AMCC has been working with Darius Kasprzak since they collaborated with Kodiak fishermen to secure a decision by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to set aside up to 6% of the Gulf of Alaska cod quota for the low-impact jig fleet, providing more opportunity for small boat and entry-level fishermen. Recently, AMCC’s Engagement and Development Manager, Samantha Baker, talked with Kasprzak about this jig set-aside, the creation of the Kodiak Jig Seafoods brand, and his support of AMCC as its newest business member.
Sam: How did you get started fishing in Alaska? What does fishing (and specifically jig fishing) symbolize for you?
Darius: I was raised and home schooled on the highly rural south end of Kodiak Is. At age 14, I began crewing on a salmon setnet site along with my father, to make fall spending money for my first school year in a community (Kodiak High School).
Fishing symbolizes an independent, self employed method to make a living close to the ocean. Jig fishing in particular reflects an entry level and open access means to independently harvest premium seafood in a sustainable, low ecosystem impact fashion without reliance on heavy, expensive gear or a plethora of crew.
S: How did you first come to work with AMCC?
D: I first came to work with with AMCC almost a decade ago, during a grassroots struggle against fishery privatization in the Gulf of Alaska.
S: What is your perception of AMCC on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and in the world of fisheries policy?
D: AMCC testifies and is represented at NPFMC meetings, and consistently defends community fishing interests – in terms of available resource access that coexists with the necessary conservation and sustainable harvesting safeguards of responsible marine resource extraction.
S: What are ways you’ve seen AMCC’s work impact Kodiak? How do you perceive AMCC’s role in the region?
D: AMCC affiliation brings diverse subsets of community residents together, in order to galvanize action necessary to maintain the viability of resident, small scale, and family fishing operations – against marine ecosystem desecration, privatization, vertical integration, consolidation and other related aspects of large scale corporate greed and ambivalence towards preexisting socioeconomic patterns and overall social fabric cohesion.
I perceive AMCC’s role as twofold – (1) as that of whistleblower against unsustainable, or environmentally unsound marine resource extraction practices, and (2) as an advocate for policies that foster productive, harmonious port communities.
S: What did the jig set-aside mean for Kodiak fishermen? What did it mean for you and your fishing business?
D: The Federal jig set asides (Pacific cod and rockfish) meant the ability to jig harvest beyond the boundaries of State jurisdiction, without having to invest in expensive licenses or permits. They also provide a dedicated summertime jig fishery in the GOA, even if the State managed jig fishery has already been closed. As a full time jig fisherman, the set asides mean to me a much higher level of job security during the fair weather of summer, as well as expanded range and spatial opportunity to harvest.
S: What has the creation of Kodiak Jig Seafoods meant to you? How do you see this brand growing into the future?
D: KJS realizes an opportunity to showcase the unique and desirable aspects of the jig fishery (sustainable harvesting through artesian hand tended hook and line fishing, and exceptional product quality). KJS provides an alternative to large scale multi-sector corporate processor markets, and contributes to incentivizing free-market style ex-vessel price competition amongst various seafood buyers within my community.
S: How has Kodiak Jig Seafoods been received in Kodiak? How has it been received by others you’ve talked to (i.e. chefs, lodge owners, consumers, etc.)?
D: KJS has been received favorably in Kodiak. Small scale processing facilities appreciate the processing business. Jig fisherfolk appreciate the enhanced sales revenue, in conjunction with elevated pride of their special product recognition amongst local and instate consumers, restaurants, lodges, etc.
S: What else do you have to say about Kodiak, being a fisherman, anything else?
D: Love it! AMCC, keep up the good work!
AMCC has been working with Alyeska Resort since early 2014 when we began to source Kodiak Jig Seafoods rockfish to Alyeska’s Seven Glaciers Restaurant. Recently, AMCC’s Engagement and Development Manager, Samantha Baker, asked Seven Glaciers Chef Aaron Gilman about this partnership and about the resort’s support of AMCC as a business member.
Sam: Why motivates your business to support the health of marine ecosystems and coastal communities in Alaska?
Aaron: As an Alaskan restaurant and resort, Alyeska Resort and Seven Glaciers in particular recognize that Alaska’s marine ecosystem is one of, if not THE greatest natural resource available to Alaskans and the coastal communities of Alaska play a major role in providing this resource to the rest of Alaskans. They are also the ones most affected by it. They are friends, neighbors and members of a larger community of Alaskans that are bound by this precious gift.
Sam: How does your business contribute to the health of these ecosystems and communities?
Aaron: Whenever possible we try to source local, Alaskan seafood and feature that on our menu as the superior product that it is. We donate time and charitable donations to non-profit organizations such as AMCC and Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance in the hopes that our involvement will not only give these organizations support financially, but also help spread awareness about the challenges facing Alaska and the seafood community here.
Sam: What drew you to support AMCC specifically?
Aaron: We have chosen to support AMCC because we feel that [AMCC] is spearheading the most important part of this effort which is bridging the gap between the people who catch and process our seafood and the people who prepare and consume it. [AMCC] is facilitating conversations between fisherman and chef, chef and purveyor, and the consumer (i.e. Alaskans). It is an important role and one we look forward to seeing take shape in the near future.
For a list of all of AMCC’s Business Members and more on how to become one, click here.
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 email@example.com!
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!
Source: Alaska Public Media, APRN – Anchorage
Author: Steve Heimel
“Small boat fishermen out of Kodiak have found a premium market for their catch, based on the idea of buying local. The jig fishery uses gear as light as ten pounds, and is open to anyone who buys a permit. A number of restaurants are willing to pay more for fish caught that way…”
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…”