Alaskans Own: Communities Come Together to Donate Fresh Seafood to Families in Need

Alaska seafood distributions to Alaska Military Members through the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska

Top photo: Alaska seafood distributions to Alaska Military Members through the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska (photo via ASYMCA of Alaska)

We’re celebrating National Seafood Month with stories of fishermen, chefs, processors and purveyors providing free, wild-caught seafood to families and communities hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Seafood programs lending a helping hand are happening across the country, and during the month of October we are highlighting a few of these efforts.

Celebrate National Seafood Month: Alaskans Own

Alaskans Own is Alaska’s first community-supported fishery. This non-profit program of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association gives seafood consumers the opportunity to take the health and sustainability of wild fisheries and Alaska’s coastal communities into their own hands. All profits from Alaskans Own go directly towards supporting fishery conservation research, initiatives to keep fishing access rights local and other efforts to ensure the health and longevity of Alaskan fisheries. As part of its mission, Alaskans Own has teamed up with the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, Seafood Producers Cooperative, and Sitka Sound Seafoods to provide emergency food relief to local Sitka families in need. Since March, they have delivered 3-10 pound seafood boxes of wild-caught, individually frozen fish fillets every week directly to the doors of local families.

Alaskans Own has also partnered with The Wave Food Program to deliver seafood to indigenous communities and military families in the Pacific Northwest and western Alaska, and partnered with Sea Alaska to deliver seafood to Southeast Alaska tribal communities. Again teaming up with Seafood Producers Cooperative and Northline Seafoods, Alaskans Own facilitated delivery of salmon, sablefish and ling cod, purchasing fish for distribution that had lost markets due to restaurant closures and best met cultures needs of the recipients. With support from Catch Together and the Alaska Community Foundation, Alaskans Own has provided over 400,000 meals to people in need within our bioregion.

“While our roots are in Southeast Alaska, Alaskans Own aims to foster connections throughout Alaska’s fishing communities by keeping the fisheries we depend on healthy and building new and more resilient distribution pathways for Alaska seafood,” said Linda Behnken, founder and director of Alaskans Own. “That’s especially important in light of the coronavirus, which has impacted families throughout the state and has made food security an even more critical issue for Alaskans.”

“Tribal members of Chignik Bay, Chignik Lake, Chignik Lagoon, Perryville and Ivanof Bay have all but halted subsistence harvest to protect local sockeye for future generations,” said George Anderson, President of Chignik Intertribal Coalition. “Giving up our subsistence harvest and in turn allowing the fish to escape to the river system was the right thing to do, but left local people without the salmon they depend on. The Bristol Bay sockeye from Northline Seafoods and Alaskans Own will help our communities stay healthy through the winter and hold strong to their commitment to recovering local salmon stocks.”

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