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.”

Alaskans Own community-supported seafood program opens 2020 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 2020 season.

Alaskans Own was the first community-supported fishery (CSF) program in Alaska. Now in its 11th 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.

New this year, Alaskans Own is working with Seafood Producers Cooperative on the AO 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.. 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.

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 2020 prices, which are the same as the 2019 prices — choose either monthly installments or pay all at once and receive 5 percent off. Alaskans Own is currently doing a spring sale, where customers receive 10 percent off their entire order, including CSF shares, by using code Discount10 at checkout. Also, there is free shipping via Alaska Airlines Cargo for orders over 20 pounds.

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)

In addition to the Feed-A-Few option, there also are larger Feed-A-Family and Feed-A-Neighborhood options for folks who need more fish than what’s in the regular package. Besides the monthly shares there are a variety of other packages, including different sampler boxes and individual species orders 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. You can follow the the Alaskans Own program on Facebook and on Instagram.

• Alaskans Own seafood brochure (from 2019, info still good, opens as PDF document)