Fish Factor: Salmon Fellows program spawned in Alaska
February 10th | Laine Welch
Salmon is the heart of Alaska's fisheries — it almost singlehandedly spawned the push for statehood nearly 60 years ago. A new Alaska Salmon Fellows program wants to make sure Alaskans are poised to "shape the future" of the cultural fish and it is investing in the people to do so.
In its call for applications, the fellows program is described as a means t?"facilitate demanding conversations about salmon issues among leaders from a cross section of salmon policy, management, industry, activism, research and cultural sectors."?
"The goal is to bring people with different perspectives together from all across Alaska, people who care about the future and want to work together, and let them shape strategies and initiatives by learning from each other," said Kitty Farnham, director of leadership programs for the Alaska Humanities Forum, sponsor of the Salmon Fellows program.
Most Alaskans are deeply connected to salmon in some way, but it has some flash point issues, such as allocation and interception grievances among users and the urban/rural divide?
One thing everyone has in common, Farnham said, is a desire to preserve and protect the fish, and the importance of dialogue is core to the purpose of the Humanities Forum.
"We often don't see each other's perspectives very well because we're mostly talking to people who have a similar relationship to the world of salmon, whether it's commercial fishermen, or sport users or subsistence? We want to create stronger connections across all those boundaries," she explained. "We really believe it takes all thinkers and all residents to be part of different solutions. So this notion of holding a space where we can learn with, and from, each other will broaden our understanding of how our salmon is going to remain sustainable and acceptable to all Alaskans for generations."
Each Salmon Fellow will receive $10,000 to support their participation in the program and use of the money is open-ended?
"Truly, there are no restrictions on that. It may be used to cover child care or elder care for someone's participation? They might choose to use that money to invest in their existing work; they can spend the $10,000 however they want individually," Farnham said?
A determination of success of the fellows program could be as simple as seeing more people involved in "dialogues that matter, so there is a higher level of inclusion across all parts of our community," she added.
Salmon Fellows will be required to attend four gatherings starting in May through next April; all travel costs are covered from a separate pool of funds? Fellows also are expected to fully participate in readings, connections between events, and development of innovative projects that promote a strong future for Alaska's salmon and people?
"Projects they come up with as a result of listening and talking with each other," Farnham explained. "Things they can do together that they can't do alone. Those initiatives will be separately funded later this year."
A webinar on the Salmon Fellows program scheduled for Feb. 8 is limited to 50 people and will remain on the Alaska Humanities Forum website. Deadline to apply for a Salmon Fellows award is Feb. 28; recipients will be notified in April? Visit www.akhf.org/alaska-salmon-fellows.?
Fish business builders
Applications also are now open to entrepreneurs who want to compete for access to global investors, advisors and partners to help grow their businesses.
Fish 2.0 began two years ago as a way to connect producers and investors in the sustainable seafood sector.
"We noticed that investors in the field were having a hard time finding fisheries deals, and fishery business owners were frustrated that investors had no interest?We created Fish 2.0 to build connections between the groups," said Monica Jain of Manta Consulting and Fish 2.0 founder. "Our goal is to create the business growth needed to drive social and environmental change in the seafood supply chain."
The mix makes for a mutually beneficial trade-off. Fish 2.0 competitors learn to improve their business savvy and access; in turn, participating investors gain early advantage to new deals that can help build their sustainable seafood portfolios.
The Fish 2.0 competition takes place online over several months with participants paired up with investors/advisors to develop better business and promotional strategies. The top three businesses from regional tracks and the top five from global tracks then compete for over $50,000 in cash prizes at a final pitch in November at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
"As a past participant and winner of Fish 2.0, I would highly encourage Alaskans looking to grow a seafood business that values the triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic impacts to consider competing," said Kelly Harrell, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
Harrell bested 170 others in the competition two years ago with AMCC's Alaska Community Seafood Hub concept, an expansion of its Catch of the Season program which provides special orders of salmon, rockfish, cod and crab direct from local fishermen to Alaska restaurants, wholesalers and seafood fans.
"The competition's process is thoughtfully designed to help entrepreneurs strengthen their business model, and the connections were extremely valuable," Harrell added. "Overall, it was a great experience and it would be wonderful to see more Alaskan seafood businesses participate."
Over 60 percent of finalists in the Fish 2.0 2015 competition gained new investment, partners or customers, according to Fish 2.0
The application period of 2017 is open through April 29.
Hoonah goes high end
Smoked salmon bites in snazzy bags and jars are "made to put Alaska in the palm of your hand" — and the new items are flying off the shelves in over 400 specialty stores and online??
Launched last year in a partnership of the Huna Totem Native Corporation and Dear North, of San Francisco, the coho and sockeye salmon is caught and prepared locally and seasoned with wild ingredients.?"Our best seller is the salmon with savory sea kelp and sesame," said Anne French, Dear North president, adding that other flavors include spicy fireweed honey, wild Alaska spruce, and salted rhubarb and raspberry.
French said the partnership provides an opportunity to honor the unique place where the salmon comes from and appeals to a "magical interest and curiosity about the Alaska lifestyle.
"People down here are crazy about Alaska. Whether they know anything about it or not, they are just completely crazy about it," French added.
Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. Laine's weekly Fish Factor column appears in 20 newspapers and websites, including in the UK. Visit her Web site at http://www.alaskafishradio.com.