SE Alaska fishermen invite others to share the harvest

Two Southeast Alaska fishery entities are inviting community and tribal leaders, fishermen, and others to fill out the new Seafood Donation Network Inquiry online form to request help for accessing local seafood or to share some of their harvest for families in need.

The invitation is part of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) Seafood Donation Network, created in March of 2020 as a program of ALFA.

ASFT’s Seafood Donation Network has since evolved into a statewide network of communities, organizations, businesses, and harvesters concerned about seafood insecurity in Alaska.

Many fisheries in Alaska are struggling due to a myriad of issues ranging from rising ocean water temperatures to the incidental harvest of thousands of salmon and halibut in commercial fisheries not targeting those species. The situation is so serious that residents of Kuskokwim River villages have not had commercial fisheries for years, and over the past two years not even subsistence fisheries have been allowed along the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers.

Thousands of Alaskans statewide are struggling to fill their freezers, smokehouses, and pantries with wild Alaska seafood harvested by small-boat fishermen, rich in protein and omega-3 oils, and of critical importance to the cultural heritage of many people living in rural Alaska. To date the Seafood Donation Network Program has deployed over $2.5 million to purchase and deliver over 645,000 donated seafood. The program continues to receive requests for donated seafood statewide, prompting ALFA and ASFT to create the Seafood Donation inquiry form for those seeking seafood donations to feed individuals in their networks. ALFA has another form for fishermen and others in the seafood industry to fill out if able to donate seafood to communities in need.

Spokespersons for ASFT said at this time that ALFA and ASFT are only assessing community needs and are unable to commit to providing seafood donation requests due to limited funding, which is currently dependent solely on grants and individual donations. All they are able to do at this time is support communities and organizations if possible, by helping to connect them with other potential donated seafood and funding sources.

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“While every community’s need and preferred product form varies, the form hopes to identify seafood insecurity throughout Alaska and the means to store and distribute donations,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of ALFA. “Healthy, thriving communities require equitable access to healthy, sustainable food sources. This is especially true for Indigenous communities, whose diets and traditions have relied on local wild seafood for generations.”

In November 2021 the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded ALFA a regional food system partnership grant to help ALFA develop a long-term seafood donation program that is sustainable and scalable. ALFA now works with a network of advisors in Alaska on this planning process, including representatives from the Food Bank of Alaska, Alaska Sea Grant, the University of Alaska Southeast, Chignik Intertribal Coalition, and local seafood suppliers. They plan to release their final planning report at the end of 2023.

For more information on the program contact Natalie Sattler at [email protected].

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