By Kelly Harrell, Executive Director
AMCC decided to take the plunge this spring and submit our concept for scaling up local seafood sales through creation of the Alaska Community Seafood Hub to the international fisheries-focused business plan competition known as Fish 2.0. This was the second time the ground-breaking competition has been hosted after first launching to high acclaim in 2013. For those in the fisheries world, Fish 2.0 quickly became the go-to place for those interested in advancing cutting-edge business models focused on the triple-bottom line of social, environmental, and economic impact.
The rigorous competition is divided into four phases with only those with top scores advancing on to the next stage. Detailed financial projections, plans for dealing with competition, and social and environmental metrics were all part of the process. 170 companies applied and AMCC continued to advance to the next stage, eventually emerging at the top of the pack. In September, we learned we were one of 18 finalists that would give a 5-minute pitch to a crowd of funders and investors at Stanford in November. The competition provided some great resources along the way: expert advisors to help us with our submissions and seasoned coaches to help us polish our pitch to perfection.
When I left Alaska to head to Stanford last week, situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, I had no idea what to expect. I was thrilled that AMCC made it to the finals for our place-based, social enterprise business model and honored to be part of a global gathering of innovative fisheries entrepreneurs. I was both nervous and excited at the opportunity to share our work with other fish businesses and impact investors.
On the first day of the competition, I was put at ease by the amazing camaraderie in the crowd. It was clear that given the fisheries challenges that we face around the planet from, we truly are all in this together. A few faces were familiar as friends from Salty Girls Seafood and Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust were also finalists. Colleagues from Real Good Fish, Credibles, as well as another Alaska competitor, ORCA (Ocean Rich Communities of Alaska), and Ian Dutton from Anchorage, now with Nautilus Impact Investing were also present. Off the Hook Seafood Hub from Nova Scotia and Smart Fish based out of La Paz, Mexico which both have similar business models to ours were also finalists and runners up. As an Alaskan, I of course had mixed feelings about the number of aquaculture focused businesses in the competition. But I was pleased to see the advances being made in land-based aquaculture systems as well as innovations in fish feed made from insects and algae, as opposed to wild fish. A large number of Pacific Islanders were present, as well as companies from Thailand, Switzerland, and Australia. Environmental funders and impact investors from groups like RSF Social Finance, the Calvert Foundation, and Aqua Spark rounded out the crowd.
My pitch came on the second day of the competition within a pool of four other businesses considered at growth stage (more than 3 years of revenue). Most of the other businesses in the track included the Pacific Islanders running compelling businesses to help further the interests of their small island communities. I was first up to deliver my pitch and was thrilled to do so calmly and without forgetting my lines. Giving a business pitch in front of an audience of 250+ folks was completely new to me, and memorizing every line of the 5-minute pitch took at least one hundred rounds of practice. I felt I answered the judge’s questions well during the 8-minute question and answer session, and was thoroughly relieved when it was finally over and I could step down from the stage.
In each of the three tracks, two businesses were selected as winners to receive $5,000 in cash along with the recognition that comes along with having top scores. At the end of the competition, when it was announced we were one of the winners in our track, it was really icing on the cake by that point. I was honored to get to be up on the stage with the other winners and of course excited to take home $5,000 for AMCC. But by then, we all knew that nearly everyone in the crowd was worthy of that level of recognition and support. Fishing is behind the game when it comes to smart innovations in technology and business to help further the long-term health of our fisheries, oceans and coastal communities. We truly are all swimming together, and it was eye-opening to view our work as part of a national and global mosaic of fish-focused entrepreneurial efforts. We certainly plan to stay connected with other businesses and contacts we met at Fish 2.0, especially those advancing seafood hub models, and are hopeful that the exposure results in increased support for our work.
In September, AMCC also learned that the Alaska Community Seafood Hub received a $96,000 grant from the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program. With this support, we will hire a full-time staff member that is solely focused on local seafood sales and operations. We’ll also engage a communications firm to help create the Alaska Community Seafood Hub brand. This funding will be critical in allowing us to expand our seafood offerings, better serve our current customers, and expand to new communities in Alaska.
Adding to the momentum are discussions AMCC has been in with economic players and food businesses about bringing food hubs to Alaska, including a facility in Anchorage that would have amenities like a commercial kitchen and freezer storage space. AMCC and the Alaska Food Policy Council helped bring a Wallace Center workshop on food hubs to Anchorage in October that was attended by food leaders from across the state.
None of this progress would have been possible without the support of our Catch of the Season customers, the fishermen and processors we work with, Kodiak Jig supporters, members, and partners like you. You have made it possible for us to successfully build a local seafood sales program that connects Alaskans to our local fishermen and coastal communities. Thank you so much for your support and stay tuned for more to come soon!
Midnight Sun Brewery Promotes Local Seafood and Marine Conservation
For the week of October 5-9th, Midnight Sun Brewing Co. in Anchorage will be hosting “Fish & Sips” a week of seafood from community-based Alaskan fishermen. Check out the menu below for details on each night’s seafood specials. 20% of seafood special sales, 50¢ for each pint and $1 for each growler of Sockeye Red IPA sold will go directly to supporting AMCC’s work to keep our oceans healthy and our coastal communities thriving. So have a drink for the oceans and enjoy some delicious seafood at Midnight Sun, October 5-9th!
By Hannah Heimbuch, Community Fisheries Organizer
At the end of February, while Homer basked in 40-degree weather, I ventured out for a visit to a very wintery New England. In Gloucester I was able to spend three days with members of the Fish Locally Collaborative, a diverse group of marine conservationists that work to create a healthy ocean through community based fisheries and other important efforts.
This valuable face-to-face meeting allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of the unique members and joint capacity of the FLC. I have a broader understanding of the social, environmental and economic movements taking shape within the marine conservation world, and how our work in Alaska informs and is informed by those efforts.
I was particularly excited to hear about the ways other organizations have translated positive energy and good ideas into meaningful actions for healthy marine ecosystems, and marine based coastal economies. I met leaders of the Slow Fish movement, individuals doing important research into community-based fisheries models, sustainable seafood marketers building direct relationships between chefs and fishermen, and many others. The diverse projects and programs being run by the independent members of this collaborative reflect a worldwide community of people working hard for sustainably managed fisheries and strong fishing communities.
After several days of conversation with these inspiring people, I ventured up to Portland, Maine for visits with our marine conservation colleagues in the north. An FLC member from Penobscot East Resource Center let me hitch a ride with him up from Gloucester, and gave me the rundown on Maine lobster fishery management. The next day I met with Susie Arnold from the Island Institute to talk about Ocean Acidification awareness and research. (Click here to see an excellent video on ocean acidification that AMCC collaborated with the Institute to create a few years ago.)
I met Lucy Van Hook from the Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association to talk community fisheries. Hugh Cowperthwaite from Coastal Enterprises Inc. took a chilly walk with me through some of Portland’s small, thriving fish markets as well as the Portland Fish Exchange. The PFE is a seafood auction warehouse — one of only a handful on the eastern seaboard — that handles nearly 100 percent of Maine’s finfish. I wrapped this incredible visit up with a conversation with Alexa Dayton from Gulf of Maine Research Institute. I learned about the Marine Resource Education Program’s work to offer expert training to marine industry workers on fisheries management and science, further empowering fishermen to weigh in on the decisions and research that impacts their coastal ecosystems and economies. Before leaving Alexa showed me around the gear lab at GMRI, where engineers work closely with fishermen to improve their gear and practices for sustainable fishing.
I flew out of Boston with much food for thought and landed in the other Portland. While in Oregon, before making my way home to Alaska, I headed to the Pacific Coast to participate in the Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria. A whole event just for fisherpeople who write? Sounds like the place for me. To be sure, I found my people on the waterfront that weekend. One of the first people I saw walking down the sidewalk in downtown Astoria was AMCC member and fisherpoet, Steven Schoonmaker. I visited an old wooden seiner, the owners of which are Kodiak fishermen that have long participated in the event (a photo of me next to the seiner is pictured right). I read some of my own work, and listened to funny, beautiful and profound stories from many others — including AMCC Board Member, Emilie Springer. Brad Warren from Global Ocean Health, in addition to sharing some fantastic music at the evening events, gave an excellent talk on ocean acidification at the Maritime Museum. I was also able to see the new film The Breach, an incredible look at salmon throughout human history. This event is an excellent showcase of the deep and complex connections that coastal communities have to our oceans and the traditions and work that take place on and alongside them. It comes out in our professional work, in the skills we pass down to our children, and in the art we create to celebrate it.
What an incredible two weeks, packed with information and introductions that will serve to enrich my work in marine conservation for years to come.
By Kelly Harrell, AMCC Executive Director
A recent op-ed by AMCC’s Rachel Donkersloot that ran in the Juneau Empire and other coastal papers highlighted the ‘graying of the fleet’ and challenges we face in ensuring continued access for local and young Alaskans to fisheries. While there are certainly barriers ahead in turning the tide on the loss of fisheries access in our coastal communities, one area that gives us hope are the possibilities presented for local fishermen by transformations in our seafood markets due to steadily increasing interest in local foods.
As you may have heard, AMCC is analyzing the potential for expansion of our current local seafood sales efforts into a “seafood hub.” We’re continuing to work with groups like the Fish Locally Collaborative and the Community Fisheries Network to connect with other organizations and fishermen across the country that are also trying to bring about shifts in the seafood value chain. These shifts, which help our local fishermen get better prices, support long-term sustainability, and better connect consumers from the “boat to plate,” are a passion of mine. And while as Alaskans, we catch plenty of our own fish, we still also purchase a lot of seafood. Our restaurants and markets source substantial volumes of seafood, meaning there is plenty of room for the “locavore” movement to go blue.
Two stories from the other side of North America about local seafood caught my eye last week. In Maine, the Coastal Enterprise Inc. launched a comprehensive web tool to connect Maine buyers with Maine seafood. Further north in Halifax, Nova Scotia the Ecology Action Centre announced the creation of a “seafood hub.”
This is the kind of news that gets me excited about the new momentum flowing into the local foods movement that can translate into real changes on the ground in our communities. Already, young Alaskan fishermen are taking charge of their marketing power. Fishermen like Claire Laukitis, who in addition to running Salmon Sisters with her sister Emma Teal, sells seafood through another family venture, Morshovi Bay Fish Company. Our friends at Alaskans Own and Sitka Salmon Shares are also making waves in Alaska’s seafood markets.
As the Alaska Marine Conservation Council further explores expanding local seafood efforts in the state, we are eager to hear from fishermen, processors, buyers, and others interested in these efforts.
If you are a sustainability-minded, community-based fisherman interested in new avenues to sell your catch, a chef who wants a better supply of Alaskan seafood, a consumer who wants more options, or someone with a cool story to tell about local seafood, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Stay tuned for information on upcoming food town hall meetings hosted by the Alaska Food Policy Council in Homer, Palmer, and Anchorage in February and March. AMCC is a member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and we want to hear your thoughts about how to get more local food (including seafood!) to Alaskans at these forums.
Let’s work together to harness the ‘blue power’ of the food movement for our fishermen and all Alaskans!
Ordering period ended Dec. 14th, please check back for other Catch of the Season offerings in the future.
Norton Sound red king crab was available this December through AMCC’s Catch of the Season program, a community supported fishery (CSF) that supports our work and mission.
Norton Sound Crab: Not Your Average Crustacean
Not only does Norton Sound red king crab melt in your mouth, but Norton Sound Seafood Products is a company that supports a better living for local small boat fishermen. AMCC is proud to collaborate with Norton Sound Seafood Products and its parent company, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, a unique Community Development Quota (CDQ) company “charged with improving the economies and living conditions in the Norton Sound region,” which largely means serving local fishermen with strong and stable markets for their catch, helpful resources, scholarships, training, infrastructure development, small business support, youth programs, grants, and a number of other initiatives throughout the Norton Sound region. By purchasing red king crab through AMCC’s Catch of the Season program, you are supporting both Norton Sound fishermen and the wonderful work that this company is doing in its community, as well as supporting the mission and statewide work of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
This seafood with a story is the perfect centerpiece for holiday parties and also makes a great gift for friends, family, and co-workers. Boxes were available for pick-up in Homer and Anchorage in 10 or 20 lb. sizes. Each box of pre-cooked, frozen clusters comes with the “Story of Your Catch,” preparation tips, and more great information about this product that tastes delicious and supports Alaskan fishermen and sustainable fisheries.
Source: Alaska Public Media
Author: Steve Heimel
“If food security can also be job security for fishermen, you could call it a win-win situation. Sustainability labeling is catching on in the U.S. after making a difference for years in European seafood sales. And now even in Alaska, some large customers are making deals with fishermen who promise to fish sustainably…”