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!