Know Your Fishermen: Kodiak Island WildSource

By Jonathan Wlasiuk

Know Your Fishermen: Kodiak Island WildSource
Kodiak Harbor. Illustration by Libby Geboy.

Trusted Partner Profile


Know Your Fishermen: Kodiak Island WildSource | Sitka Salmon Shares

If you love the dense, flaky texture of our Pacific cod in your subscription box, there’s a good chance your fish was caught and processed by our trusted partner, Kodiak Island WildSource. We work with a network of trusted partners like Kodiak Island WildSource because not all types of fish can be caught in our home port of Sitka. Each of our trusted partners supports small-boat fishermen and shares our values by investing in local fishing communities and serving as stewards of the irreplaceable environment found only in Alaska.


President and CEO of Kodiak Island WildSource, Chris Sannito, always had a passion for fish. “I love fishing, I love eating fish, I’m just crazy about all things fish!” Sannito says. Born and raised in Indiana, Sannito came to Alaska in 1992 to pursue a degree in food science from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and quickly fell in love with the sea. “I was always interested in seafood as a way of living near the ocean,” Sannito says.

Sannito worked in fish plants for a decade before using his experience and knowledge to start his own business with WildSource. Soon his business garnered the interest of the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, a Alutiiq people with a history on the island stretching back over 8,000 years. Ownership in WildSource gave the Sun’aq community a foothold in a commercial fishing industry that had a legacy of enriching faraway communities at the expense of Kodiak’s first fishermen.

WildSource is owned by the Sun'aq Tribe of Kodiak.

“I’ve seen for years big companies come in here with ivory towers in Seattle to make money off our water plants, our resources,” Sannito says. “Just thinking about the natives who have been here for thousands and thousands of years, and how this is all slipping through their fingers,” made it an easy decision to go into business with the Sun’aq. He is happy that he did. “Since the tribe has taken hold of this business, we’ve grown exponentially,” Sannito says.

With about 20 plant workers and about as many boats delivering wild seafood to the plant, Sannito says the impact of WildSource is small, but significant. Although WildSource employs members of the Sun’aq Tribe, the majority of the plant workers come from Kodiak’s Filipino community. “We're mostly a Filipino workforce that is very well seasoned and represents generations of families who have worked on the waterfront, and because we’re able to pay a little bit higher wage, that is really attractive to them,” says Sannito. Alaska’s Filipino community—sometimes referred to as “Alaskeros”—have been a vital part of the commercial fishing industry for over a century, and WildSource is proud to provide opportunities for families who have processed fish for generations.

The workforce at WildSource have deep roots in the Kodiak community.

Sannito is thankful for the partnership with Sitka Salmon Shares because it allows his team to focus on what they do best: catch and process wild seafood. “We’re really good at processing and doing the day-to-day labor, but we don't have the staff or the means to create a great marketing system,” Sannito says. “The Sitka Salmon Shares relationship has been a godsend to this business. This past quarter, we had our biggest sales ever and that's all due to the business we did with Sitka Salmon Shares.”

 


 

Sannito knows the commercial fishing industry is changing and becoming more complex, but he says his mission is really simple: “If you put out a good product, customers will see that and they will reorder and want to know where that seafood came from. Whereas, if you put out junk, you only sell it once.”

With their focus on custom processing Pacific cod and rockfish, and their deep roots in the Kodiak community, we are proud to have Kodiak Island WildSource as a trusted partner. 

Join our community.
Subscribe Now
Join our community.
Subscribe Now