Spring is the season of firsts in many respects. In Alaska and Maine, it’s time to welcome the first salmon and crack the first lobster, as both species begin their migration to the shore.
Last Friday, May 19, celebrations in Tenants Harbor, Maine, and Anchorage, Alaska, marked not only the start of the state lobster and salmon seasons but also the growth of businesses built on these fisheries.
Luke’s Lobster celebrated the anniversary of its first Maine location, which opened in Tenants Harbor in 2016, bringing the business back to founder Luke Holden’s home state. Holden started the company in 2009 with the opening of a restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village. He went on to pop up more than 20 other locations in major cities across the country and in Tokyo since 2009.
What makes the Tenants Harbor location unique is its cofounding with the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op. Most lobster co-ops or pounds are holding areas for the live product before it is sold again to a third party to be distributed to retail and wholesale outlets. But 100 percent of the lobster landed at the Tenants Harbor co-op sources Luke’s Lobster locations around the world. Talk about dock to dish!
The Alaska salmon and Maine lobster fisheries are often compared — they are both highly productive small-boat fisheries that are the life’s blood of their state’s fishermen. The brands are globally recognized, and their seasons also happen to run in parallel.
As Alaska salmon return to their birth waters, the traditional first commercial opening is on Copper River in Prince William Sound. What began as the kick-off to the annual race to fill processors cans with fish that could be shipped out of Alaska as a shelf-stable protein has evolved into a media event.
Copper River Seafoods coordinates with Alaska Air Cargo to allow a few highly-coveted seats on the tarmac to witness (and record) the first fish of the season arriving by plane from Cordova to Anchorage.
That fish is delivered with great fanfare to a local brew-pub — 49th State — where Anchorage chefs had spent the week ahead in Cordova preparing recipes to serve at an event to celebrate the start of a new season.
It’s also in many ways a celebration of the way marketing efforts have transformed this Alaska fishery into a world-renowned source of some of the best fish your money can buy.