Alaska Fishers Launch New Plan To Distribute Salmon Amid Low Stocks

The following is courtesy of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust:

Local fishermen and communities launch “Fish for Families” to help address continued declines of wild salmon throughout Alaska

Sitka, AK – Last week, local fishermen, tribal organizations, and community leaders worked together to deliver Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to families in Chignik facing a fourth consecutive year of low salmon returns. Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery is projected to have a record-breaking season of more than 75 million sockeye salmon while communities in Chignik and the Yukon and Kuskokwim River watersheds face another summer of low salmon returns, leaving Alaska Native families without one of their most vital subsistence foods.

The salmon donation project, Fish for Families, is an expansion of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) and Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s (ALFA) Seafood Donation Program, which was launched in March 2020 in response to COVID-19 and its impacts on Alaska’s seafood industry and local families struggling with food insecurity. Since 2020, the Seafood Donation Program has deployed $2.5 million to purchase and deliver more than 640,000 donated Alaska seafood meals to individuals and families in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. The Chignik region was one of the Seafood Donation Program’s early partners; in 2020, over 33,000 pounds of Bristol Bay sockeye was delivered to Chignik families unable to harvest salmon due to Chignik’s record-low sockeye salmon returns. 

In response to growing demand for donated salmon throughout Alaska, ALFA recently launched a GoFundMe campaign for the Fish for Families project. All donations made this summer will go towards purchasing, processing, and shipping salmon to Alaska Native communities where local fisheries have been shut down due to low salmon returns. 

“It’s become clear the last couple years that disruptions to our local food system are not going away anytime soon. Climate change is affecting salmon abundance and distribution.  We need to build a more resilient seafood supply chain and prioritize local consumption of Alaska’s wild fish,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “We hope that this summer’s Fish for Families project can help build the foundation for more community-driven partnerships and a long-term, self-sustaining Alaska seafood distribution system.”

“Our back-to-back low salmon returns have been devastating to Chignik’s communities. Wild salmon has been the backbone of our culture for millennia. Without wild salmon, our cultural identity and our food supply is in jeopardy,” said George Anderson, President of the Chignik Intertribal Coalition. “The Fish for Families project is a way for us to ensure that we can continue to practice our way of being and instill those values in the next generation. It’s also a chance for us to be part of a growing network of community-minded fishermen and organizations that are committed to building a more resilient and Alaskan-based local seafood distribution system.”

This summer’s Fish to Families project will focus on sourcing salmon from Bristol Bay, where more than 30 million salmon have already returned, and deliver that salmon to other regions where there is not enough local salmon to meet local needs, including communities throughout the Yukon and Kuskokwim River watersheds. With the support of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and Catch Together, ALFA has raised $60,000 for this summer’s Fish for Families deliveries and seeks to raise another $40,000 through its GoFundMe campaign.

The Fish for Families project would not be possible without involvement by many individuals, fishermen, small processors, businesses, organizations and foundations helping to fund this effort. The Fish for Families project is a collaboration of community-minded fishermen, businesses, and organizations, including the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, Northline Seafoods, North Soul Salmon, Net to Table Seafoods, Catch Together, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Copper River Fish Market , Boreal Sockeye,  Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, SalmonState, and the Businesses for Conservation and Climate Action.

For more information about the Seafood Donation Program, including the Fish for Families GoFundMe campaign: