The Copper River delta is nature’s ideal spawning ground for wild Alaskan salmon. It is here that our boat, F/V Emma Grace joins nearly 500 other small-boat fishermen each year in mid May. The first to fish are Alaskan residents for personal or subsistence, then the commercial fleet is allowed to begin our season. Two to three times a week we have a ‘fishing opener’, which means the commercial fleet is allowed to fish, but only in the specific locations that have been announced as open.
The weekly recordings from the fleets catch are routinely analyzed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in an effort to keep this wild run returning strong each year. As fishermen we respect and follow these guidelines and understand that they help to ensure the viability of Alaska’s wild salmon population. This approach to science based management, is a model of sustainability for other fisheries around the world.
Our fishing methods have very little impact on the ocean habitat and we have nearly no negative by-catch. Our gill-net is 300 feet long and 12 feet deep. We set out along shore, out in the deep, drifting towards the mouths of rivers or wherever the captain sense the salmon are. As we haul the net into the boat, each salmon we hand pick from the net is gill bled and chilled within minutes of leaving the ocean. Deep in the boats hull, our catch is held in bags of slush ice, minimizing bruising and maximizing quality.
Our fishery begins at the Copper River delta and extends nearly 100 nautical miles west to the Prince William Sound. In order to make the lengthy swim up the Copper River, or one of the many other glacial streams that feed into Prince William Sound, the salmon feed and bulk up in the cold nutrient rich waters of the Sound. The fish develop a healthy layer of fat and increased Omega 3 oils. It is this attribute, along with the lean protein and amino acid content that makes our wild caught salmon such a nutritious superfood.
A Community Supported Fishery is a business model where we pre-sell shares of our catch to customers. We then fill these orders during our fishing season, bypassing the dominating global supply chains and keeping our process small and sustainable. By directly marketing our catch, we can ensure our customers get high quality salmon and full transparency in their purchase. In turn, we as local fishermen, cultivate a more sustainable business, get to keep more from the sale of our own fish, and contribute to the growing awareness of our food supply chain, keeping our health in our own hands.
"We are stewards of the sea, because to protect our livelihoods we must protect our oceans."