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The Catch Sitka Salmon Shares Member Newsletter July 2020

The Catch - July 2020

The Best-Laid Plans

Cover photo: Fishing troller the F/V Samara, captained by fisherman Karl Jordan, out on open water. Karl can be seen hooking a salmon near the stern of the vessel.

Dear Salmonsharesians,

This summer, and really, most of 2020, has been riddled with setbacks, switch-ups, and changes to the plans. Has your year felt that way too?

As it relates to our community-supported fishery, you might have noticed that our projected harvest changed a bit which altered our shares ever so slightly. If you’re not aware, flexibility around these types of changes is intentionally built-in to our model since, essentially, we can’t guarantee the fish will always bite, or if wild fisheries will even be open for fishing in the first place. We’ve named this attitude of flexibility our We’re Really Fishing Promise, and through this promise, we guarantee that your fish will be: caught with love and care by our small-boat family fishermen, many of whom are owners of the company, and all of whom take great pride in harvesting you the best fish; aligned with the seasonal rhythms of wild ocean ecosystems; premium-quality; and plain ‘ol delicious. If you’re not completely satisfied with the fish in your share, just drop us a line at salmonsupport@sitkasalmonshares.com and we’ll make it right.

With that, for this month’s newsletter, we prepared a story about unexpected changes from our fishermen. Read on to learn more, and as always, stay wild!

- The Sitka Salmon Shares Fishermen & Crew


If anything, this year has shown all of us something that fishermen experience every day of their working lives—that despite our best-laid plans and intentions, sometimes unexpected things cloud our path forward. Karl Jordan, one of your Sitka Salmon Shares fisherman-owners, has been feeling this particularly strongly of late.

Karl Jordan on the F/V Samara
Meet your fisherman! Karl Jordan, owner-operator and captain of the F/V Samara, has had a tumultuous start to his summer season, which started with a broken-down engine.

For most fishermen, unexpected changes in plans are often related to fisheries closures (to protect fish populations), or to a change in the weather, or maybe a simple yet unexpected repair. In Karl’s case, unexpected changes in his life this year came from fishing and also his primary job as a woodshop teacher at Sitka’s Blatchley Middle school. The challenges faced by teachers this spring with COVID-19—and if you could imagine, the challenges for a woodshop teacher—need no further explanation (have you ever tried holding a group of pre-teenagers attention in person, let alone virtually?).

Karl typically spends his summers catching high-quality salmon and lingcod (two of his favorites to catch). But another unexpected blow was on his horizon: a complete breakdown of his F/V Samara’s engine. “I was going out for lingcod, and I lost oil, destroying the engine,” Karl reflected. Much like a car, the oil in a boat engine can start to burn as the engine ages—that, or by accident, the oil could drain into the boat’s engine room. “I’ve never had a mechanical failure like this.”

Illustration of troll fishing

Adding insult to injury, multiple troll fisheries, which are highly-anticipated and profitable for fishermen, were just around the corner in early June, right after Karl’s total engine loss. The timing was going to be extremely tight to replace the engine before even bigger salmon openers in July. “It’s a big hole for me to dig out of.” A new engine for the trollers common in Sitka’s small-boat fleet can run upwards of $30,000. “I’m hoping the rest of the season will be prosperous,” Karl offers optimistically.

Trolling hooks
The trolling hooks used aboard the F/V Samara organized for efficient deployment. Trolling is a highly targeted, high-quality hook-and-line fishing technique used by many of our fishermen.

On the bright side, our community-supported model offers some respite to an otherwise stressful season. Our commitment to paying a fair price allows fishermen to better plan for their season, manage their risk, and work through unexpected costs. We also recently launched our Fishermen Fund, which is designed to provide an additional boost in income to our fishermen-owners that is not tied to fishing (which is helpful when something like a broken engine keeps you off the water)!

Lilly and Grandma Jordan
Like great-grandmother, like great-granddaughter! Lilly Jordan is carrying on a family fishing tradition that is generations strong. Her great-grandmother, Marilyn, was also a fisherman.

Despite Karl’s considerable expense and being in the midst of a pandemic, he remains resolute. “My crewmembers and my health are priority number one,” Karl asserts.

And on a positive note, Karl’s new engine arrived in Sitka in late June, just in time for the big king salmon fishery opener on July 1st, which Karl will be fishing a bit differently this year. “My brother usually fishes with me, and has for 30 years, but this year he’s not coming up.” Instead, Karl is working with the next generation of Jordan fishermen, bringing his daughter, Lilly, to fish with him for the main part of the season, which will offer a lot of quality family time. “I’ve been running my own boat for 15 years, and I’m in my 40s, so I’d like to change my pace.” Plus, for Lilly, not only is it a great summer job, but fishing with dad also offers the opportunity for quality family time.

Karl Jordan's fishing vessel
A closer look at Karl’s fishing vessel. Keep an eye out for salmon caught aboard the Samara. Karl and Lilly will be putting a lot of care into their salmon harvest and you’ll be able to taste the difference they make!

The way that our community values our kind of quality seafood makes this possible. Fishermen like Karl can afford to slow down, catch fish with care, and prioritize quality handling procedures which take time (no Deadliest Catch style fishing here), all of which makes for responsible, safer fishing. As our members, you get to taste this difference every month—and thanks to you, our fishermen feel this difference every workday.

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