Wild Seafood Exchange offers opportunity for direct market fishermen

By

Izetta Chambers

Published on
February 16, 2010

The Wild Seafood Exchange, produced by Fishermen’s News in partnership with Washington Sea Grant, will be held in Seattle on February 24th, 2010.  The event aims to put commercial fishermen in direct contact with restaurants and retailers to form strategic business relationships. 

I’ve never attended this event before, but look forward to carrying the message of the Alaska fishermen to the event.  All too often, independent fishing families who have survived off of the Alaska commercial fisheries are left out of these types of events.  It isn’t that they would not like to attend, but more likely that: (1) they haven’t heard of the event, or (2) they simply don’t have the $1,500+ to cover the travel costs.  I believe that there is no story more genuine and steeped in tradition than the story of the Alaska fishing family. 

With the move toward consolidation, mergers, permits stacking and the general trend over the past fifty years toward producing a commodity governed under standards imposed by the champions of globalization, I think that Americans are starving for products produced under the critical standards of fairness and equity to those who are doing the actual work by companies that care about the environment. It seems that with every movement, in this case, globalization, there is a strong counter-movement.  In the case of industrialized food in America and across the globe, the counter-movement seems to be the Slow Food movement, and the push toward a more localized food system.  I am much encouraged by recent USDA programs, which encourages small-scale, localized agriculture. 

As a seasonal seafood processor and fish marketer, I am encouraged by the tremendous demand that we had this past season coming out of Anchorage and Fairbanks.  In the past, I’d never really considered selling fish within Alaska, because it seemed like either the price wasn’t very good, or there wasn’t much demand.  I found the exact opposite to be true this past summer.  Our small company, Naknek Family Fisheries had a much stronger demand for our product in Anchorage than we did in Seattle, where we typically kept fish in cold storage during the winter months.  By November, much to my surprise, all the inventory of fish in Anchorage had sold.  It could be that the economic outlook of the lower-48 was putting a damper on fish sales, or it could be that Anchorage consumers were more eager to purchase a local product while it was fresh and available.

I strongly encourage Alaskan fishermen and small fish processor to attend this event, to see how they can better meet the needs of seafood buyers.  Breakout sessions include topics on: refrigerated seawater systems (RSW), generator maintenance, case studies, small business issues, funding, and grants.  If any Alaskan fishermen will be attending this event, and would like to talk with me about direct marketing their fish, how to get DEC-certification for their vessel, or how to collaborate with other fishermen on a fish processing venture, I will be available to discuss these issues and provide assistance. 

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