Iliamna Fish Company

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The Iliamna Fish Company is a hardworking crew of native Alaskan fishermen who spend their summer months touring the fishery located deep within Bristol Bay, Alaska in search of fresh sockeye salmon.

Heritage Foods USA is proud to be working with the Iliamna Fish Company, a family of 25 immediate and extended relatives that has been fishing the pristine Pacific Northwest waters since 1948. Three of the fishing families live in Alaska full time while the rest spends winters all across the United States. Every June and July all the fishermen dutifully return to the healthy Bristol Bay waters where they spend many days on the boat waiting for the influx of salmon that helps sustain the community during the long off-season.

The sockeye salmon come from the deepest part of Bristol Bay, Alaska known as Nakneck. The rich flesh of these fish is a deep scarlet to persimmon red color and imparts a slightly sweet taste, a characteristic that can be attributed to the salmon’s journey from salt to fresh water.

Iliamna Fish Company has built the fishery on responsible marine practices and sustainable harvesting techniques. The fishery is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council thanks to a strong commitment from the fishermen to protect and promote the natural resources that preserve their livelihood.

The only way they fish is by setting nets, which are a lot like a sheet hanging on a clothesline floating in the wind. Part of the sheet floats on top while the remainder is anchored at the bottom and drifts with the current. The tide creates a basket that collects the fish, a spectacle often referred to as a “wall of salmon” that swims in the shallow water where the Iliamna fishermen waiting for the catch in their four-foot deep, twenty-foot long boats, carefully pull the net up and gently retrieve the sockeye. Each salmon is then bled by hand and submerged in a 33°F ice bath before it is brought to shore. Within six hours the fish are cleaned, inspected, packed and ready to be shipped to home chefs and restaurants all around the United States.

About Janani Lee

After completing her BA degree in Dance and Religious Studies at Wesleyan University, Janani spent time farming and working in kitchens in California and Hawaii. In May 2013 she graduated from NYU with a masters in Food Studies with a focus on Food Systems. She is interested in urban farming, arts education, and food policy.