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What is the definition of Sustainable Seafood? And how our Alaska Gold salmon is the pinnacle of proteins

Salmon Run View From Above.
Salmon Run View From Above. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Seafood

Nature, by nature, produces excess. Cut open a tomato and see how many seeds there are. Somewhere between none of these seeds and all these seeds will become a future tomato, depending on the level of desire, care and knowledge of the gardener. Beekeepers know that bees store vast excess quantities of honey to feed themselves through winter. Knowledgeable beekeepers take enough honey to satisfy their honey needs for a year but leave enough honey in the hive for the bees to sustain themselves through winter. Thereby the bees can get a good head start in spring on another season of gathering pollen and nectar, so that they can continue to produce honey for the beekeeper for the following winter.

Seafood and, most emblematically, wild salmon work in a similar way. If managed correctly, wild salmon runs produce excess and can feed us into perpetuity. Nature produces excess so that we can harvest salmon each and every season for as long as we like. That is, once again, if managed correctly by human beings, and there are plenty of examples around the world where wild salmon populations haven’t been managed well.

But the state of Alaska has written into its constitution to harvest by the sustainable yield principle, which establishes the baseline for the excess to be harvested. As a result, Wild Alaskan Salmon populations have consistently been abundant. All told, Alaska supplies more than half of the wild-caught seafood in the United States. And Alaska will always be home to the greatest salmon runs in the world, providing around 95 percent of North America’s wild salmon. All finfish from Alaska are sustainably harvested and wild by law. There is no finfish farming in Alaska, so you can count on all species from Alaska being wild caught, natural, and sustainable.

Chefs and consumers alike struggle to know what is and isn’t sustainable when it comes to seafood. There are various certifications, watch lists, and environmental group lists. It’s hard to know who to trust. In Alaska, we continue to focus on just how long our fisheries have been sustainable. Globally, Alaska is viewed as the gold standard in responsible fisheries management. As a result of the state’s commitment to sustainability, and rigorous fisheries management, no Alaska seafood species has ever been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

In addition to being a sustainable protein that renews itself every year, Alaska salmon is packed with omega-3s, vitamin D, iron, zinc, astaxanthins, and selenium, a remarkably nutrient-dense protein. Alaska salmon is real food made by and for real people. One of the least understood aspects of the Alaska fishermen with whom we work is their deep appreciation of the environment within which they work and their extraordinary commitment to keeping their livelihoods sustainable and the habitats within which they work wild and pristine.

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Why Frozen Seafood is the Best Choice…

Frozen Salmon
Here’s a picture from a customer of what our coho salmon portions look like right out of the box. Included is enough dry ice to keep the order frozen until arrival.

It’s 2018 and we still get questions about whether frozen fish is as good as never-been-frozen fish. Here’s how we respond…Firstly, it’s all about the fish. The care that our fishermen put into each fish on their boats—cleaning it, stowing it quickly on ice—has a much greater impact on the quality of a fish than at what point in time the fish was caught. Blast freezing locks all the nutrients in, and stops all the biological processes in time, making a fish caught any time as good as it was when pulled out of the water.

In addition, frozen seafood is better for the environment than never-been-frozen fish. Easier to transport, freezing fish also reduces waste. 23% of the never-been-frozen fish in supermarkets goes to waste because it can’t be used in time.

This convenience for transport and storage is good for the retailer, the home consumer, and the fishermen. As Seafood Producers Cooperative fisherman Linda Behnken points out in this video made by our partners Alaskans Own, frozen seafood is also safer for fishermen because they “can pick their weather.”

But what’s really important is that frozen seafood—whether it’s our wild salmon, halibut, black cod, albacore tuna, or spot prawns—is better for you the consumer… because of the taste!

In a blind taste test, consumers were asked to compare flash frozen seafood and never-been-frozen seafood. Across all categories, flash-frozen seafood was rated as either more appealing or statistically the same as never-been-frozen fish. We’re biased, because frozen seafood is what we sell through our website, for a variety of reasons, including convenience. But it’s also important to note the improved taste!

It’s all about starting with a high-quality fish, like an Alaskan wild salmon, treating it with care, freezing it quickly, and keeping it cold until it’s time to cook. Chef  and seafood educator Barton Seaver notes that frozen seafood “is a major win for sustainability. It decreases waste and takes advantage of seasonal bounty to spread its availability throughout the year. From the introduction of micro-misting to more powerful and rapid deep-freeze technologies at lower temperatures, the process has really turned frozen product . . . into a means to capture pristine quality.”.

See a bit more about what happens behind-the-scenes at Seafood Producers Cooperative when we freeze fish for shipment to you our customers in this video filmed at our plant in Sitka, Alaska. We also include a fair amount of details in this blog post and frozen and fresh seafood.

flash-frozen-seafood

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What is the definition of sustainable seafood?

wild salmon
Amy Grondin with wild coho salmon

What is the definition of sustainable seafood?

Here’s a definition of sustainable seafood from SPC member Amy Grondin who fishes with her husband Greg Friedrichs on the F/V Duna: “If we take care of the fish the fish will take care of us by providing us with an income and food.”

Amy was speaking at a GoGreen Seattle conference with companies like Boeing and CenturyLink Field. Sustainable seafood means taking care of the fish we catch so that future generations may continue doing what we do.both as a way to feed ourselves and make a living.

At sea we share the ocean with the salmon we catch. We are part of the marine food web in the role of top predator. Back on land we are still connected to salmon but in ways not always tangible or as obvious as sea spray in your face. Fishermen return to land after fishing season closes. Likewise salmon leave the ocean to swim inland and up streams to spawn after their life at sea. Now the water connection to salmon is fresh, not salty. We need fresh water for drinking, washing, irrigating crops and creating hydropower while salmon need the water simply to spawn and complete their lifecycle.

No matter how you make a living – fisherman, computer programmer, construction worker, lawyer or [fill in the blank here with your own profession] – the fact that you live in the Pacific Northwest connects you to salmon. Streams and rivers thread from land to sea, stitching the two together inseparably. Choices and actions made daily have impacts beyond the four walls of our homes or four wheels of our cars. We may live in ‘rain city’ but water can’t be taken for granted. We need to protect it; keep it clean and remember that the less we use the more there will be for salmon. Living deliberately doesn’t have to mean a life of less. It means more for later.

When done right, commercial fishing is sustainable for the fish and the fishermen who make a living at it.

sustainable seafood
The Duna, a wooden trolling boat built in 1936.

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One Hook One Fish

Troll-caught Salmon

One Hook One Fish At A Time

We small boat hook and line fishermen catch and process One Hook One Fish At A Time. This is a traditional way of fishing that results in an extremely high quality fish. Our fish are caught, bled, processed and put on ice within minutes of being caught. Our catch method and handling procedures are unparalleled in the industry.

This video illustrates what is special about fishing with hook and line methods.

Here’s how it works:

Each of us fishermen has techniques that we have gained over many years and sometimes passed along in families through generations of fishing. Using our knowledge of where freely migrating fish might be, we fishermen head out and, once at waters we deem to be appropriate for weather and tide conditions, troll with lures or baited hooks at slow speeds. Typically, we try to troll at the speed that the fish we are catching would be swimming. This not only makes the lures more appealing but minimizes stress on the fish, making for a better quality fish. Through years of trial and error, we fishermen have found the right combination of line, lures and boat speeds to find the right fish.

We hook and line fishermen have a deep connection with the ocean and an expansive knowledge of where and how to find the biting fish. Once a fish is on the line, we know what type of fish it is and its size. We minimize bycatch with our knowledge of where to fish and by pinpointing species with the right lures. We bring the fish to the boat and deliver it onto the boat at the exact moment to avoid any damage to the fish. Once aboard, we bleed and gut the fish immediately. We then quickly ice or  freeze the fish capturing the fish in its freshest state so that you can enjoy the highest quality seafood on land.

One Fish At A Time produces the best quality fish and is good for the overall health of the fisheries. Here’s a video on our Good Catch. 

Sustainable Seafood

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Seafood Producers Cooperative: NSEA’s Business of the Quarter

Seafood Producers Cooperative

 Seafood Producers Cooperative is a longtime supporter of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, because they donate all of the salmon served at the annual fundraiser “Salmon At the Bay” each summer.

In an age when 90% of the seafood Americans eat comes from abroad, most of it farmed using dubious labor practices causing environmental havoc, Seafood Producers Cooperative is ruggedly American and has a proud heritage built on 70 years of relentless commitment to high-quality wild fish and responsible stewardship of the ocean.

Owned and operated by small boat hook and line fishermen who fish the waters of the North Pacific for wild salmon, halibut, sablefish and albacore, Seafood Producers Cooperative is a fishermen’s cooperative built on the work of families whose livelihoods depend on the health of our waters. These fishermen are the Eyes of The Ocean. Nobody has a tighter connection to our waters than a hook and line fisherman. They know that fish like salmon are a barometer of the health of our planet. They are also the first to recognize that salmon are nature’s true reward—delicious, with a life story that is inspiring. They know that salmon are worth looking after.

It’s clear that Seafood Producers Cooperative and NSEA share a common mission based on making it possible for people to enjoy the pleasures of eating wild salmon for generations to come, which is why SPC supports NSEA. Most of SPC’s owner/fishermen are family operations. Boats are passed along to sons and daughters over generations. Some SPC members can trace their families’ lineages with the cooperative over four generations. This heritage is important—the owner/members of SPC want their grandchildren to fish the same way that they do, with an eye to the future and a focus on quality.

Fishermen's Cooperative
Dick Curran, fisherman-member of Seafood Producers Cooperative

Seafood Producers Cooperative fishermen like Dick Curran take time to look after the ocean. During the break between fishing the Gulf of Alaska and outfitting for the Chatham black cod fishery, Dick Curran has removed from coastal beaches and waterways nearly 30,000 pounds of plastics and marine debris that would have been harmful to local wildlife. As SPC member Tom Fisher says, “A healthy ocean is healthy for me. We don’t want to damage our livelihoods.”

The cooperative also benefits the fishermen because their fish reach a wider market. SPC black cod is well known by fish buyers around the world as the best black cod available. Seafood Producers Cooperative’s troll-caught Alaska Gold™ salmon is craved by restaurants and retailers around the world because of the meticulous handling procedures our fishermen use to bring the salmon to market. The cooperative’s story and reputation as a source for the highest quality line-caught seafood has been known by fish buyers for a long time. Seafood Producers Cooperative is aiming for end consumers to better know the cooperative and the special fish the cooperative brings to market, so now SPC fish is available for purchase by consumers on SPC’s e-store: www.AlaskaGoldBrand.com. At the site, readers can check out stories from our fishermen, the cooperative’s history, seafood recipes, and purchase SPC’s high-quality fish for delivery anywhere in the country.

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Our fishermen’s cooperative…it’s Made in the USA

Seafood Producers Cooperative
We work hard to bring you the best quality fish available.

The fish offered on the AlaskaGoldBrand.com website is caught in the waters of the North Pacific by the hard-working American fishermen that make up Seafood Producers Cooperative.

As North America’s oldest and most successful fishermen’s cooperative, it is our mission to bring sustainably caught wild fish to our customers. Our fishermen’s cooperative…it’s Made in the USA.

70 years ago, a group of Alaskan halibut fishermen realized that the best way to ensure that their products were delivered with quality from ocean to market was to process their own fish. Together they formed a cooperative. As a cooperative, they were able to invest in a plant and together were able to market their fish to a larger audience than they would have been able to reach working alone.

Alaska Seafood
Where we fish.

We fish in the waters of Southeast Alaska, which is the world’s model for sustainable fisheries.When you support our fishermen, you’re supporting a ruggedly American cooperative with a history of caring for our waters.

Of the 550+ American fishermen/owner/members of our cooperative, 397 owner members call home the great state of Alaska. 216 quality-oriented fishermen members live in Sitka. And we have 1 industry-leading processing plant in Sitka.

Made in the USA
Captain George Eliason’s Tammy Lin delivering to the industry-leading SPC Plant in Sitka, Alaska

All of our fish is certified sustainable and is considered Best Choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.

When you get fish from our cooperative on AlaskaGoldBrand.com, you’re getting fish from a fisherman. Our fishermen’s cooperative…it’s Made in the USA.

 

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Hook and line seafood: The highest quality seafood

Hook and Line Seafood

Hook and line seafood: The highest quality seafood

Traditional hook and line fishing methods reduce by-catch and produce a tastier fish.

Most of the people we meet can understand that catching fish using hook and line methods reduces by-catch, the unwanted catch that occurs when using mass extraction fishing methods. What people don’t seem to understand is how hook and line fishing methods produce a fresher tasting, better fish.

To us Seafood Producers Cooperative fishermen, the word “troll” has a favorable and proud connotation. However, those outside of Alaska and/or the fishing industry might not have such a favorable  impression of the word “troll,” even when used in context of “troll-caught salmon.”

Hook and line seafood: The highest quality seafood.
Salmon trollers leaving Sitka harbor.

It is  possible that many of our potential customers confuse the lesser known “troll” fishery with the more well-known but negatively regarded “trawl” fishery.

However, salmon caught on hook and line, more technically known by those in the industry as “trolling,” are of superior quality, especially when handled with SPC’s strict handling procedures, because they are caught on the open ocean when their natural oil content, color and texture are at their peak. They are handled  One Fish At A Time with the utmost of care.

Our line-caught albacore is caught when the younger albacore are actively feeding, consuming a quarter of its weight each day, making the fish juicy in healthy oils and more beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids than older, larger net-caught albacore from warmer waters.  Omega-3s are associated with reducing the risks or effects of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, lupus and other diseases.  Also, many people who generally do not like fish still enjoy the mild taste of line-caught albacore.

In contrast, fish not caught on hook and line, fish caught using mass extraction methods, pile up on a boat’s deck. These fish might be dead for hours in a net before they are handled. Salmon caught using mass extraction methods often are caught right by a river’s mouth, so that the salmon might be going through the morphological changes that take place before they spawn. These changes in their bodies when approaching their spawning rivers give the salmon an off-taste. Or what we would call the “salmon stank” that those not fans of salmon tend to mention in their reasons for not liking salmon.

Hook and line seafood: The highest quality seafood.

 

Hook and line seafood: The highest quality seafood.
Those who know use hook and line seafood.

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Strictly A Salmon Troller

Wild Salmon. Hand-caught Alaska salmon
Fishing with Tom Fisher, Salmon Troller.

The appropriately named Tom Fisher has literally spent his entire life fishing Southeast Alaska.

Born and raised in Ketchikan, at age 13 he got himself an 18-foot skiff. It all started when his dad told him to fill the smokehouse. And that Tom did.

And during the process, he had an epiphany:

If he caught enough salmon, people would pay him to fish. Just about anybody’s dream come true. “I’m one of the luckiest guys on Earth! Other people don’t get to do this.”

Now Tom’s a board member for Seafood Producers Cooperative and catching salmon for purchase on the Alaska Gold website.

Tom is strictly a salmon troller. “I still marvel at the magic of salmon. They’re just so resilient. The wandering life they lead. The whole idea that they take this wild journey miles and miles to return back to where they were born in order to die. It’s just too much. Salmon are the barometer of our ecosystem. When we catch and  eat a wild salmon, that is nature’s true reward. ”

Like just about all of our cooperative owners, small boat hook and line fishermen, what Tom likes most about being a troller is the freedom. He loves the challenge of finding fish. He likes it when it’s rough.

Alaska salmon, wild salmon
Fishing in the snow. Southeast Alaska.

When asked about why he’s a member of a fishermen’s cooperative, Tom responds: “Because at the end of the day, my work is compensated fairly. I get the fairest price for my fish. I take great pride in workmanship and the co-op also takes pride in quality.

Like other small boat fishermen, Tom believes salmon trollers are the ocean’s best friends. “A healthy ocean is healthy for me.” We don’t want to damage our livelihoods. We are the Eyes of the Ocean. “A lot of us trollers know more than most scientists because we’ve lived our entire lives on the ocean.”

Through most of his fishing career, which has spanned 40+ years, Tom fished by himself with no deckhand. “That way I can be closer to nature.” I am the shipwright, mechanic, navigator and cook. Everything means more when you can do it yourself. “There’s more company on the ocean than in a city. It’s just teeming with life.”

tom himself

Tom’s current boat, the Carol W, was build by Finns in Astoria in 1939. Its cedar hull was restored recently.

Carol W, salmon trolling boat.
Carol W, salmon trolling boat.

wild salmon, alaska salmon, small boat fishermen
Carol W, salmon trolling boat

Wild salmon, Alaska salmon
Carol W, salmon trolling boat.

The Carol W being restored
The Carol W being restored