Dear friends of ALFA and ASFT,
With Alaska's salmon season in full swing, we’ve got a lot going on, and we want to tell you about it.
ALFA and the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) are officially partnering this year to bring back the Sitka Seafood Festival! From August 10th to 19th, we’ll be hosting a celebration of the fishing culture and heritage that our local economies (and palates and pantries) depend on, and the unique ecosystems of Southeast Alaska that sustain our fish and families. The festivities will continue throughout the fall, culminating in November with a Season's End banquet.
Although ALFA and ASFT are still separate organizations, our mission is shared: to safeguard ocean health, ensure that coastal communities thrive, and engage fishermen, scientists, and consumers in protecting the viability of our fisheries and small boat fleet. This summer, we want to communicate to you exactly how we do that and why we think it’s important.
Throughout the Sitka Seafood Festival, we’ll be publishing stories about our fishermen and the incredible ecosystem of Southeast Alaska, which serves as the economic life force of our communities. We’ll also take you through exactly what our fishermen do – how different methods of fishing actually work, and what happens to a fish between being hauled onto a boat and served on your plate. We’ll explain what we’re doing to help young fishermen get started in an industry that’s increasingly difficult to enter, and what we’re doing to help all our fishermen catch fish safely and efficiently while also protecting marine habitat. We hope that by the end of the year, you’ll understand why it's important to know your fisherman and support the sustainable, local fishing communities of Alaska.
To start, we thought we’d take this opportunity to explain exactly what our organizations are, how they relate to one another, and what they do.
The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) is a 501(c)(6) alliance of small boat, commercial fishermen committed to sustainable fisheries and thriving coastal communities. ALFA members support science-based fisheries management through collaborative research, advocacy and innovation. ALFA works to safeguard ocean health and improve the economic viability of small boat fishing.
The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to strengthening fishing communities and marine resources through research, education and economic opportunity. ASFT builds regional and state-wide programs that are designed to be self-sustaining catalysts for conservation, communication, and sustainable coastal economies.
The ALFA and ASFT partnership focuses on: direct engagement of fishermen and other stakeholders in resource stewardship initiatives; communication and outreach to consumers and policy makers; development of innovative financing tools to ensure inter-generational transfer of fishing access to locally-based fishermen, and development of diverse, long-term revenue streams to support biodiversity and ecosystem health.
To learn more about ALFA and ASFT’s shared history of accomplishments, check out the timeline at the bottom of this page! Meanwhile, current programs run by each organization include:
ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network: Founded in 2009, the FCN is made up of local Southeast Alaska commercial fishermen who work with scientists and fishery managers to address conservation challenges through innovation. Member fishermen on more than 80 vessels use pioneering technology to collect data that makes fishing safer, more efficient, and more environmentally sustainable.
Some of the FCN's current projects:
- Through bathymetric mapping technology, we’re reducing bycatch and improving fishing efficiency. Like topographic maps for the ocean, bathy maps help fishermen avoid areas where they’re likely to harm habitat or catch unwanted species.
- We’re leading the implementation of electronic monitoring systems, which makes recording accurate biological data about your catch (required by fishery regulation) more affordable for small boats, more transparent, and more efficient systemically.
- Fishermen have donated countless at-sea days to help researchers develop whale avoidance systems and technology.
- We’re working to reduce our fleet's environmental footprint and cut vessel fuel costs through our fuel efficiency program.
ALFA’s Young Fishermen’s Initiative:
Thirty years ago, a young person who wanted to fish commercially needed a boat, some gear, and a sense of adventure to get started in the business. As permit and quota prices have risen to staggering levels, entering the fishing industry as a young person has become exceedingly difficult. ALFA’s Young Fishermen’s Initiative aims to help young fishermen get on the water.
- On the national level, we’re working with the Fishing Communities Coalition to advocate for a Young Fishermen’s Development Fund. Unlike for young farmers, there is currently no federal funding for training programs for young fishermen. The fund, which was just introduced through legislation in the House and Senate, would provide grants to organizations around the country aimed at training and supporting young fishermen.
- On a local level, we’ve helped over 40 young people get hands-on experience on a fishing boat through our Deckhand Apprentice Program.
The Young Fishermen’s Initiative fits right in with work ASFT is doing through the Local Fish Fund:
ASFT’s Local Fish Fund: Between 1975 and 2014, Alaska’s rural communities experienced a net loss of over 2,300 limited entry permits. Federal quota – a share of the total allowable catch for a season that fishermen have to buy to participate – has also become concentrated into fewer hands, migrating out of rural communities and often out of state. Because few alternative employment opportunities exist in many rural Alaska communities, losing access means losing livelihood and, ultimately, losing community. As coastal communities falter, the resource loses a vital voice for conservation. ASFT’s Local Fish Fund, established in 2012, is designed to reverse that trend by helping new fishermen bear the costs and risks of entering the industry. By funding new entrants' first quota purchases through a micro-finance community-lending approach, the Local Fish Fund helps make sure that the people living in coastal communities can play an active role in harvesting fish, with strong incentives to work for conservation.
ASFT’s SeaBank: SeaBank is meant to serve as a hub of information about the incredible ecological wealth of the Southeast Alaskan ecosystem – and the economic wealth it generates. By synthesizing and quantifying the social, ecological and economic capital of Southeast Alaska, in an interdisciplinary and compelling format, SeaBank will promote biodiversity and economic prosperity for Alaska. To quote SeaBank co-founder Sam Skaggs, “The true worth of Southeast Alaska comes from its beauty and wildness, but its economic value is unparalleled. 240 million pounds of seafood are harvested annually in Southeast Alaska, worth over a billion dollars and supporting more than 10,000 jobs. Over 1 million tourists visit Southeast each year, supporting another 7,000 jobs and generating another billion dollars to the local economy. If we protect this ecosystem, if we invest in this phenomenal SeaBank, we will perpetuate that return forever.”
Finally, ALFA and ASFT’s most recent collaboration:
Alaskans Own: Founded in 2010, Alaskans Own is the first Community Supported Fishery program in the state. A CSF is like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, but with rockfish instead of radishes and salmon replacing salad greens. Every month of the summer season, we deliver subscribers a box of local, sustainably caught seafood, harvested by local fishermen and packed by our staff. Subscribers live in Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seattle, but we also ship bulk orders to individuals around the country. Profits from Alaskans Own go to funding FCN research – spearheaded by the fishermen themselves – and the Young Fishermen’s Initiative. Through AO, we bring people tasty, sustainable fish while demystifying the process it goes through to get to them, forging connections between fisherman and fish eater. In doing so, we support the local economy and simultaneously provide a strong message of conservation and community.
Banner photo by Alyssa Russell.