SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

A Symphony of Seafood
By Laine Welch


February 07, 2006

Yukon king salmon from two small companies in tiny, far away Alaska villages were the favorites at the Symphony of Seafood event last weekend in Anchorage.

Ray's Gourmet Smoked Yukon King Salmon scooped the coveted People's Choice award. The salmon, which is smoked with a "secret blend of specially chosen woods," has been marketed under the Boreal Fisheries label for over 20 years by the Darling family of St. Mary's, AK ( .

Yukon King Seafoods of Marshall, AK ( again topped all others for its Smoked Cajun King Salmon. The savory, smoked chunks won the People's Choice award at last month's Symphony in Las Vegas, and won first place in the Smoked Category at the Anchorage event. Placing second and third in the Smoked Category were two smoked sockeye salmon cream cheese spreads (one with Cajun spices) by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, under its Echo Falls label.

Sablefish debuted for the first time at the Symphony of Seafood, and two of the five entries took top honors in the Food Service category. All were offered by the partnership of Prowler Fisheries of Petersburg and Tom Douglas's Kitchen of Seattle. First place went to Smoked Sweet Chili Sablefish Tenderloin, with Ancho Chili Garlic Sablefish Tenderloin taking second place. The third place winner was lime flavored Wild Alaska Salmon Mexican Style by Horst's Seafood of Juneau.

Marinated Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon fillets by Morey's Seafood of Motley, Minnesota won first place in the Retail Category. Second place went to Ocean Beauty's Seasoned Herb Crusted Salmon Burger, under its Sea Choice label. Winning third place was Trident Seafood's Ultimate Fish Stick.

In all, 19 new Alaska seafood products were rated by a panel of judges in Las Vegas. All winners are kept secret until the Anchorage gathering, where they are announced to an eager public. Those taking home first place awards get a free trip and booth space at one of the industry's oldest and most illustrious seafood events - the International Boston Seafood Show in mid-March. Now in its 13th year, the Symphony of Seafood was created by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation to showcase new products and introduce them to the marketplace. Get more info at or .

CHEFS ADVISE ALASKA - Las Vegas loves Alaska seafood, said David Kellaway, corporate executive chef for Station Casinos (14 operations). "Typically, we use fresh salmon when it's running, and Alaska halibut is second to none," he said. Kellaway added that he is seeing better quality fish coming out of Alaska, due to more careful handling. "It's slow, but Alaska as a brand is pretty strong. If folks handle that wild catch with the highest standards, there will be a market for that higher priced seafood. But consistency is the key."

How to get more Alaska seafood on Las Vegas dining tables? Bring it to town and teach people more about it, said chefs Heinz Lauer and Peter Sherlock of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. "Education is the key," said Sherlock.

Chef Lauer said Alaska seafood marketers should attend regular meetings held by Las Vegas chef and food and beverage associations. "Bring it right to the table and let people taste and experience it. You need to be more visible here and participate in eventsget your name out and become part of the community. If you don't understand the market it's not going to go well for you," said Lauer.

The three chefs were judges at the Symphony of Seafood event last month in Las Vegas, and were impressed with the wide range of products they sampled. "There are so many opportunities in this town, it is mind boggling," said Lauer.

REALITY WORKSHOPS - Listening to the needs of the community has spawned "nuts and bolts" workshops set for later this month in Naknek.

Topics to be covered stem from responses to a workshop two years ago and from surveys of Bristol Bay residents, said organizer Liz Brown with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory program in Dillingham. Seafood marketing and e-commerce top the list of things people want to know more about, followed by business planning and financing sources.

"A lot of people have expertise in catching fish and making wonderful products, but they don't realize how complicated direct marketing can be. It really takes a tremendous commitment," Brown said. In a second part of the workshop, visiting experts will also cover the basics of the business of seafood processing, such as complying with all of the permits and regulations, and designing and operating a plant.

A newer twist to the seafood workshop stems from the region's interest in new technologies. One is the extraction of omega oils from salmon, a process being spearheaded in Alaska by Subramaniam Sathivel, a researcher at the Fishery Industrial Technology Center in Kodiak. "He has found ways to make the extraction process cheaper and easier. If we could get people working on that out here, they could be making money from it. And the process only uses salmon heads and not the whole fish, so oil extraction has great potential," Brown said.

A second technology featured at the workshop is gasification of wet protein wastes. The wastes are burned with cellulose products, like pallets and cardboard, and the energy gathered is put back into the processing plant. "We have two great problems, especially in Western Alaska - getting rid of fish wastes and the high cost of energy. Gasification could help with both of those," Brown said.

The "nuts and bolts" workshops are funded by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. They take place February 13 through 16 in Naknek. Get more information at or call Liz Brown at 907-842-1265.

COUNTING FISH - Researcher in Boston have found a way to track fish with a low frequency sonar technique that illuminates schools over an area a million times larger than what's ever been done before.

According to the Boston Globe, a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was able to continuously track enormous schools of fish, some of them tens of miles long, in an area as large as 6,000 square miles, about the size of Connecticut. The technique cannot detect individual fish, and no sonar can identify species of fish, but it could help scientists more accurately estimate the quantity of fish overall in a region and how they behave.

Lead researcher Nicholas Makris, a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering at MIT, said he was not looking for fish when they started; he wanted to see if the device could locate ancient riverbeds under the ocean floor off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. But he soon realized he was seeing millions of fish in enormous groups that no one had seen before.

Fisheries scientists believe that at least for now, the sonar technique is probably best used for fish such as herring, mackerel, and scup that tend to travel in large concentrated schools midway between the surface and ocean floor, where it is easier to detect them. Makris's method would not help scientists better count flounder, for example, because it can be hard to distinguish them from the ocean floor, where they spend much of their time.

Scientists say the acoustic method will probably add to, not replace, traditional fish counting. For example, Makris's big-picture data could help them understand the behavior of fish and overall numbers, while research vessels will figure out what species they are seeing. A report on the research is published in the journal Science.


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her Fish Factor column appears weekly in over a dozen papers and websites. Her Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations across Alaska.

Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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