Last month, Working Waterfronts Program Director, Rachel Donkersloot, and outgoing Executive Director, Kelly Harrell, traveled to Naknek to help lead the first fisheriesCareer and Technical Education (CTE) program in the Bristol Bay region. In 2016, the four rural school districts in the region recognized the need to work collaboratively to better prepare youth to perceive and pursue commercial fishing opportunities in the region through development of a formalized region-wide fisheries-focused CTE program.The first step toward this end occurred in September 2017 with the launch of an intense week-long course covering safety and cold-water survival, seafood marketing and brand development, net hanging, and tours of local drift boats and setnet operations.
Rachel and Kelly led the seafood marketing and branding component of the fisheriesCTE program. This course provided an overview of 1) the role of Alaska seafood in the global economy, 2) current efforts in Alaska and across the nation to build brands and seafood markets and supply chains that bring greater benefits to fishermen (examples include Community Supported Fisheries), and 3) the opportunities, challenges and resources available to Alaska fishermen who want to direct market their catch.
Over the two-day course, students developed a seafood product and marketing pitch that they delivered to a ‘Buyers Panel’ who joined us near the end of day 2. Some of the value-added seafood products and brand names that students developed include specialty items like ‘Poppa Lox’ (salmon lox), Sonny’s sushi grade salmon, and T & O PetFood Co which offered high-end fish-meal based pet food products (one of our personal favorites). Students spent time perfecting their ‘seafood story’ and honing their public speaking skills as part of this course. It was a pleasure to spend two days with these eight brave, creative and committed students and to learn more about their lives and livelihoods. We are eager to see the Bristol Bay fisheries CTE program grow in the years ahead and thrilled to be a part of its early success.