Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Celebrate Salmon!

"Every May, there's a big homecoming in Alaska, and everyone and their mother in the lower 48 wants an invitation. From now until the kids go back to school, the cold waters of the Copper River are chock-full of returning salmon preparing for their upstream spawning and egg-laying ritual.

This is an old picture of gillnet caught salmon in a cannery fish cart. RSDA fishermen can now start to benefit from taking better care of their fish. It just can't happen without that mechanism. Any region without an RSDA is either intimidated by the processors or the fishermen don't know what they're missing.

Meanwhile, we mere mortals in places where wild Atlantic salmon has gone the way of the eight-track tape wait with baited breath for the first arrival of the most glorious, gorgeous, rhubarb-colored piscatorial flesh on earth.

With names like Chinook (aka king), chum, Coho (aka silver), pink and sockeye, Alaskan salmon is like a royal family that temporarily opens the palace to the masses to show them a taste of the good life. And because its ruby-pink meat is rich and flavor-intense, the wild salmon needs little dressing up in the kitchen and will shine even with a spritz of salt, pepper and olive oil.
The recipe below takes the cook on a spice route, as if that salmon were on a magic carpet ride to the shores of the Indian Ocean."

Flowery speech is a requisite of marketing types, and some journalists it seems. But you can't knock it. The trouble is, salmon harvesters and processors wouldn't be caught dead talking like this. It's a guy thing. Especially a fish cowboy thing. But hey, aren't these the guys that are supposed to be the brains behind salmon marketing, since they have the biggest stake in it? Fishermen now have Regional Seafood Development Organizations and the processors have the State's marketing institute. Maybe the fishermen will "get it," whereas the processors never did. Up until recently the processors had the State tax the fishermen, to pay ASMI, to do marketing for their newly acquired packs.

So I hope some of them learn the language of marketing themselves and not rely on professional 'flowery speech people' to do the job. It isn't rocket science. It's a lot of calling the food writers before the tuna-fish people get to them and finding out what product forms people want to eat. That kind of thing. But there will be a lot of in the trenches market research needing to be done on an ongoing basis, especially by the RSDAs. I'm not convinced that the processor dominated State marketing board will want to share this information. They have always used ASMI as a way to solidify their position.

Check out the owners of Sitka Sound Seafoods and their latest product development work. I hear now that a big Chinese manufacturer is going to add this stuff to their products. This may be the forerunner of putting all kinds of marine by-products in all our food, like they put Vitamin D in milk, etc. Why didn't Alaska think of this first?

Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited is a privately held company, whose major shareholder is Clearwater Fine Foods Incorporated. Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. is a diversified holding/investment company whose significant holdings include a controlling interest in Clearwater Seafood's Limited Partnership, one of the world’s largest integrated shellfish harvesters and processors. Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. also holds a controlling interest in Ocean Nutrition (Canada) Limited. Ocean Nutrition Canada researches, manufactures, and markets Omega-3 concentrates and other marine based natural ingredients for dietary supplements and foods. ONC exemplifies scientific rigor in discovery and research programs, along with world leading regulatory and quality compliance standards. For more information on the health benefits of MEG-3® ingredients please visit

But for real salmon afficionados, this link to in-season salmon prices paid to fishermen in Alaska is cool. It is compiled by a research firm in Juneau, (they just call fishermen all over Alaska and ask them what they got paid.) And you can't beat the good 'ol Alaska Department of Fish and Game In-Season Summaries. The weelky summaries have all the information you care to read about Alaska salmon fisheries; numbers of boats, prices paid, harvest size, times and durations of openings, etc. And all broken down by area of the state. Even by fishing district within each area. Very cool.

Any more, I check the web cam for Petersburg right before I call my parents, so I can comment on the weather instead of asking what the weather is doing. This spring there has been some nice weather up there and I could see a few sport boats, maybe they were commercial, fishing around the mouth of "the Narrows." Now that's my cup of tea. So the thing is to just wait until you see boats fishing in Petersburg's web cam, with nice weather, then boogie up there that afternoon and rent a skiff for the next morning's bite.