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!
This November AMCC staff traveled to the lovely seaside town of Monterey, California to attend an in-person gathering of the Community Fisheries Network (CFN). This was the third in-person meeting of the CFN that AMCC has attended since joining the network in 2011.
The CFN was created to advance the needs of small-scale fisheries and fishing communities through collaboration and peer-to-peer sharing of experience and knowledge. Themes this year that groups are grappling with across the country included electronic monitoring, supporting the next generation of fishermen, the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, and developing new ways to market and brand local seafood. As usual, it was a rich and rewarding experience to share our common challenges and carve out solutions.
We were especially psyched to get more acquainted with the local host for the meeting Real Good Fish (formerly Local Catch Monterey). Led by fish-loving founder Alan Lovewell, Real Good Fish is making waves across the country for their innovative work to deliver more local seafood in California including to schools. They recently received the Kaplan Innovation Prize award for their work and are a 2015 Finalist for the Good Food Award. Find out more about the Community Fisheries Network and its members at: www.communityfisheriesnetwork.org
What: The 9th Annual Kodiak Ocean Boogie
When: 7pm Saturday, October 24th
Where: Tony’s Bar, Kodiak, AK
Tickets: $30 (Call 907.539.1927 to get yours today!)
Join the Alaska Marine Conservation Council for an evening of music, dancing, delicious seafood appetizers, and silent auctions at Tony’s Bar in Kodiak on October 24th, 2015. The Ocean Boogie is an annual fundraiser for AMCC and also features the drawing for AMCC’s Annual Cash Raffle with prizes ranging from $250-$10,000! Contact Kodiak Outreach Coordinator, Theresa Peterson, to purchase your Ocean Boogie ticket ($30) at email@example.com or 907.539.1927.
Don’t forget to invite your friends on Facebook.
We’ll see you on the 24th ready to boogie!
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 Homer Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah Heimbuch
There’s no place like home. And in my case, that place is Homer, Alaska, location of the first ever Homer Halibut Festival. We set aside a lovely fall weekend in September to kick off this festival of the flat fish in the Halibut Capital of the World, and we couldn’t have asked for a better year-one shindig. We set out to celebrate the halibut resource, to share some great information and great food with the community, and Homer showed up in droves to make it happen.
We hosted some fantastic speakers from Seattle, Anchorage and Homer who filled us in on halibut ecology, examined economic dynamics from the international market to businesses in our own backyard, and provided insight into the policy process that manages the incredible economic and ecological engine that is the halibut fishery.
Did you know that halibut larvae spawned in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska drift on major Pacific currents back to the Bering Sea nursery where they mature into those adult fish we all love? Did you know that the sport halibut fishery has become one of the growing avenues for young people to enter into a fishing career? Or that Homer’s commercial halibut landings have often been higher than any other port in Alaska? Those are just a few of the many things I learned from the great presenters on September 19th.
The community meal was a testament to the power of local food — feeding at least 300 people with halibut donated by local fishermen and produce from many of our local farmers. At the Halibut Cabaret we had musicians and storytellers sharing the personal side of the fishing life, and a generous showing of community support through donations and auction bids on the fabulous buoys donated and decorated by Homer fisherfolk and artists. The Halibut Hustle, a 5K run that zipped us around the harbor trail on Sunday morning, had a great turnout of weekend runners.
The other piece of this that I want to celebrate are the dozens of volunteers that gave their time and resources to help plan the festival, paint buoys, prepare food, put up posters, staff events and more. Dozens of businesses donated funds, goods and services — without which the festival would not have been possible. The community of Homer and beyond truly showed up to make the Homer Halibut Festival a reality.
What did all of this show me? It showed me something that I already suspected — that fisheries are a vital piece of culture and economy here in Homer; and that our community, and many others along the coast, is tied in countless ways to the marine ecosystem. And finally this reminded me that the working waterfronts across Alaska and their coastal residents are vital pieces of the marine web. We are fishermen, neighbors and marine stewards, and together we represent the past, present and future of Alaska fisheries.
Thank you to all of our generous sponsors!
International Pacific Halibut Commission
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Representative Paul Seaton
Alaska Boats & Permits
Captain Mike’s Charters
Homer Chamber of Commerce
North Pacific Fisheries Association
Preventive Dental Services
Salty Girls Gifts and Booking
Alice’s Champagne Palace
Coal Point Trading Co.
Paul and Jennifer Castellani
F/V Captain Cook
F/V Dangerous Cape
F/V Nuka Point
Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
Kachemak Bay Running Club
La Baleine Cafe
Land’s End Resort
*For more information about how you can get involved in next year’s Homer Halibut Festival, you can contact Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org. And be sure to check out homerhalibutfest.org.
By Lark Starkey
“I don’t understand how people believe in unicorns when there are so many unbelievable and wonderful things that exist in our own world.” – One of the many words of wisdom I gathered from Ray Troll as he casually supervised Memo Jauregi in the painting of what would become the bright, blue, and fantastic Local Seafood Mobile.
As the van underwent its transformation, it turned from white, to baby blue, to baby blue with comic book like outlines, to its full glory in my very own garage. I watched Memo work and offered coffee and food as a contribution to the creative process. Ray would stop by occasionally, swooping me up and away from the office for a mini photo shoot, offering Memo advice on the placement of pectoral fins among other fins, and a few expertly placed sharpie marks.
After Memo finished the paint job, working until midnight and flying out at 1am, Ray showed up on my lazy Sunday morning to finish up some details. I was soon enlisted to help in the cleanup and unofficial unmasking of the van in all its grandeur. Between peeling off strips of masking tape I learned about the other passions of Ray – sharks and geology, two interests which have resulted in Ray being a big part of the reveal of the helicoprion fossil, a prehistoric shark with a bizarre saw like wheel of teeth (look it up – it is really stranger and more fantastical than unicorns). As the evening drew to a close, I found myself cruising around with Ray on a test drive of the van around our sleepy neighborhood. That night we ended up discussing toxics in our environment, our passion for the natural world, how that led him to fish art, and he offered some well placed life advice.
Now after the fact, it seems very lucky I was able to make these connections with Memo and Ray. And of course, the Local Seafood Mobile looks awesome! See it for yourself around town at farmers markets, festivals, and events throughout Southcentral Alaska (check out AMCC’s Calendar and Events page for more). We’ll be selling seafood and talking about buying local in Alaska. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at #LocalSeafoodMobile. We hope to see you soon!
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.
Locavores, foodies, and seafood advocates, join us for these upcoming Alaska Food Policy Council Town Hall Meetings in your community! And be sure to check out all of our local food events by visiting our Events Calendar.
Why is food important to you?
The Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC) invite you to attend a community town hall meeting to gather your ideas and opinions about local food and food systems issues from local community members.
The purpose of these meetings is to increase awareness of Alaska food issues, promote involvement in local food issues by community members, and gain a perspective of local food issues to inform AFPC and policy makers.
February 18 Alaska Food Policy Council Palmer Town Hall
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!