares chief fisheries officer Kelly Harrell wrote in an email. “We are also going to make a cash contribution to Sitka Mutual Aid, and will provide free processing of fish for our fishermen who want to donate fish to local causes over the season.”

“In terms of support for our fleet, we have worked with our fishermen to set minimum prices for their harvest that the company will not go below this season, and will work to stay above those prices as much as possible,” Harrell added. “This provides our fleet with assurance that no matter how far the dock price dives due to the impacts of COVID-19, they will be paid a certain amount for what they deliver to the company. For our first loads of halibut this season, the price we are paying has been 33-42% above the prevailing Sitka dock price in the last few weeks. We’ve also recently launched the Sitka Salmon Shares Fishermen’s Fund which is a creative way to generate extra income for our fleet that is not tied to their harvest or dock prices.
“We are diverting a portion of the company’s 1 Percent to the Wild Fund (which provides contributions to small-scale fisheries and conservation causes) to the Fishermen Fund and are also generating revenue into the fund through the sales of “Alaska Fishermen Keep America Fed” t-shirts designed by local Sitka fleet member Allie Spurlock and through an online “Fisheries of the United States” course (taught by Sitka Salmon Shares co-founder and president Nic Mink) that we will offer to our members and the general public in May,” Harrell said. “All the proceeds from the fund will be evenly split across our 22 Sitka and Kodiak-based fleet members offering what we hope will be a meaningful bump in their season’s income.”

New guide helps Alaska commercial fishermen find markets for their fish

A new publication is targeting Alaska commercial fishermen and processors who want to find markets for their fish.

The guide is a new fisheries business support tool that we are hoping you will help to share called: Resource Guide for Fishermen Interested in Direct Marketing, Alternative Marketing, and Community Supported Fisheries. The guide can be accessed online on the Salt and Soil Marketplace website at https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/vendor-resources, and is also attached as a PDF.

The guide was developed by Kelly Harrell (who now works as chief officer of fisheries and sustainability for Sitka Salmon Shares) on behalf of the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition (SAWC) and Ecotrust, with support from the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program. The guide is intended to draw together a diverse array of information and tools that exist to help direct marketers/CSFs get started and succeed.

“The Local Foods Program at SAWC aims to localize our food system by supporting local food producers whose food lands on the tables of Southeast Alaskans,” said Jennifer Nu, local foods project director for SAWC and food sustainability catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “Kelly Harrell led the effort to understand the unique challenges and needs of direct market fishermen and determine ways to contribute to the success of their businesses. The guide is a comprehensive resource directory of a wide variety of tools for direct marketers and similar seafood businesses. Fishermen can use it to quickly find resources, organizations, and networks. We have already heard from a fisherman in Petersburg who said he wishes he had this resource available to him when he started his business years ago.”

• Resource Guide for Fishermen Interested in Direct Marketing, Alternative Marketing, and Community Supported Fisheries