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Fish Factor


Watch out Copper River...
By Laine Welch

 

May 26, 2006
Friday


Watch out Copper River ­ here comes Kodiak!"

That's the rallying cry of a small but passionate group that is intent on creating the kind of excitement for Kodiak salmon that Cordova has cornered for its famous Copper River fish.

Islanders are launching an inaugural "First Salmon of the Season Celebration" on June 1, an idea spawned by chef Joel Chenet, Kodiak's most outspoken advocate for all local seafood.

Two years ago, Chenet marked the start of Kodiak's salmon season by dispatching local floatplanes to pick up fish from the grounds on opening day, quickly transforming them into ready to cook entrees, and flying them directly to the offices of Alaska's congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. This year, the plan is to be "more inclusive" by launching a local salmon celebration at home.

Once again, catches of the first sockeye salmon of the season will be flown to Kodiak City from remote sites shortly after the fishery opens at noon on June 1.Chenet will immediately begin preparing the fish into an elaborate dinner (titled "Setnet Trilogy") that includes salmon soup with salmon dumplings, salmon kiev with king crab veloute, salmon poached in spring rhubarb juice with Alutiiq seasonings and salmonberry mousse cakes.

The First Salmon celebration will include much more than fine dining. Before dinner, guests will be greeted by the Alutiiq Dancers, and elders from the community will share the cultural significance of Kodiak's first fish of the season among other special presentations. The meal will also mark the grand opening of the Eagle's Landing Restaurant at the new Comfort Inn, formerly the Buskin River Inn next to the Kodiak Airport. Proceeds from the Salmon Celebration will go to the Alutiiq Dancers and Kodiak Salmon Camp.
It's about time Kodiak got on the wild fish bandwagon. The island community is home to the largest and most diverse fishing fleet in Alaska, yet visitors are hard pressed to find much local seafood fare on restaurant menus. According to tourist industry data, that is the number one comment made by visitors to Kodiak.
"Kodiak has a seafood commodities mentality. If it's not being sold in 40,000 pound van loads, it doesn't matter. And the sentiment that everyone on Kodiak gets there own fish is a myth. Lots of people simply don't go out and catch their own salmon or halibut or crab," said a local processor who asked to remain anonymous.

But that is finally beginning to change, said Dave Kaplan, a film maker and project manager for the Star of Kodiak, a local quality assurance program that is co-sponsoring the First Salmon Celebration. "Kodiak is a sleeping giant in terms of its fish. All we need is to collaborate on more local events like this to get people to recognize that we have the best seafood and salmon in the world. Three thousand Kodiak bears can't be wrong," Kaplan added with a laugh.

Chef Chenet, who along with his Mill Bay Coffee & Pastry Shop will be operating the Eagle's Landing Restaurant, said the Kodiak Salmon Celebration will be the "first of many firsts." Along with salmon, he intends to begin annual promotions for the first landings of Kodiak cod, halibut, rockfish, crab and other local seafood. Get more information at 907-486-4411, 907-486-1711 or krd@ak.net .

CHEFS FACE OFF­ On a related note, Joel Chenet is one of a handful of Alaska chefs who will vie for the chance to represent the state at the third annual "Great American Seafood Cook-off" set for August 5 in New Orleans. The chefs were selected because of their dedication to promoting and supporting wild Alaska seafood at their restaurants. Other chefs in the Alaska competition are Naomi Everett of Settler's Bay Lodge in Wasilla, David Moorehead of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau and Patrick Hoogerhyde of Orso in Anchorage. The Alaska cook off, sponsored by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, will take place June 15th at the Anchorage Hilton. Get more info at www.alaskaseafood.org <http://www.alaskaseafood.org/> .

FUTURISTIC FISH STORIES - Studies show for the first time that animals will shun their neighbors who have an infectious disease. Researchers at Old Dominion University and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have found that lobsters will avoid infected individuals even before they show any symptoms of disease. The scientists speculate the lobsters are prompted by their sense of smell, and the tactic may limit the spread of disease in the wild. They said that other species very likely have the same ability to detect and minimize exposure to infectious diseases. The results of the five year lobster study are in the May edition of Nature magazine.

As food makers scramble to meet the growing demand for healthier products, they are coming up with some unique combinations. According to Intrafish, nutrition trends from the include pigs being engineered so their meat contains more omega three fatty acids.

In Japan, studies show that fish based, low fat diets are far healthier than the average American menu, and contributes to longer life. Researchers fed groups of mice powdered hamburgers and fried chicken, and fish and rice porridge. The study found genes that break down cholesterol and fat were one and a half times more active with the Japanese diet. Cholesterol levels were ten times higher in the mice that were fed on the American burger and fries diet. Japan is home to some of the world's oldest people. Life expectancy is 86 years for women and 79 years for men. The Japanese researchers will soon conduct a similar diet study on humans.

Finally, a company called Tasker has introduced "Pacific Blue Seafood Spray ­ a tasteless, anti-bacterial spritzer that is a quick and easy way to eliminate odors and extend the shelf life of seafood. The spray has been tested on a wide variety of seafood at the North Carolina State Center for Marine Science & Technology, Virginia Tech University and Mississippi State University. Results showed that it can extend the shelf life several days when used at retail locations.

CRAB CORRECTION ­ The female king crabs scheduled to hatch the tiny crabs as part of the state's first enhancement project at Kodiak will come from Kodiak waters, and not from the Bering Sea as was previously reported.

 

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]alaska.com

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