(Family Features) - Len Peterson surveys the vast silver ocean from his gillnet boat, F/V Heather Anne. Around him is Taku Inlet, 15 miles south of Juneau, Alaska, where the mighty Taku River spills into the Pacific Ocean after winding for miles through pristine wilderness. Snowcapped mountains soar in the distance, etched by fjords where glaciers crash into the sea and whales spout and feed. Ahead are the pristine waters of one of the earth's most unspoiled natural marine environments, home to a bounty of seafood, from wild salmon to cod and Alaska pollock, sole, black cod, halibut, weathervane scallops and the mighty king crab.
Len Peterson is typical of Alaska fishermen: Fully aware of the role conservation plays in creating the sustainable fisheries supporting their lifestyle and livelihood. They have built their businesses to reflect their beliefs and respect for the wild seafood they harvest.
"We will never catch the last fish," Len says. "We all understand fish are a finite resource. But there will always be fish in these waters for my daughter and son-in-law and our future grandchildren to catch. It's a choice, a responsibility, and a commitment far more important than a huge commercial harvest."
Sustainable living is about making choices that can be sustained within a limited amount of resources. More Americans today are making sustainable choices when it comes to transportation, housing, energy and even food.
Some industries, like the Alaska fishing industry, have been putting sustainability into practice for years, and that means that shoppers have more options when it comes to making food choices that are good not just for them, but for the future.
Maintaining a balance between harvested quantities and the number of fish required to maintain a long-term healthy population without compromising the ecosystem is the standard definition of sustainability. The State of Alaska's definition for its fishing industries goes farther by adding multiple proactive efforts.
Alaska's number one priority: Protecting future fish stocks and their habitat for future generations. In this effort, Alaska takes a precautionary approach to guarantee fishery stocks and ecosystem needs are met first and foremost.
Scientific research is the foundation of Alaska's fisheries management policies and is used to establish both the numbers and the health of each individual species. Unbreakable harvest limits are then set, and fishing completely stops when these harvest limits, or quotas, are reached.
Working with several different agencies of state, federal and international governments, Alaska has developed a variety of comprehensive management methods that are considered a model of sustainability for the entire world. No Alaska species has ever been listed as threatened or endangered. Salmon harvests in particular have risen significantly above historical levels.
What does this mean when you walk up to the fish counter in your supermarket and buy two pounds of Alaska cod for dinner? You can be assured the fish has been harvested with the future in mind. It's a top-quality product whether flash-frozen at sea or delivered fresh to the market. The wild Alaska seafood you eat tonight represents a dynamic fishing industry following the world's most rigorous management practices to ensure a sustainable food and protect its natural habitat. You're doing your part to support that commitment by making a responsible choice to purchase and eat sustainably harvested seafood.
To learn more about Alaska's fisheries management practices, visit alaskaseafood.org.
Make Mine Wild From Alaska
Believe it or not, your choices at the seafood counter will affect the future, and you have a choice about creating that future. By choosing wild, natural, sustainable seafood from Alaska, you help protect the environment and ensure there will be fish tomorrow and for future generations.
Alaska Seafood at a Glance
Alaska's clean, bountiful waters yield an abundance of both finfish and shellfish. All species are harvested following strict management practices that maintain the long-term health of both fish and the natural environment while allowing maximum yields. The result is delicious seafood ready for grilling, broiling, sautéing and poaching - and your dining pleasure. For more information about Alaska seafood, recipes and nutrition details, visit alaskaseafood.org.
There are five wild Alaska salmon species: king (also called Chinook), coho, keta, pink and sockeye.
This group includes cod, Alaska pollock, halibut, black cod, rockfish and sole, which are harvested year-round.
Alaskan waters yield king crab and snow crab, harvested during winter, Dungeness crab, harvested from June until December, and Alaska weathervane scallops, harvested from July through December.