Alaskans Own Seafood CSF program subscriptions open for the 2017 season

(Photo by Nancy Behnken)

Alaskan’s Own Seafood, which is a community-supported fishery (CSF) program run by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), has opened and is receiving subscription orders for the 2017 season.

Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in Alaska. Now in its eighth 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.

(Photo by Caroline Lester)

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.

Alaskans Own has just released its prices, and early bird customers who subscribe before Saturday, April 15, will receive these prices (which are at a 10-percent discount).

Sitka CSF Prices:

  • Four Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-August), $300
  • Four Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-August), $435
  • Six Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-October), $565
  • Six Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-October), $825

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

  • Four Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-August), $330
  • Four Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-August), $480
  • Six Month half share (5 lbs/month, May-October), $605
  • Six Month full share (10 lbs/month, May-October), $885

(Photo by Josh Roper/ASMI)

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.

(Photo by Josh Roper/ASMI)

“Alaskans Own’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 Coordinator. “We’re so excited to be bringing customers to another year of sustainably-caught, delicious seafood.”

If you don’t live in one of our CSF cities and are interested in ordering fish in bulk, please feel free to contact Alyssa Russell or Willow Moore at alaskansownfish@gmail.com or 747-3400.

Please purchase your fish by visiting our online store at alaskansown.com

Learn more about our Fishery Conservation Network at alfafish.org

Sitka Salmon Shares brings Southeast Alaska fish to Midwest markets

MarshSkeeleHoldsSalmonAsGuyFilletsBehind

Sitka Salmon Shares vice president-fisherman Marsh Skeele holds up a chinook salmon during a recent tour of the company’s new plant on Smith Street in Sitka.

NicolaasMinkWithBookOnSalmon

Sitka Salmon Shares founder-president Nicolaas Mink holds a copy of his book “Salmon: A Global History” during a 2014 visit to Sitka.

What started out as a one-off fundraiser for a Sitka nonprofit has grown into a thriving business with sales approaching $4 million, with 2,500 members and 100 wholesale accounts spread out over six states.

Sitka Salmon Shares is a community-supported fishery (CSF) program, where members buy shares in the harvest similar to the process of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. But instead of the members being local to Sitka, where most of the fish is caught, the members of Sitka Salmon Shares live in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa.

“Each member gets a five-pound box of fish delivered to their door nine months of the year,” said Marsh Skeele, who serves as Sitka Salmon Shares vice president/co-founder and one of its 13 fishermen-owners. “A lot of them are former Alaskans or from Seattle, so they know good fish. The fish in the grocery stores there tends to have poor quality.”

SitkaSalmonSharesSignThe company distributes four types of salmon (chinook, coho, sockeye and chum), rockfish, ling cod, halibut, spot prawns, Pacific cod and blackcod, with most of the fish caught out of Sitka or Juneau. Sitka Salmon Shares also sells fish at 23 different farmers markets around the Midwest. Last year, Sitka Salmon Shares bought the former Big Blue Fisheries plant in Sitka, and is renovating it so the company can keep up with the special processing and freezing needs of its growing customer base while also developing new value-added products such as smoked salmon to add to the mix.

Sitka Salmon Shares got its start in 2011, when founder-president Nicolaas “Nic” Mink was in Sitka with a couple of his Knox College students working on a sustainable fishing and food-sourcing project with the Sitka Conservation Society. Mink, who still teaches environmental science part-time at Knox (he had a brief stint at Butler University a couple of years ago), decided to take some fish back with him to Galesburg, Ill., which he personally delivered to customers. Then those customers asked for more fish, and Sitka Salmon Shares was born.

TraysOfSalmonPortions“I think that first load of 750 pounds of fish raised about $10,000,” Mink said. “This year, our sixth, we sold more than 100,000 pounds of fish, just under $4 million.”

Some people laughed at his business plan when Mink decided to sell fish more than 2,000 miles away from its source, with a headquarters in a landlocked Midwest town away from most fish markets. But Mink and his partners found out that even people in the Midwest want high-quality fish from sustainable sources, fish that’s well-treated along the journey so it’s still in good shape when it reaches its customers.

“They want to be fish-eaters, but they don’t know how,” Mink said. “Sitka Salmon Shares gives them steps to know how, and it gave us a lot of opportunities to sell fish. Midwesterners are used to eating farmed salmon, but they heard about wild salmon. They want to eat wild, because it’s more resilient and sustainable than farmed.”

GuysFilletingFishEducation is a big part of the Sitka Salmon Shares story. In addition to providing the monthly boxes of fish, there is a newsletter with information about the fishermen-owners, where and how the fish is caught, and a variety of recipes geared toward wild fish and not farmed. The recipes come from four sources — Sitka Salmon Shares members, our chefs, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) Cook It Frozen site and from online sources.

“If you take a piece of coho (aka, silver salmon) and cook it as long as a piece of farmed salmon, the flesh becomes mealy and doesn’t taste good,” Mink said. “There’s a lot of education. With farmed salmon, the flesh is soft and thicker than wild salmon, so people need to cook it twice as long as wild salmon. We know wild salmon doesn’t need a lot of time on the grill, and that’s been one of the biggest hurdles.”

“We provide a lot of information,” Skeele said. “They definitely want to know more when you provide them with quality fish. We teach them about pressure bleeding, flash freezing, accountability and traceability. They want to know as much information as we can tell them about the fish that comes through our plant.”

AriannaShovelsIceIntoToteWithJasonCroftThe owner-fishermen are longliners and trollers, for the most part, with some who gillnet sockeye and use pots to catch the spot prawns. Skeele said all of the fishermen are owners in the company, “so they have some skin in the game.” By having skin in the game, the fishermen are more likely to treat the fish better once it comes onto the boat, so it maintains its high quality.

Right now, Sitka Salmon Shares doesn’t sell a lot of its fish in Sitka, although it does sell fish to a couple of local restaurants such as the Westmark HotelTotem Square Inn and Sitka Hotel. Sitka Salmon Shares doesn’t want to compete locally with the Alaskans Own Seafood CSF program that sells to members in Alaska. But now that Sitka Salmon Shares has its own plant, it does offer local processing of fish to charter fishing operations, personal-use and sport fishermen from Sitka, and to commercial fishermen who sell their own fish to various markets around the country.

“We’d like to sell more locally, and it would be great to have our fish in Sea Mart,” Mink said. “We’re excited about our community processing program, and we’re trying to do more processing for Sitka fishermen.”

CloseUpOfSalmonFilletingIn recent years, Sitka Salmon Shares has received national exposure with articles in Food & Wine, New Food Economy, Entrepreneur and Forbes, plus a variety of regional publications and Sitka exposure with a story on KCAW-Raven Radio. Mink said there is still more Sitka Salmon Shares can do in the Midwest and Alaska.

“With our plant, we have our own ice and our own value-added room,” Mink said. “We have a talented individual, Pat Glabb, rebuilding Big Blue. He built Silver Bay Seafoods plant. Right now we’re focused on the Midwest, and we have a ways to go to develop our markets there. But we have assets on the ground and systems in place and tons of room to grow. We think there are a lot of cool things to do with value-added. For example, we have Chris Eley, a chef-butcher from the Smoking Goose Meatery in Indianapolis, developing some salmon sausages for us.”

Fishermen wanting to learn more about the Sitka Salmon Shares community processing program can call Jason Croft at 966-9999, or stop by the plant on Smith Street (across from Baranof Island Brewing Company). You also can visit the Sitka Salmon Shares website at http://www.sitkasalmonshares.com/.

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• Aug. 1 entry deadline approaches in the search for a signature Sitka seafood dish

In an effort to support and promote the position of Alaska’s wild seafoods in the global marketplace, the Sitka Seafood Festival organizers and the Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau have partnered to help inspire the creation of a signature seafood dish for Sitka.

Both professional and amateur chefs are encouraged to enter this contest, which will have judging take place from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. The entry deadline is Wednesday, Aug. 1.

It is our sincere hope that this contest inspires locals to create an exciting seafood entrée that would become synonymous with Sitka. We also hope that the majority, if not all, local restaurants will offer their own version of the winning entry and eventually adopted by restaurants nationwide.

Guidelines:

  • Main Ingredient — Any locally available wild Alaskan seafood (eg, salmon, halibut, ling cod, black cod/sablefish, crab, shrimp, scallops, snapper/rockfish, etc.)
  • Quantity — Minimum of 12 servings of approximately 2 ounces each. The more the merrier!!
  • Categories — Versatile recipe/economical version, mid-priced version and, of course, gourmet.
  • Entries must be pre-made/ready-to-serve, no kitchen access will be available on-site.
  • Recipes for entries must be provided and will become public domain.
  • Deadline to enter is Wednesday, Aug. 1. There is no cost to enter
  • Set-up available at 11 a.m. and judging will begin at noon on Saturday, Aug. 11, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.
  • Judging — An anonymous panel of judges will determine the winner based on various criteria (taste, recipe flexibility, potential retail price, marketability, availability, etc.)

The winning entry will receive a cash prize, a certificate acknowledging their accomplishment, local promotion and, of course, bragging rights as Sitka’s signature dish. The winner will be announced during the Sitka Seafood Festival’s evening events at the Alaska Arts SE Campus at Sheldon Jackson.

Entry forms can picked up at Old Harbor Books or e-mailed to you. Contact Philip Rupell at 747-5940 or send e-mail to sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com.

• Contest information for Sitka Signature Seafood Dish competition 2012

• Alaskans Own Seafood wins Table of the Day at first Sitka Farmers Market of 2012

Table of the Day: Natalie Sattler of Alaskans Own Seafood, center, receives the Table of the Day award from Sitka Farmers Market Manager/Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member Johanna Willingham, left, and Sitka Local Foods Network Board Member Doug Osborne during the first Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, July 7, 2012, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Sitka. At each market a vendor is honored by the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market. The next market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, 2012, at ANB Hall, 235 Katlian St.

• Alaskans Own seafood to start community supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka

The Alaskans Own seafood company is starting a community supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka this summer. The CSF program will be modeled after the community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription programs used by small farms around the country.

Alaskans Own is a group of independent fishermen in Sitka whose commitment to conservation is supported by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. “For us, it’s not just about catching fish, it’s about caring for the fisheries. It’s our passion, our future. Our commitment to the resource comes through in the quality of Alaskans Own seafood — it’s the best, and we’re proud of that,” says Jeff Farvour of the F/V Christi-Rob and an occasional vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market.

The Alaskans Own CSF program features a three-month subscription that lasts from June through August. During these three months, subscribers will receive a total of 40 pounds of fresh, locally caught wild seafood (20 pounds for the half-subscription option) that features a selection of king and coho (silver) salmon, rockfish and ling cod, halibut and black cod (sablefish), plus some free black cod tips.

Subscribers will receive their fish during twice-monthly pick-ups (dates and times TBA) at the Mill Building, 836 Lincoln St., next to the Sitka Sound Science Center. All seafood is flash frozen at its freshest, portioned and commercially vacuum-packed.

Only 15 subscriptions are available this year, and the cost is $380 for a full subscription and $190 for a half-subscription. For more information, contact Beth Short at 738-3360, or e-mail her at info@alaskansown.com to register. Payment is by check for now, but credit cards soon. Proceeds benefit the Fisheries Conservation Network and the Sitka fishing community.

2010 Community Supported Fisheries information sheet