After a brief hiatus last year, the Sitka Seafood Festival is back, and under new management.The Sitka Seafood Festival began in 2009 as a celebration of wild Alaskan seafood. Thanks to the hard work of a group of dedicated volunteers, the festival continued to expand each summer, and in 2012 became its own nonprofit organization. This year, the Sitka Seafood Festival has been adopted by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT), which will host the 2017 festivities for the first time in partnership with the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA).
ASFT is a Sitka-based nonprofit dedicated to strengthening fishing communities and marine resources through research, education, and economic opportunity. ALFA is an alliance of local small-boat, sustainability-oriented fishermen who work to support coastal communities by involving fishermen in research, advocacy and conservation initiatives.
“Central to the mission of the Sitka Seafood Festival (SSF), as well as the mission of Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, is the belief that Alaska needs a vibrant and sustainable fishing industry supporting economically empowered and self-sufficient Alaska communities,” says Willow Moore, ASFT’s executive director.
“Also, no one knows good seafood (and where to find it) like Alaskans. The Sitka Seafood Festival celebrates the fishing culture and heritage that local economies (and plates and palates) depend on, and the unique ecosystems of Southeast Alaska that sustain our local fish and families as they grow.”
The main events of the festival will kick off on August 10 Wild Salmon Day, and will run until August 19. Events will include:
“Wet Feet: Stories On, In, Under, and Of the Sea,” a storytelling night with Sitka Tells Tales at Beak Restaurant
A seafood trivia night at the Mean Queen
A film festival with the Sitka Film Society
Educational booths and games at the Crescent Harbor Shelter
Marine biology lecture and tours of the local harbor with Dr. James Carlton, Professor of Marine Sciences Emeritus at Williams College
“Coming to America: Invasive Species, Ocean Rafting, and Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris,” a lecture by Dr. Carlton at the Sitka Sound Science Center
Fish skin sewing classes at the Sheldon Jackson Museum
A lecture on Inupiaq mask carving at the Sheldon Jackson Museum
A family-friendly ocean treasure hunt around the Japonski Island boathouse, sponsored by the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society
A fall season’s-end closing banquet at Centennial Hall, date TBD
A full schedule of events is available at sitkaseafoodfestival.com. Proceeds will go towards funding the 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,” Moore explains. “Today, young fishermen face staggering entry level costs, high operating costs, and a level of risk that is equivalent to buying a starter hotel, instead of a starter house, as a first step in home-ownership. The goal of the Young Fishermen’s Initiative is to help young Alaskan fishermen get on the water.”