Using sustainable fishing practices takes time, skill, patience, and a deep knowledge of the environment. Hook-and-line fishing is more time-consuming than, say, throwing out a net and hauling in everything it catches. But there’s a reason why we fish the way we do.
Fishing sustainably is important in Alaska as much as it is in the rest of the world. Here at Seafood Producers Cooperative, the fishermen-owned co-op behind Alaska Gold Seafood, we take pride in our sustainable methods. We set an example that we hope the rest of the globe will follow in turn, starting with our hook-and-line fishing methods.
What’s the big deal about sustainable fishing? Why do we hope it catches on at fisheries around the world? Simple: fishing sustainably benefits everybody involved. From the smallest individual fish to the largest fisheries worldwide, everybody gets something positive out of environmentally conscious fishing practices.
Fishing Is a Way of Life
Fish are an essential element of the global economy—after all, over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in oceans. Coastal communities like Sitka, Alaska have built their local economies on fishing for hundreds of years.
Because fishing has been a crucial part of life in these communities for so long, it’s hard to imagine life without them. However, Alaska has had a few close calls over the years, particularly in the early 20th century.
Before Alaska officially became a state in 1959, it was known the world over for its bountiful salmon fisheries. At the time, up to 90 percent of the fish harvested commercially in Alaska were salmon! However, the practices used at the time were not sustainable. The federal government allowed international fishing operations to have access to popular salmon runs, and by the middle of the century, salmon populations had suffered considerably.
By the time Alaska gained statehood, federal officials saw just how important fishing was to daily life in Alaska. Fishing was, and still is, a source of food, a mode of employment, and a source of rich culture. The Alaskan state constitution was written with specific provisions for the management of natural resources—especially fish.
Preserving a Bountiful Future
Here’s the thing about the environment: any damage that humans do to the world around us can potentially take generations to reverse. For example, it takes much longer to clean up the aftermath of an oil spill than it does to make the mess in the first place.
Overfishing presents a serious challenge to our oceans. It’s exactly what it sounds like: the practice of catching too many fish at one time, preventing the species from being able to repopulate adequately. When entire species get fished to extinction or critical endangerment, their absence creates a gap in the food web. Consequently, their predators have fewer food options, and their prey can become overabundant in the seas.
Many of the fishermen at Seafood Producers Cooperative are second- or third-generation, meaning that their parents and grandparents fished the same seas they now fish. The family aspect of our business is important to us. We want our children to have the same fishing opportunities that we do now, and to make that happen, we need to fish sustainably.
Sustainable fishing practices help ensure that the oceans will still be full of many diverse species of fish in the decades to come. When we use a hook and line to fish instead of a trawler net, we do our part to keep fish populations stable in the long term.
The Integrity of the Fish
Fishing sustainably also does wonders for the fish themselves, both during their lifespan and on your dinner plate. If you’re confused, think about them like any other animal that is commonly farmed for commercial distribution. Fish that live a calm, happy life taste better than fish that spend their lives in cramped, less-than-sanitary conditions.
At Seafood Producers Cooperative, we respect and care for sea creatures at every stage in their life cycle. That’s why we catch all of our fish out in the wild; we don’t raise them on farms. Fish that are farm-raised often have less space to swim around, fewer dietary options available, and a higher susceptibility to bacteria and parasites.
When you order Alaskan seafood delivery from us at Alaska Gold, you can rest assured that that fish lived a free life. It was not pumped full of antibiotics, nor was it forced to swim in cramped, dirty waters. Humane living conditions for the fish translate to pleasant-tasting, nutrient-rich meat for you.
Setting a Sustainable Example
Alaskan fishermen hold the gold standard in environmentally sustainable fishing practices. We are known worldwide for how seriously we take the fishing business—because it is a business. Overfishing helps no one and does widespread ecological harm, so our fishery management practices have adapted to prevent overfishing from happening in the first place.
The economy in Alaska is built on the backs of millions of fish, and the fact that it thrives so well serves as an example to the rest of the world. If we can do it, other places can, too! We are vocal about our sustainability in the hopes that commercial fisheries around the world will follow suit.
We also believe that our seafood products speak for themselves. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is prized all around the world for its bold taste and powerful nutrient profile. Restaurants and individuals alike love to hear that their fish lived a wild and free life before making it to their kitchen. The “wild” element is a powerful selling point, especially in recent years, as more people have learned where their meat comes from.
Why is sustainable fishing so important in Alaska? It’s a part of our heritage. From the indigenous groups who pioneered sustainable fishing methods to the legislators who wrote sustainability into the state’s constitution, caring for the seas is our past, present, and future.
If you’re still skeptical of just how crucial environmentally friendly fishing is, taste some of our seafood products for yourself. One bite of wild-caught Alaskan halibut (or salmon, or lingcod), and you’ll be hard pressed to go back to the farm-raised stuff at the fishmonger.