Earlier this month, the U.S. Sustainability Alliance (USSA) hosted a select group of UK and European media in Alaska. Partnering with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), a USSA member, we planned our trip to coincide with the renowned Copper River opener, which marks the official start of the salmon season. Over seven days, we visited Anchorage and Cordova, gaining a deep appreciation for Alaska’s deep-rooted sustainability commitment and its vast and beautiful landscape. We then followed the fish to Seattle, Washington, and saw the first catch of the season being sold with great aplomb in Pike Place Market – the original farmers’ market. 

Our trip kicked off in Anchorage, the largest city in the state and home to around 40% of Alaska’s population. Here, we met with representatives from the Alaska Department of Agriculture and the Alaska Grown program to learn about local agriculture. We sampled some local produce, from birch syrup to potato chips, and visited local farms specializing in flowers, mixed vegetables, and beets. The highlight, however, was our visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. It provided an insight into the complex history of the treatment of Native Alaskans and the ongoing efforts to address it, as well as an understanding of Alaska’s inherent sustainability and subsistence values, providing context for the trip.

Our next stop – by way of a scenic eight-hour ferry trip from Whittier – was Cordova. This small town of approximately 2,800 people lies near the mouth of the Copper River at the head of Orca Inlet on the east side of Prince William Sound. Here, Jeremy Botz, Fisheries Biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, briefed us on the complexities of the adaptive salmon management program with its Sustainable Escapement Goals (SEG), which protects the future of a healthy salmon population. We also heard from mariculture experts, the Copper River Marketing Association, salmon enforcement personnel, processors, fishermen (& women!), and their union representatives, among others, to get a complete overview of the sector.

A standout highlight of our stay in Cordova was a fly-over tour, which allowed us to watch the Copper River Opener from the air and take in the Sheridan Glacier, Chugach National Forest, and the Copper River Highway. 

Also memorable were our numerous trips to Cordova Harbor, where we watched the 300+ fishing boats leave and return safely 24 hours later with a full, healthy catch! We also enjoyed some fun wildlife watching – with the local bald eagles, seals, and sea otters happily putting on a show!

Reflecting on the trip’s impact, USSA spokesperson Greg Moore, who accompanied the group, commented, “Quite apart from Alaska’s truly spectacular natural environment, our trip gave journalists a unique opportunity to connect with local farmers, fishermen, and experts to gain a deeper understanding of the local culture and seafood industry. What became clear from the outset was the unwavering commitment to sustainability, which is part of Alaska’s DNA. The ongoing efforts to uphold it are inspiring and witnessing it first-hand was a compelling experience.”

For more on our Alaska trip, follow us on social media and look out for our June Alaska Special.