Photo courtesy of Linda Behnken
As the COVID-19 pandemic creates a greater economic downturn with each passing day, many Alaskans are facing difficult decisions about how to cover daily needs with little or no income. With people out of work, many families are finding it increasingly difficult to put food on the table. Those who can are stepping up to help, and people in the commercial and seafood industries are no exception. Alaska fishermen and processors are helping to ease the financial burden with donations of fish to people who are struggling make ends meet.
In Sitka, fishermen are donating seafood, and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), in collaboration with the Seafood Producers Cooperative and Sitka Sound Seafoods, is coordinating seafood delivery to families in need and welfare organizations. A minimum donation of $15.00 provides a box containing 3-5 pounds of wild-caught frozen filets of fish, and the website allows you to donate in increments up to $10,000 to help deliver even more seafood to Alaskan families. Some of the donated catch is incidental to what fishermen are targeting and often what fishermen bring home to their own family and friends, while other seafood is donated from what they would sell at market. The processors are filleting, portioning and freezing the seafood at cost to support the program and ensure familes receive a high-quality durable product. Donations to the program from Silver Bay Seafoods, Sitka Legacy Fund, and 18 individual donors have ensured that ALFA can continue distributing seafood to families in need through the summer fishing season.
The three collaborators in this effort were able to get the donation service up and running quickly because Alaskans Own, a nonprofit Community Supported Fishery program run by ALFA, already has the infrastructure in place for direct-to-consumer deliveries. Alaskans Own delivers locally caught, vacuumed-packed frozen fillets in monthly shipments through local coordinators in Alaska and Seattle or by individual direct orders to anywhere in the U.S. through its website. The program has been in existence for more than 10 years and has 300+ subscribers who receive five to 20 pounds of halibut, salmon, lingcod, shrimp, sablefish and more on a monthly basis from May to October.
All profits from Alaskans Own go to various initiatives supporting Alaska fisheries and fishermen. The Young Fishermen’s Initiative helps the next generation of Alaskan fishermen overcome the steep costs of starting a commercial fishing business so they can join the fishing fleet. Funds also go to support advocacy work on issues important to Alaskan fishermen and coastal communities, such defending and strengthening the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and protecting fish habitat through the Alaska Roadless Rule. Alaskans Own profits also fund the Fishery Conservation Network (FCN), a cooperative research program between fishermen and scientists, which has conducted research projects to reduce bycatch, map seafloor habitat and improve both catch accounting and the fleet’s fuel efficiency.
You can help support Alaska’s local families, fishermen and coastal communities during this global pandemic and all year long by visiting AlaskansOwn.com.