The Catch Sitka Salmon Shares Member Newsletter July 2021

The Catch - July 2021

Looking Ahead

Dear Salmonsharesians,

As the world navigates out of the global pandemic, we’re looking ahead and asking how we can continue to offer our members the best experience possible.

While we’ve worked hard not to raise our prices since 2019, our costs of operation have increased over time. Global supply chain costs are at an all-time high as a result of the pandemic.

To account for these increases, we’re adjusting our prices for new members beginning June 17, 2021. Our new prices ensure we can continue to deliver the best quality seafood, responsibly caught by fishermen fairly paid for their steadfast work.

If you’re an existing member who joined before June 17, your rate is locked in for the season and will not change in 2021.

As our community grows, we’re as committed as ever to the values-based seafood movement. We’re working tirelessly to improve our infrastructure and grow our fleet of trusted fishermen so you can enjoy the best-tasting traceable seafood with peace of mind.

Thank you for loving our fish, supporting our fishermen, and valuing our efforts to protect our natural resources. We couldn’t do what we do without you and your membership.

—Nic Mink & Marsh Skeele, founders

Small-Scale Resiliency

Illustration of river habitat in Alaska
Illustration by Elizabeth Geboy

There is no denying the seas are getting choppy in the commercial fishing industry. When Sitka Salmon Shares launched 11 years ago, we started with a simple mission: Connect small-scale fishermen to a few folks in the Midwest who were hungry for a transparent supply chain and really good fish. Our founders lived these values. Marsh Skeele came from a family of fishermen with deep roots in Southeast Alaska. Nic Mink, an environmental historian, studied how food systems connect people to ecosystems in surprising and profound ways.

We have been overjoyed with the growth in our community. It has allowed us to bring more small-boat fishermen into our fleet and reward them for the care and attention they give to every fish. Our company emerged against a backdrop of alarming developments concerning the oceans, including rampant mislabeling, labor abuses, and habitat destruction in the form of open-pit strip mines and clear-cut timber operations.

Those problems require complex solutions, but at least they have defined boundaries. Climate change, however, is subjecting the entire planet to an experiment: Can marine habitats and our commercial fishing industry survive the projected increases in both ocean temperature and rising sea levels? These aren’t the kind of questions we want swimming in our minds when we gather for a meal. As consumers, feeding our families has never been so fraught with troubling, complicated questions about environmental and social responsibility.

Fisherman-owner Eric Jordan shares his fisheries knowledge with the next generation.

Fortunately, our community has the tools we need to chart a path to a better future. Small-scale fisheries can be more energy-efficient, and wild-caught seafood remains one of the most climate-friendly proteins available. A recent study in the UK found that, in terms of diet alone, pescatarians have a 46% smaller carbon footprint than meat eaters. Switching to wild-caught salmon lowers your carbon footprint further because farmed salmon requires so many energy inputs that it actually produces more greenhouse gas than poultry, pound for pound.

No one wants to read a scientific journal article in order to decide what’s for dinner. Fortunately, our fishermen-owners bring decades of conservation experience. Skipper Eric Jordan helped found the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and served on the Sitka Fish & Game Advisory Committee as well as the Sitka Conservation Board for decades. “I have been discussing salmon diets, sizes, and survival for decades with scientists, managers, and fishermen,” Eric says. “For fun I read things like the reports of groups like the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission.”

Eric and the other fishermen-owners in our fleet understand that if you don’t protect salmon habitat, you not only lose the fish but also the way of life they support. That’s why he collaborated with local high school students in 2019 to draft and introduce a climate change emergency resolution for the Sitka Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

Eric is also passing a lifetime of knowledge about marine stewardship to the next generation. Since 2015, Eric has trained over 50 young fishermen on the F/V I Gotta. “Finding crew with some experience who love fishing in Alaska is so critical to the future of our individual businesses in the industry as a whole,” Eric says. Eric benefits from the labor of young, energetic deckhands who in turn learn valuable lessons to take back to their home ports.

Sophie Nethercut, an ex-deckhand of the F/V I Gotta, having an argument with her catch.

Small-scale fishing communities are our North Star through these stormy seas. Alaska comprises just over a third of the coastline in the United States and small-scale fishermen need a seat at the decision-making tables in Juneau and Washington, D.C. Your membership in our community boosts their power to defend marine habitats from polluters and devastating extractive industries. Right now, one king salmon is nearly as valuable as two barrels of oil. Small-scale fishing communities like Sitka, Haines, and Kodiak keep those dollars circulating in the community, securing a future for young fishermen and reminding decision-makers of the value of intact and healthy marine habitats.

In Bristol Bay, small-boat fishermen are at the vanguard of the fight to protect the largest salmon run in the world from a proposed open-pit mine. It should be enough that they do their jobs well, but Alaska’s small-boat fishermen must also fight against interests who would ransack local resources and export profits.

Our fishermen-owners remind us of why we need to engage with, rather than retreat from, these problems. If we abandon the ocean as a lost cause, we lose our frontline defenders of marine habitats.Our community is focused on both economic and environmental resiliency and our commitment to small-boat operations allows us to be nimble in response to the unpredictable climate we now inhabit. With fishermen-owners like Eric Jordan guiding us, we are confident we can navigate through the perils in our path toward calmer seas. As we grow, we are able to support more small-boat fishermen through our company, which benefits their communities and in turn gives us more knowledge to chart a safe course ahead.

As we enter salmon season, keep an eye out for fish from the F/V I Gotta. If you are lucky enough to receive a portion of line-caught salmon from skipper Eric’s vessel, hop on our Sitka Salmonsharesians Facebook group and share photos of your meal with him.

We are grateful for your trust, and with your support we can build a better seafood system!

Grace in the Kitchen

The 3 C's of Raw Fish Prep

The idea of an earth-friendly, sustainable diet is complex and a hot button not only in the environmental sciences but the culinary world as well.

A recent study by the EAT-Lancet Commission suggests adopting a largely plant-based diet to improve personal health and limit greenhouse gases to meet goals set forth by the Paris Agreement. It has drawn lots of debate, in part because it ignores centuries of traditional food practices and economic barriers to moving away from low-cost proteins.

Many researchers have focused on production — the raising and processing — of livestock, but few have studied the effects of actual cooking on greenhouse gases. Christian Reynolds, Senior Lecturer at Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, presented a study of greenhouse gas emissions produced by different cooking methods — roasting, boiling, sautéing, and microwaving. In short, roasting and boiling: bad; sautéing and microwaving: OK. It’s super interesting and worth a read.

Donna M. Staton and Marcus H. Harding have extensively researched negative health effects and pollutants of varying cooking fuels, particularly wood, charcoal, and gas.

As summer heats up, I’ll be turning to the three Cs of raw fish prep: carpaccio, crudo, and ceviche (oh, and gravlax, tartar, and poke) for a reason: No heat required!

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