From fisherman to supplier and chef to diner–we all have a role to play ensuring that sustainable seafood lands on our plate. In Alaska, sustainable seafood is so critical that it is written into the state Constitution mandating that “fish…be utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle.” In this way, Alaska promises to provide wild-caught seafood for generations to come.
Alaska supplies more than half of the wild-caught seafood in the United States and is home to the greatest salmon runs in the world, providing as much as 95 percent of North America’s wild salmon. With seafood touching the lives of most Alaskans in one way or another, it is no surprise that Alaskans are long-standing believers in sustainability. The seafood industry is the largest private-sector employer in the state, providing jobs and income for more than 52,000 people. The livelihoods of these fishermen depend on healthy, wild fish stocks. Alaska’s fishermen have been instrumental in helping to reshape the industry with science-based resource management and environmental stewardship to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fisheries that support them.
Responsible fisheries management and sustainable fishing practices involve preserving the fish stocks against overfishing and taking care not to harm other marine animals and the surrounding marine environment. State, federal and international organizations all work together to manage and oversee Alaska’s fisheries. This means that every aspect of Alaska’s fisheries are strictly regulated, closely monitored and rigidly enforced–and this has been the case for over five decades.
One way of providing assurances of sustainable practices is the use of seafood certification programs; however the increase of certification programs, eco-labels and consumer watch lists has led to confusion for many. The simplest way to guarantee that your seafood is sustainable is to buy Alaska seafood because that’s the only kind of fish the state harvests. That’s why Mary Sue Milliken, pioneer of world cuisine with her co-chef/co-owner Susan Feniger of critically acclaimed Border Grill restaurants appreciates working with wild-caught Alaska seafood.
“Since we opened Border Grill in 1985, we have been advocating for healthy and sustainable food sources. Our customers and staff are both interested and grateful for our diligence in sourcing only the best. Alaska has been a leader in managing and sustaining wild caught seafood forever–it’s even written in their constitution!” says Chef Mary Sue Milliken. “So, when we get seafood from Alaska, not only am I assured is it sustainable, but the natural and varied diet produces incredible flavor, making my job as a chef incredibly easy. All I have to do is get out of the way and let the natural seafood flavors shine on the plate.”
There are numerous organizations providing third-party certification for responsible management and sustainability, and the vast majority of Alaska’s seafood bears at least one type of certification. In particular, the following Alaska fisheries are Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM ) Certified: Alaska Salmon, Alaska Halibut, Alaska Cod, Alaska Black Cod/Sablefish, Alaska Pollock, Alaska Flatfish and Alaska Crab.
Alaska’s RFM Program is a comprehensive seafood certification program founded on the strongest and most widely acknowledged international standards and practices–based on United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) criteria. The Alaska RFM Program is a voluntary accredited assessment of whether a fishery meets strict criteria to be certified as meeting “responsible fisheries management.” Chefs can be confident in Alaska RFM Certification because it means the fisheries in Alaska are assessed against the world’s highest and most internationally accepted standard.
In addition, Alaska’s RFM Program has a complete Chain of Custody program, providing assurance to buyers that Alaska’s RFM-certified fish can be traced through the supply chain back to its origin–a certified fishery.
Even more important, Alaska’s RFM Program is the first certification program to be recognized by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s (GSSI) Global Benchmark Tool as meeting all applicable criteria. This recognition should ensure confidence in the credibility of Alaska RFM Certified seafood. The GSSI Alaska RFM Benchmark Report is available here.
Earn Continuing Education Hours: The American Culinary Federation offers 5 continuing education hours (CEHs) for completing the Alaska Seafood Wild Style course. Go here to learn more about Alaska salmon and take the quiz to earn your CEHs.
Recipes from Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of the acclaimed Border Grill restaurants: