Small scale seafood producers heading for Alaska to share ideas and expertise

The fourth Local Seafood Summit organized by the Local Catch Network (LNC), a loose organization of people interested in various aspects of sustainable seafood – catching, processing, marketing, regulating and all the rest – will take place in Girdwood, Alaska on Oct. 2-3.

“We’re really pleased to have a big cross section of the industry coming,” says LNC and Summit organizer, Josh Stoll.

Presenters include small scale aquaculture proponents like keynote speaker Dune Lankard, an Alaska Native and board member of seaweed farming non-profit Greenwave; Togue Brown, a dayboat scallop monger; other commercial fishermen involved in direct marketing; and a team of grant specialists from the US Department of Agriculture. In addition, the expected 170 attendees will include Mike Rubino, the Senior Advisor for Seafood Strategy at NOAA Fisheries.

It's a diverse mix, and like the LCN itself includes representatives of widely divergent views on issues of scale, governance, and sustainability. To create a safe space for viewpoints often at odds, the Summit asks attendees to adhere to community agreements of respect, including:

 “Stay open-minded - When you feel furious, get curious. As much as you can, practice good faith and give people the benefit of the doubt.”

The agreements will come in handy when discussions land on hot topics like, privatization, and managing scale, particularly in aquaculture. “At LCN, equitable access is one of our core values,” says Stoll. “And that includes protecting small scale producers.”

But that’s not enough for activist John Foss,  also known as Johnny Fishmonger.

“I want to hear them commit to policies like owner/operator and regulatory limits on scale,” says Foss. “I’m going, and I’m going to hold them to that.” Despite the community agreements, Foss is skeptical of having Mike Rubino in the crowd.

“We talked to Johnny,” says Brett Tolley, national program coordinator at the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, which is hosting a session on Rubino’s area of focus, offshore aquaculture. “Our session is on the negatives of offshore aquaculture, and the positives of some types of finfish aquaculture, like aquaponics. I think it’s good Mike Rubino will be here, so he can hear our perspectives. He’s not presenting!”

While the Summit focuses on information exchange among local seafood proponents, Stoll is thrilled that USDA grant makers will be on hand. “They’ll be hosting sessions and doing what they call ‘curbside consulting,’ helping people figure out what grants they are eligible for. Last year we were able to help Local Catch people get $3 million in grants. The USDA’s Local Ag Marketing Program [LAMP grants] has $90 million to disperse, and they are finally seeing fish as food.”

While holding the Local Seafood Summit in Alaska makes it a little harder to get to for most folks, the outcomes are likely to spread throughout the network. Stay tuned.



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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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