Alaskans Own community-supported seafood program opens 2019 membership sales

Alaskans Own (AO), a community-supported fishery (CSF) program run by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), has opened and is receiving subscription orders for the 2019 season.

Alaskans Own was the first community-supported fishery (CSF) program in Alaska. Now in its 10th year, AO was created to connect consumers to small-boat fishermen, ensure that more fish caught in Alaska stays in Alaska, and create a sustainable source of revenue to support ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network, which engages fishermen and scientists in conservation and research initiatives.

Similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, CSF programs address an important environmental and socio-economic need by strengthening consumer-producer relationships. By forward-funding a season of seafood, subscribers invest in sustainable harvest and the rural fishermen who catch their fish, as well as supporting the web of seafood-related jobs that provide the economic backbone for our coastal communities.

There are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving fish through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Subscriptions include a mix of premium locally hook-and-line caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

Alaskans Own has just released its 2019 prices — choose either monthly installments or pay all at once and receive 5 percent off.

CSF Prices:

  • Four-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-August, 20 lbs total), $375 paid in full or $99 monthly payment ($396 total for four months)
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-October, 30 lbs total), $565 paid in full or $99 monthly payment ($594 total for six months)

Besides the monthly shares there are a variety of other packages, including different sampler boxes of wild-caught, flash-frozen, high-quality seafood available on the AO website.

In a Feb. 2019 customer survey taken by 40 randomly-selected Alaskans Own CSF subscribers, more than 73 percent gave their overall experience the highest possible rating, 5 out of 5 stars, which was designated as “very satisfied.” The survey asked CSF members what they liked best about Alaskans Own CSF, and the most common answers were excellent, great quality seafood, the variety of species, and supporting local, Alaskan fishermen.

Alaskans Own not only connects consumers with the local fishermen who caught their seafood, which is so important for transparency of the seafood supply chain, it also gives customers the opportunity to give to conservation projects because all AO profits go to the Fishery Conservation Network.

Customers who don’t live in one of Alaskans Own’s CSF cities (Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seattle) can also partake by setting up a custom order with the Alaskans Own staff. The AO staff can be reached at alaskansownfish@gmail.com or (907) 747-3400.

Shares and seafood boxes can be purchased on the AO online store at alaskansown.com, and the deadline to order for this year is May 15.

Alaskans Own is a non-profit, community supported fisheries program.  Joining Alaskans Own is about a lot more than buying great fish. It’s an investment in the health of both fish and fisherman, in a cleaner environment, more vibrant local economies and a better future for Alaska. Learn more about our Fishery Conservation Network at alfafish.org

• Final 2019 Alaskans Own seafood brochure (opens as PDF document)

Local Fish Fund to help Alaska’s next generation of commercial fishers find financing

The Local Fish Fund is a program of Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, a non-profit corporation based in Sitka, Alaska. The mission of the Trust is to protect and support local fishing businesses, promote sustainable fishing practices, and revitalize fishing communities in Alaska. The Local Fish Fund program aims to incentivize ocean conservation practices and strengthen fishery leadership in Alaska communities by structuring loan products that will support Alaska residents in purchasing quota and retaining fishery access opportunities. (Photo by Laurie Mistretta)

The Local Fish Fund is an innovative fisheries loan program that will provide a new financing tool for the next generation of commercial fishers in Alaska’s fishing communities.

The Local Fish Fund is a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, a Sitka-based nonprofit organization that protects and promotes fishing and fisheries. The loan fund aims to support Alaska’s fishing communities by reducing specific barriers to entry into commercial fisheries and engaging next-generation fishermen in marine stewardship and policy leadership.  Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust was supported in setting up and capitalizing the fund by The Nature Conservancy, Craft3, Rasmuson Foundation, and Catch Together.

“The cost and risk involved in accessing Alaska’s quota share fisheries are comparable to purchasing a hotel as a first step in home ownership,” says Linda Behnken, commercial fisherman and founding member of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. “As a result, the number of young rural residents entering the fisheries has dropped over the past 15 years. Local Fish Fund aims to change that trend by lowering barriers to entry while engaging the next generation of community-based fishermen in resource conservation and management.”

The Local Fish Fund loan structure has been developed in close consultation with commercial fishermen in Alaska to increase local ownership of halibut and sablefish quota. Traditional commercial fish loans require fixed payments, like a home loan. This presents substantial risk for entry-level commercial fishing businesses because the allowable catch and fish price can vary dramatically from year to year. In contrast, the Local Fish Fund loans use a “revenue participation” approach in which loan repayment is based on fish landings rather than a fixed loan repayment structure. The Local Fish Fund offers loans with competitive interest rates and reduced down payment options, and allows fishermen to build sufficient equity to eventually access conventional loans.

In addition to providing easier access to quota purchase, this loan program has been developed to increase marine stewardship and leadership capacity in the field of sustainable fisheries management. Loan recipients will be incentivized to participate in a flexible set of conservation programs that contribute to sustainable fisheries management by collecting better scientific data; engaging in policy and management decision-making; and working on conservation education and outreach.

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association executive director and Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust founding member Linda Behnken’s longliner, the Woodstock (Photo Copyright Josh Roper)

“Alaska has some of the most sustainably managed fisheries in the world,” says Christine Woll, the Southeast Alaska program director for The Nature Conservancy. “This is due in large part to Alaskans having an active voice in how our fisheries are managed. Encouraging local participation in our commercial fisheries helps foster a long-standing Alaska tradition of community-based stewardship of our natural resources.”

The launch of this loan fund was made possible by a unique collaboration that brought together varied expertise across fisheries, conservation, and finance. In addition to the  Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, the launch of the fund was supported by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, which has a long history of leadership in Alaskan fisheries management; The Nature Conservancy, which has worked with fishing communities to develop economic incentives for fisheries conservation in communities across the globe; and Craft3, a community development financial institution, which provides loans to benefit Pacific Northwest communities, and is originating and servicing loans on Local Fish Fund’s behalf. The Rasmuson Foundation and Catch Together have capitalized the loan fund, which will seek to make a series of loans over the next two to three years.

“We know how important quota ownership is to fishing communities in Southeast Alaska, and we are pleased to be a financing partner to the Local Fish Fund and its program to keep quota in the hands of local fishermen” says Kelly Wachowicz, Managing Partner of Catch Together.

“Joining Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and The Nature Conservancy to launch the Local Fish Fund makes perfect sense to Craft3. This effort expands on our decades-long commitment to sustainable fisheries, conservation, and community development,” stated Craft3 President & CEO Adam Zimmerman. “The Local Fish Fund’s flexible credit and conservation incentives will preserve local fishery ownership, build equity in communities and families, and sustain fisheries health. This can be a model for how private, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners can work together to invest in current and next generation fishermen committed to sustainability.”

“The Local Fish Fund relies on creative thinking – and strong local and national partners – to open up economic opportunities in one of Alaska’s most valued industries, fishing,” said Chris Perez, Rasmuson Foundation senior program officer.

Behnken also thanked the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and The Oak Foundation, which provided long-time support for the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and helped out with the development of the Local Fish Fund.

• Local Fish Fund two page summary (opens as PDF)

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/.

Alaskans Own seafood program opens 2018 membership sales

Alaskans Own (AO), a community-supported fishery (CSF) program run by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), has opened and is receiving subscription orders for the 2018 season.

Alaskans Own was the first community-supported fishery (CSF) program in Alaska. Now in its ninth year, AO was created to connect consumers to small-boat fishermen, ensure that more fish caught in Alaska stays in Alaska, and create a sustainable source of revenue to support ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network, which engages fishermen and scientists in conservation and research initiatives.

Similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, CSF programs address an important environmental and socio-economic need by strengthening consumer-producer relationships. By forward-funding a season of seafood, subscribers invest in sustainable harvest and the rural fishermen who catch their fish, as well as supporting the web of seafood-related jobs that provide the economic backbone for our coastal communities.

There are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving fish through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Subscriptions include a mix of premium locally hook-and-line caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

Alaskans Own has just released its prices — choose either monthly installments or pay all at once and receive 5 percent off.

Sitka CSF Prices:

  • Four-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-August, 20 lbs total), $355 paid in full or $94 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-August, 40 lbs total), $668 paid in full or $176.25 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-August, 80 lbs total), $1,240 paid in full or $327.50 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-October, 30 lbs total), $535 paid in full or $94 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-October, 60 lbs total), $970 paid in full or $170.83 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-October, 120 lbs total), $1,880 paid in full or $323.33 monthly payment

Non-Sitka CSF Prices (available in Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seattle):

  • Four-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-August, 20 lbs total), $375 paid in full or $99 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-August, 40 lbs total), $708 paid in full or $186.25 monthly payment
  • Four-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-August, 80 lbs total), $1,320 paid in full or $347.50 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Few share (5 lbs/month, May-October, 30 lbs total), $565 paid in full or $99 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Family share (10 lbs/month, May-October, 60 lbs total), $1,030 paid in full or $180.83 monthly payment
  • Six-Month Feed-A-Neighborhood share (20 lbs/month, May-October, 120 lbs total), $2,000 paid in full or $343.33 monthly payment

“AO’s model is unique from other CSFs because it is not only connecting customers to the fishermen that caught their fish, it is supporting a range of fishermen-sourced conservation initiatives,” says Alyssa Russell, ALFA’s Communications Director. “We’re so excited to be bringing customers another year of sustainably-caught, delicious seafood.”

Customers who don’t live in one of Alaskans Own’s CSF cities (Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seattle) can also partake by setting up a custom order with the Alaskans Own staff, who can be reached at alaskansownfish@gmail.com or (907) 747-3400.

Shares and seafood boxes can be purchased on our online store at alaskansown.com

Alaskans Own is a non-profit, community supported fisheries program.  Joining Alaskans Own is about a lot more than buying great fish. It’s an investment in the health of both fish and fisherman, in a cleaner environment, more vibrant local economies and a better future for Alaska. Learn more about our Fishery Conservation Network at alfafish.org

ALFA wins major grant to improve, expand electronic monitoring on fishing boats

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association executive director Linda Behnken’s longliner, the Woodstock (Photo Copyright Josh Roper)

A photo taken from electronic monitoring camera

The Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) has been awarded a major grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to improve at-sea monitoring of Alaska’s longline fisheries through the use of electronic monitoring technologies.

At-sea electronic monitoring (EM) technology uses video cameras aboard fishing vessels to monitor catch and bycatch in lieu of a human observer.  Since many small boats do not have the capacity to take an additional person aboard during fishing trips, EM can be more operationally compatible for the vessel, and potentially more cost effective. After several years of research and pre-implementation, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved electronic monitoring as an option for small fixed-gear vessels in the partial coverage sector of the Observer Program in 2016. The grant — awarded by NFWF with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Kingfisher Foundation — will provide ALFA $577,959 to improve Alaska’s longline electronic monitoring program for vessels participating in sablefish, halibut and Pacific cod fixed-gear fisheries.

With this support, ALFA will assist the National Marine Fisheries Service’s work to provide electronic monitoring hardware and field service support for vessels joining the EM program, and also support stakeholder engagement in the program’s development. The project will result in electronic monitoring of up to 120 hook and line vessels and will improve the utility of electronic monitoring data for fishermen and fishery managers alike.

“In Alaska, fishermen pay a large part of the at-sea monitoring costs needed to support our fisheries. By offsetting start-up costs and helping fishermen equip their vessels with EM systems, we can meet at-sea monitoring needs in a way that is more compatible with small vessels and improve cost effectiveness,” says Dan Falvey, Program Director at ALFA.

This is the second NFWF grant that ALFA has received to assist with EM implementation, which will help provide the equipment and field services needed to expand the program to the new vessels.

Over the next two years, 120 longline vessels in Alaska will use electronic monitoring while fishing.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundations’ Electronic Monitoring and Reporting Grant Program seeks to catalyze the implementation of electronic technologies in U.S. fisheries in order to systematically integrate technology into fisheries data collection and modernized data management systems for improved fisheries management. This year, it awarded a total of more than $3.59 million in grants. The 12 national awards announced generated $3.15 million in match from the grantees, providing a total conservation impact of more than $6.75 million. 

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.”

USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program awards two major grants to Alaska food projects

Two Alaska food projects were among 52 nationally to share in $13.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program announced this past weekThe competitive grants work to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced foods, and to develop new market opportunities for food production operations serving local markets.

Homer-based Cook Inletkeeper was awarded $403,334 to relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association and provide a support network for farmers and market managers. Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) won $91,141 to promote the benefits of flash-frozen seafood and marketing for rural seafood producers.

ALFA will provide support for consumer education on the environmental and quality benefits of purchasing frozen seafood, as well as to expand markets for and access to locally-caught seafood. ALFA has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since the 2009 launch of its Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program, Alaskans Own. Alaskans Own provides high quality, frozen seafood to customers in Alaska and the Lower 48.

“Many Alaskans are used to putting up seafood for the winter in their own freezers, and understand the high quality of carefully handled flash-frozen fish,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA.“However, many Americans hold onto the stereotype that fresh is always better than frozen when it comes to seafood. We have been working to show consumers why choosing frozen can be a better choice for quality — and for the environment.”

According to Ecotrust, a conservation organization based in Portland, “23 percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it the dinner plate and goes to waste.” Frozen seafood often has increased quality and freshness, can reduce waste, and has a lower carbon footprint.

ALFA and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood. The study utilized a new device, created by Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.

The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR (Certified Quality Reader).”

With these results in hand and support from USDA, ALFA will create a multi-media toolkit to help seafood producers, processors, and sellers share information on the advantages of flash frozen seafood, helping to establish or diversify their businesses. It will also provide training to producers and fishermen on using the CQR tool to develop quality assurance programs. ALFA will also work with partners at the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust launch a market-place portal where users can find and purchase local seafood and other sustainably-sourced goods.

The other Alaska grant, to Cook Inletkeeper, will help relaunch the Alaska Farmers Market Association, which was dormant for several years until this spring. The Sitka Local Foods Network submitted a letter of support for this grant proposal, which will provide some support to the Sitka Farmers Market.

“It’s an amazing step forward for local food programs in Alaska,” said Robbi Mixon, Local Foods Director at Cook Inletkeeper and Director of the Homer Farmers Market. “These new funds will be focused on market and producer sustainability, helping markets throughout the state assist participating producers, as well as the markets’ outreach to consumers.”

The project will recreate the Alaska Farmers Market Association, a statewide collaboration, with a targeting pilot effort across the Kenai Peninsula, will identify farmers’ market producer needs and provide specific trainings and support for those networks. The Alaska Farmers Market Association will also provide funding for market manager and farmer trainings, annual statewide conferences, and shared marketing, while collecting baseline data on a number of market metrics.

“Increasing food security and reducing food miles are vitally important to the sustained well-being of our communities around the state,” Mixon said. Mixon also manages the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage Food Hub, a program of Cook Inletkeeper that provides an online market for 100 percent local foods and crafts. Mixon said, “95 percent of Alaska’s food is currently imported. Purchasing local food supports farms, increases our region’s food security, protects the environment, creates jobs and boosts the local economy.”

Since its creation in 2002, FMPP funding has assisted local producers to grow their businesses by helping them connect directly with the shoppers at farmers markets, roadside stands and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. During that time, the number of farmers markets in America has more than doubled from 3,137 to over 8,684 today. FMPP grantees report an average 27 percent increase in vendor sales since receiving their grant, and 94 percent report an increase in first-time market customers.