Know Your Source Know Your Fisherman
Know Your Source, Know Your Fisherman
When people ask me what I do, I like to joke that, “I kill fish for a living.” After all, it’s true. How’s that for transparency?
At eighteen, I boarded an airplane for the first time and landed in Sitka, Alaska to replace my brother who had been injured. I never looked back. Since my inaugural commercial fishing adventure 35 years ago, I have spent every 4thof July in Alaska, which just happens to be the traditional peak fishing for salmon in Bristol Bay Alaska.
Fishing paid my way through college, provided me with both a living and an unexpected career, and fulfilled a long-time dream: I am a fishing captain-in Bristol Bay with a thirty-two foot salmon gillnetter named the Anasazi.
It has also introduced me to the politics—and the shenanigans—of the seafood industry.
Along the way, I have been lucky to wear many different hats. I have crewed on 130 foot factory long-liners fishing for Pacific cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and for Black cod in the Gulf of Alaska. I have even spent time harvesting sea monkey eggs on the Great Salt Lake using oil booms.
I have worked in processing plants. I am also well versed in quality control, which has taken me all over Alaska, the continental US, Asia, and Europe. Fishing is hard work, but the industry never fails to offer an adventure—even on dry land.
When the sockeye fishing season ends in Bristol Bay, I return home—to the red rock desert of Moab, Utah. Hundreds of miles from the ocean in any direction, it couldn’t be more different from Alaska. It’s known for its slick rock mountain biking, river rafting, and petrified dinosaur bones—not its seafood.
One of my latest adventures started with a trip down the seafood aisle of my local grocery store.
I had never gone to the seafood aisle of my local grocery store until a couple years ago when my brother Terry had come to visit. As you can imagine, being an Alaskan fisherman and having my own seafood business, I generally have no need to peruse the seafood department.
After a late night talk on my favorite subject, fish, we were both curious about what this small, tourist destination, landlocked town had to offer. The next day we were picking up a few things for dinner at the local market. We decided to go through the seafood section so I could share my knowledge with him.
I think I was more shocked and concerned than Terry was by what we found. I have been in the seafood industry for 35 years now and I left the seafood section of the local store disappointed and confused.
If I get confused in the seafood section, then the average consumer does not stand a chance.
I had no idea that this rare journey through my local grocery store in Moab, Utah would have such a profound impact on me.
I was shocked and disappointed in my industry.
The result of my little supermarket trip lit a tiny ember of desire to do something about it, to change something, but what?
Then I read Paul Greenburg’s book American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood. This was the gasoline that ignited that ember into a burning flame, giving me a mission: Consumer Education.
The only way to effect change is to pull back the veil and inject transparency into an industry that is confusing at best, and at worst, wrought with fraud. (Fun Fact: A study between 2010 and 2012 showed that 1/3 of all fish sold in US restaurants and grocery stores were mislabeled).
One of the most alarming stats that Greenberg’s book brought to light was that the US imports 90% of the seafood we consume. My gut reaction was that this could not be true. I immediately researched it and to my dismay, it was true! As I dug deeper, I uncovered even more disturbing information.
(An example of mislabeling: Wild Caught and Atlantic Salmon; There are no wild Atlantic salmon commercial fisheries, all commercially sold Atlantic salmon are farm raised)
I am going to use this site to talk about a wide range of topics which will include; health and nutrition, industry issues like: fresh vs. frozen, labeling, green washing, and quality, along with broader issues like sustainability and international trade. I’ll cover basic fishing practices and methods, info about fish in general, and some of my own personal experiences and stories.
I have never considered myself an activist, and the last thing I want to be seen as, is an alarmist. There is enough fear mongering, half-truths, and straight up fraud in my industry; I do not want to add to that. However, it has become clear to me that there is a huge disconnect between the seafood industry and the seafood consumer; my goal is to inject clarity and transparency where I can and provide education along the way.