Parting can be such sweet sorrow especially when the loss is of a long-time, beloved, super-committed and energetic board member! Jon Zuck of Anchorage has served on the AMCC Board for 9 years and will complete his final term at our October board meeting. Jon has served as Board Treasurer as well as Board Chair several times during his tenure in addition to helping to lead our social enterprise and nominations committees. He has gone above and beyond for AMCC volunteering numerous hours and we are extremely thankful for Jon’s dedication and tremendous contributions. Read below to learn more about Jon and his long history in Alaska’s fishing industry. We are so grateful to Jon for being a part of our history here at AMCC!
How long have you lived in Alaska? If you were raised elsewhere, what brought you to Alaska?
I’ve lived in Alaska for almost 35 years. I was born and raised in New Jersey; attended college (Zoology) and graduate school (Environmental Sciences) in Ohio; worked with Battelle National Labs in Washington State and as a consultant in Seattle before making my way to Alaska. I first arrived in Alaska to work as a NMFS observer onboard Japanese longliners in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. This was September 1981. I returned the following year as an observer and then joint venture representative on Taiwanese joint venture catcher-processors around Kodiak Island. I finally made the move to Alaska for good in July 1983. The mystique and uniqueness of Alaska, the vast wilderness and wildness, the open spaces, I believe, is what first attracted me to the state and has kept me here ever since.
Tell us about your connection to the ocean and Alaska’s wild fisheries. If you participate in a commercial fishery, please tell us about your fishery and gear type.
Working in the commercial fisheries in Alaska was a second career for me. While working as a NMFS observer and joint venture representative on Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean catcher-processors starting in 1981, I spent a total of 18 months at sea over a five-year period. Over the years, I’ve also fished for halibut in the Central Gulf (3A) and worked with local fishermen on St. Lawrence Island (4D) and gillnetted for herring at Togiak and in Norton Sound. In later years, most of my experience and time was spent managing fishing operations and working with local fishermen in western Alaska through the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association and Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, one of six Community Development Quota groups in western Alaska.
Why do you choose to support AMCC?
I’ve been a member of AMCC since the early days and on the Board of Directors for the past nine years. The fisheries – commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use – are the lifeblood of this state for all of us. AMCC promotes and advocates for healthy oceans, sustainably harvested seafood and viable coastal communities. AMCC is unique and a bit of a hybrid amongst conservation groups in that while advocating for conservation interests, it is also promoting and supporting responsible resource utilization in the fisheries. AMCC has a great track record for accomplishments and respected reputation with those involved in the fisheries.
What part of AMCC’s work interests you the most?
The fisheries conservation work at AMCC is of greatest interest to me. However, our work focused on access of the small boat fleet and young fishermen to the commercial fisheries and maintaining thriving working waterfronts are extremely important for the viability of economies of our Alaskan coastal communities.
What is your most vivid fishing memory?
It’s from one of my last trips working as a JV representative on Japanese boats during the pollock roe fishery in the mid-80s. Not a good memory but seeing mile after mile of pollock carcasses floating amidst the fleet during the roe fishery in the Bering Sea. This was before the ban on roe stripping and one of the reasons that I became so interested and focused on fisheries conservation in waters off Alaska. I also have so many good memories from nearly twenty-five years of working with local fishermen in communities throughout western Alaska. I’ll never forget fishermen in Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island hand lining for halibut in small 18 or 20-foot Lund skiffs, pulling in monster 7-8 foot halibut and then bringing their catch to shore by running their skiffs at full blast up and over the rocky beach.
What do you love most about fishing?
What’s not to love!?
How do you celebrate your connection to the ocean as an Alaskan?
Cooking, smoking, eating wild harvested Alaskan seafood as much as possible.
What do you love most about living in Alaska, or in your community?
I love being an Alaskan and bragging to people from Outside that I’m from Alaska! I continue to love all of those things that first attracted me to Alaska.
Where in Alaska would you like to visit or spend more time?
I’ve traveled and worked extensively in western Alaska, and live and spent lots of time in South Central. I think that would like to explore and spend more time in Southeast Alaska.
Heather Kelly is an evolutionary sports nutritionist and creator of Heather’s Choice, a line of dehydrated meals and snacks for adventuring. Heather works hard to find the best sustainable sources of protein for all of her meals, including wild Alaskan salmon! Heather’s Choice recently donated a portion of their smoked sockeye salmon chowder sales to AMCC on Wild Salmon Day. We appreciate Heather’s support and encourage you to try one of her meals on your next backcountry trip or busy weeknight evening.
What motivated you to start Heather’s Choice?
As a nutritionist, I wanted to have healthy, delicious food in my pack for all of my backcountry trips. I remember being really frustrated that I couldn’t fit three days worth of whole foods in a bear canister for a packrafting trip in Denali National Park, and decided there had to be a better way. After spending years playing with a small at home food dehydrator, I took a leap and launched my website to start selling some of my favorite meals and snacks. Little did I know, it has grown to be very popular and we now ship nationwide!
What is your business best known for?
We are best known for providing lightweight, shelf-stable, packable meals and snacks for the backcountry. Some of our best sellers include our Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder, Gluten-free Blueberry Buckwheat Breakfast, and Orange Vanilla Coconut Packaroons.
What sets your business apart from others in your industry?
We have a strong commitment to sourcing only the best ingredients, including wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon. Even though our products are twice as expensive as our competitors, our customers love having higher quality food to eat on their adventures. We have supported a handful of organizations that we are proud to work with, including Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Wild Sheep Foundation, Alaska Mountain & Wilderness Huts Association, and AMCC.
What would you tell someone who’s considering trying your products for the first time?
We are a born and raised Alaska-based business that puts a ton of emphasis on our customer service. We will go out of our way to get our meals to a customer in time for their trip, even if it is last minute. The constant communication with our customers is what has made this business so fun, because we have such great supporters! They always have awesome stories to tell of their adventures.
What keeps your customers coming back?
Good customer service and delicious food! Our biggest fans are folks who eat healthy at home, and want to continue to enjoy nutritious food on their backcountry trips.
How did you get involved with AMCC?
I was first introduced to AMCC by (board member) Joel Cladouhos, and it seemed like a very natural fit for our business model. We love putting wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon in people’s packs, and anyway we can support wild fish populations, we are all about it!
What would you say are the strongest connections to your business and AMCC?
AMCC’s efforts to support wild and healthy fish populations directly impact our supply chain. Without access to good seafood, we won’t be able to continue providing sustainably-sourced fish to our customers.
What kind of fishing do you like to do?
I had a blast dipnetting on the Copper River this summer for sockeye! In a matter of four hours we were able to bring in enough salmon to fill our freezer for the winter. No one can complain about eating salmon three days per week!
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
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!