What does sourcing fish from a fishermen's co-op mean?
Kendall Whitney, marketing manager for Sitka, Alaska's Seafood Producers Cooperative puts it this way, "As a fishermen-owned co-op, fishermen are the owners of our company . . . Since 1944, our co-op has helped to support a traditional way of life for fishermen and preserve the independence of what is, by nature, an independent profession."
"For us, being a co-op suggests pride, integrity, quality, community, and more."
Founded in 1944, Seafood Producers Cooperative is a co-op owned and led by small-boat fishermen and located in downtown Sitka, Alaska. A longstanding community organization with a commitment to top quality, they process premium seafood while getting fishermen a fair price for their catch. Their hook-and-line caught fish are given the individual care and attention that accompanies their motto, “One Hook, One Fish At A Time.”
From the boat where it’s caught to the packaged product, we walk you through how your premium sablefish is handled by Sitka’s fishermen’s cooperative to get ready for your box!
Visiting Our Partner Processor: Seafood Producers Cooperative
Sitka Seafood Market Director of Science and Policy Michael Kohan stands outside Sitka’s Seafood Producers Cooperative (SPC) to take a look at the wild sablefish (black cod) we’re sourcing for our members’ boxes. First, we meet with Vice President of Sales Stephen Rhoads and Greg McGuire, former skipper of the SPC troll tender Sea Lion and current SPC staff member, before walking down to look at the processing room where the sablefish is cut and packaged for members’ boxes. SPC is owned by small-boat fishermen who catch each sablefish individually using hook-and-line (or longline slinky pot) which minimizes bycatch. Bycatch is a term for when a fisherman catches a species that is not the target (intended) species. For example, catching shortspine thornyhead aka “idiot fish” while longlining for sablefish. The SPC dock team offloads fish from the F/V Pacific Bounty at the seawall. SPC dock staff weigh, grade, and prep the fish for the fillet team. Sablefish is a deep-dwelling fish that is caught using longline gear. The flesh is flavorful and full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that sometimes give it the name “butterfish” for its richness. We head into the cutting room where fish are quickly filleted, vacuum-sealed, and labeled before going into the blast freezer. We meet Ebony Fisher, Sitka Seafood Market’ former food safety and quality assurance (FSQA) lead and there’s a happy reunion with Michael followed by a quick catch-up. Ebony shows us the cutting tables where beautiful fillets of sablefish are being prepped for the portioning team. Silvia Diaz is SPC’s value added supervisor and oversees all portioning and vacuum-sealing. Silvia's a highly-skilled career filleter and has been working at the co-op for over 20 years cutting fish. She’s confident wielding an extremely sharp knife — efficiently filleting each fish with a single fluid movement. Michael and Stephen inspect the catch while Greg and Silvia discuss their favorite fish. Silvia says that she likes salmon best, while Greg shares that he especially enjoys lingcod. SPC staff work to label sablefish portions that are ready to go into the blast freezer before it’s shipped down to Galesburg, IL, where our warehouse team packs your seafood box before it’s sent out to be delivered to your doorstep! Former Sitka Seafood Market employee Vincent Molina holds up a labeled portion of sablefish while working under the direction of Reuben, the SPC plant manager, (and to the sound of Queen Bey) in the background.
Learn more about the people behind your seafood.