Wrapping Up and Welcoming Winter

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Dear Alaskans Own Subscribers and Friends,

We hope you're getting ready to welcome the coming of winter, and enjoying your final Alaskans Own shares for the 2015 season. As the daylight leaves us, eating fish becomes more important than ever. Except for sunlight itself, there is no better source of vitamin D than wild salmon.

Our troll fishermen are now targeting winter kings, the ocean “feeders” that will come to rivers to spawn in future years.  Longliners are wrapping up their halibut and black cod season and looking forward to sharing stories and thinking about next season.  At Alaskans Own, we are doing some of the same—reflecting on the past year and planning for next season. We hope you'll help us by filling out our end of season survey that will soon be coming your way.  We need you, our subscribers, to let us know what you liked and what you would like changed.

And we would like to tell you about some changes at Alaskans Own.  This fall Alaskans Own transitioned from being a program of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT—where Caroline worked), to being a program of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association (ALFA—where I work).

The decision is far from a wild leap: ASFT and ALFA have worked closely together since 2009 on a shared vision for a healthier Alaska, for both fish and people.  Together they have launched programs that strengthen fisheries and fishing communities, including the Fishery Conservation Network and the Local Fish Fund.

The bottom line: your subscriptions will continue to support the same conservation and stewardship efforts, but with the change the management of Alaskans Own will be more directly connected with the fishermen themselves.  ALFA is, above all, a fishermen's association, working directly to improve management in the same fisheries that provide your fish each month. Our goal is to engage more fishermen and more land-based residents in the future of our fisheries - all while connecting you with great wild seafood.

We hope you will be as excited as we are to be working more closely with ALFA and the FCN. Still, transitions are never without growing pains, so I also want to thank you for bearing with any hiccups along the way.  We deeply appreciate your support and look forward to reading your recommendations.  Please watch for the AO survey and, when you can, take time to share your thoughts.

For now, stay warm and keep in touch,

Anya

The Outlaw Ocean

Dear Subscribers,

This month’s catch (a combination of king salmon and rockfish) comes from one of our most prolific fishermen: Jeff Farvour.

Usually, I like to use this space to highlight facts about our boats, captains, or the fish you're about to enjoy. However, this week, I'd like to draw our attention to a recent series by the NYTimes.

Before working for Alaskans Own, I worked for Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), an anti-trafficking organization based out of Bangkok, Thailand. While there, I focused on the intersection between human trafficking and marine sustainability. At the time, it was a relatively obscure topic. But thanks to organizations like Alaskans Own and support from subscribers like you, seafood traceability is becoming a recognized issue.

I’m proud to be working for an organization that works to improve labor conditions and the marine environment. I’m proud to be serving our members; people who have chosen to support these values. Thank you all for making this possible.

So, this week, I encourage all of you to read the New York Times series: The Outlaw Ocean, to see how much further our work needs to go. I've highlighted three articles below. I hope that by reading it, you can learn more about the types of practices that—by joining Alaskans Own—you are taking a stand against.

(Please be advised that one of the videos in the series is particularly graphic. I have not attached a link, though it can be found through the homepage I’ve linked to above. )

Thank you,

Caroline

Alaskans Own Project Director

 

PART ONE: STOWAWAYS AND CRIMES ABOARD A SCOFFLAW SHIP

Out here, “the ground swallows you whole.”

PART THREE: SEA SLAVES’: THE HUMAN MISERY THAT FEEDS PETS AND LIVESTOCK

“Life at sea is cheap, and conditions out there keep getting worse.

PART FOUR: A RENEGADE TRAWLER, HUNTED FOR 10,000 MILES BY VIGILANTES

“It takes a pirate to catch a pirate.

"A rose by any other name..."

Happy Fish Day, subscribers!

Some of you may be wondering what Shakespeare is doing on a fish blog. Well, though little known to most scholars, “ye olde” Bill was actually invoking the sacred sablefish instead of the handsome Romeo.

Sablefish, black cod, butterfish—take your pick. Whatever the honorific, this fish packs a tasty punch. That’s because sables (well, we have to choose one) are prized for their high oil content and rich taste.

Actually, though colloquially referred to as “black cod” sables are actually part of the Anoplopomatide family. Alaskan sablefish typically spawn during March and April along the deep waters of the continental slope. It takes roughly five to six years for sablefish to mature, although they can live up to 90 years in the wild. They’re also a highly mobile fish, with recorded migrations of over 2,000 miles.

Sable fisheries are managed using individual fishing quote (IFQs). Each year, the fishery managers set an amount of fish that can be caught while allowing the stocks to remain stable. The quota is then broken down into shares and allotted to individual fishermen to harvest. The fishery typically runs from March 1st through November 15th, meaning you can get fresh sablefish for most of the year!

This month’s sablefish was caught by longline off the lovely F/V Tamarack. What is long lining, you ask? Longline is a fishing technique where hundreds of baited hooks branch from a single line. Benthic longlines make use of a groundline set along the sea floor with short branch lines (called “gangions”) attached every few yards ending in a baited hook. Our longline fishery does not damage benthos or benthic habitats and can select fish species by choice of hook size and design. Longlines are left to soak for a few hours, with each fish being individually landed.

Though well known by the rest of the world, sablefish is only just enjoying some well-deserved time on the American dinner plate. So tuck in, enjoy, and spread the word!

And We're Off!

Happy June! We’ve kicked off the summer with our first of-fish-al (heh) basket. Subscribers to Alaskans Own have spent the weekend enjoying fresh ling and halibut fillets. 

Jeff Farvour, a friend of AO and a wonderful fisherman up here in Sitka, caught this month’s halibut. For our new subscribers, halibut is the “king” of flatfish. They can grow up to nine feet long, and live up to fifty years. They’re also one of the tastiest—and most prized—fish in the sea!

When born, halibut have one eye on each side of their head (like most other fish). But as young halibut move from their free-floating “baby” stage into their life as bottom-dwellers, their left eye migrates over the right side of their head.

Although we can usually trace each piece of fish to a single boat, your lingcod is another story. Why? Well it all has to do with something called “bycatch.” Bycatch is a fish (or any other type of marine animal) that is unintentionally caught by a fisherman targeting a different species of fish. And although line fishing is the most sustainable form of fishing with the lowest rates of bycatch, if a lingy spots a juicy piece of bait, nothing is going to stop it from chomping down on that hook.

Alaskans Own aims to use all our fishermen’s bycatch, which means that your succulent slab of lingcod could come from any number of our boats. So, instead, rest easy knowing you’re eating the fruit of the most sustainable fishery, from the most sustainable company operating within it, and enjoy.