This week, two community supported fisheries announced a plan to give back to Alaska communities in need. Alaskans Own and Northline Seafoods are teaming up to deliver 45,000 pounds of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to Alaska Native villages experiencing record-low salmon returns this year. The announcement follows on the heels of SeaShare's announcement that its donation requests to food banks and other hunger-relief efforts have skyrocketed this year.

Both Alaskans Own and Northline Seafoods are based in Sitka and evolved from a devotion to sustaining fishing communities, which makes these donation initiatives a perfect match.

“Northline Seafoods purchases and processes our salmon in Bristol Bay, where we’re incredibly lucky to be experiencing record-high salmon returns,” said Ben Blakey, founder and president of Northline Seafoods. “Very few sockeye salmon returned to Chignik this summer, so when we got a call requesting some of our Bristol Bay sockeye, I said we could help. We are all happy to know our catch here in Bristol Bay will fill some freezers and smokehouses, and help ensure folks in Chignik can still practice their subsistence traditions as they have year after year.”

The donations align with the dual focus of Alaska fishing families to sustain both coastal communities and the salmon fisheries they rely on.

“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.”

The partnership, made possible by Catch Together, allows Alaskans Own to purchase and deliver Bristol Bay salmon to the Chignik Bay and nearby communities with the potential to expand to other Alaska communities in need. Alaskans Own runs a regular Seafood Donation Program that feeds food-insecure families in Sitka. 

“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, Alaska’s first community supported fishery. “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.”

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 14 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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