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?
Darius on his boat, the F/V Marona, off Cape Hepburn in Alitak Bay
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!