In its efforts to connect sustainable producers and processors with consumers, wholesalers and retailers, the Local Food Alliance has shared the following interview with Matt Luck, Founder of Pride of Bristol Bay, prideofbristolbay.com, purveyor of sustainable salmon and seafood shares from Bristol Bay, Alaska. Luck is committed to sustainable fishing from coast to coast and is active in multiple ways to ensure these precious resources are respected and conserved.
Pride of Bristol Bay: Wild salmon with a mission
For Matt Luck, a lifelong commercial fisherman from Alaska, sharing the bountiful salmon harvest from Bristol Bay, Alaska directly with consumers has become just as important as the act of fishing itself. Passion breeds action and Luck launched Pride of Bristol Bay, delivering efficient and affordable sourcing of the finest wild sustainable, Sockeye salmon at affordable prices to the doorsteps of customers nationwide. Luck understands that the core asset of the entire Bristol Bay region is the wild sockeye salmon resource. Driving his business model is his desire to protect the fishery that sustains his family and thousands of others.
What drew you toward commercial fishing?
I have been at the mercy of an adventure gene my entire life. At 20 years old, I headed to Alaska for the summer with two friends from New Hampshire to earn money for college. I simply knew after one day working on a purse seiner in Prince William Sound that this was something that I would doing for a long, long time. The people, the place and the lifestyle combined to create place I wanted very much to call home.
What do you love about it?
Everything. From day one, I felt like I discovered nirvana. I could work all day in places as beautiful as any mountain I’d ever been on and at the same time make a living.
What makes Bristol Bay salmon different and special?
The Bristol Bay sockeye fillets and portions we provide are produced by a 95 boat-fleet of which I am a part. Every fisherman that is part of this fleet is held to quality standards at the point of harvest that are by far the strictest in Bristol Bay if not all of Alaska. The result is a premium quality fresh, frozen product. Each of our individual vacuum packed fillets and portions and the master case bear a code stamped on the packaging that calls out the fishing district in which it was harvested. This provides the consumer a level of traceability that is rarely found in the confusing landscape of today’s seafood retail sales regime.
What makes your salmon “sustainable?”
Bristol Bay is home to one of the world’s largest wild, sustainable salmon runs. The 30-year average return to Bristol Bay is 30 million sockeye salmon. In 2015, over 50 million sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay, the third largest run in history. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has developed a management regime in Bristol Bay allowing for commercial, sport and subsistence harvest that first and foremost assures enough fish make it to the spawning grounds to guarantee robust returns in the future. This spawning escapement first, all other uses second is the foundation of the fisheries policy that makes the Bristol Bay salmon resource sustainable.
Why do our seafood choices matter?
It is important that we know, even demand, that our seafood choices are sourced from fisheries that are managed responsibly so that we support the health and continued productivity of our oceans.
What is your vision for the future of seafood/fishing?
Seafood in general is a proven source of good, pure protein with a myriad of health and nutritional benefits. We need to recognize that like water, this is a finite resource. I sincerely hope that we see global initiatives, which address this basic issue and create policy that rewards sustainable fishery practices. And seriously punishes those that overfish and pollute.
What are you doing to change the status quo?
I am donating a percentage of my pre-tax profit to resource advocacy in Bristol Bay and challenging other industry members to match that donation. In doing so, I hope to create an understanding that we as stakeholders need to support efforts to protect the core asset of Bristol Bay; clean, cold, water and wild salmon.
What’s your favorite way to eat and enjoy salmon?
Blackened Sockeye Sashimi
Let a fillet thaw in the refrigerator, then skin the fillet and rub with Cajun seasoning. Sear on both sides, 10-15 seconds per side, in a very hot cast iron pan with a little olive oil. Remove, slice and eat!