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COMMERCE 

The eventual goal for SeaBank is to provide an online marketplace

We can look at the wealth derived from Southeast Alaska’s environment as nature’s dividend. Unlike other industries that must purchase raw materials, the cost of goods for this extraordinary enterprise is virtually zero. No amount of human ingenuity can improve on the Panhandle’s rich and reliable ecological system, nor could we design a more perfect business model.

We call this remarkable ecological and economic system SEABANK.

The economic health of Southeast Alaska is directly tied to the stability and health of our environment. To understand the economic side of this equation, SEABANK draws from research on the dollar value of marine resources harvested in the region—most importantly salmon, halibut, shellfish, and black cod. We further include the value of tourism and ecosystem services which also depend on the natural environment. 

 

Why does buying frozen seafood make a difference?

CHANGING STEREOTYPES ABOUT FLASH FROZEN FISH.

 Image Courtesy of EcoTrust

Image Courtesy of EcoTrust

Many Americans hold onto the stereotype that fresh is always better than frozen when it comes to seafood. We have been working to show consumers why choosing frozen can be a better choice for quality- and the environment.
— Linda Behnken, Alaskans Own
 

ANSWERING THE AGE OLD QUESTION: FROZEN OR FRESH?

Alaskans Own has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since its launch as a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program in 2009.

 
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What is flash freezing?

Flash freezing is a process in which seafood is frozen rapidly to at least -10° F in a few hours. This essentially locks the fish in time allowing for a two-year shelf life at premium quality. Locking the fish in this fresh state halts cellular degradation so that when you thaw your seafood it is as fresh as the day it was frozen. Flash freezing also allows for the elimination of the "use it or lose it" mentality in consumers.

Image Courtesy of Alyssa Russell

FLASH FREEZING PROVIDES SOLUTIONS TO:

  • The perishable nature of seafood
  • Seasonal changes in volume and supply
  • The high cost of distribution
  • High levels of seafood waste. About 23% of seafood purchased by retailers goes to waste!
  • Unaffordable nature of seafood products for consumers

Facts courtesy of EcoTrust

 

WHY DOES SEABANK SUPPORT THE FROZEN SEAFOOD MARKET?

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1. To reduce waste

According to EcoTrust, an organization based in Portland, "Twenty-three percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it to the dinner plate and goes to waste." Grocery stores must throw away "fresh" fish after a certain number of days if it has not been sold (rightly so, because fresh fish loses quality quickly!). "Fresh" fish may have been out of the water for 10-14 days or more, which greatly impacts quality. However, frozen product can be stored for many months without any reduction in quality or freshness. Frozen product is also far less vulnerable to spoiling at the whim of shipping delays-where fresh product that is delayed by weather or other shipping problems often is thrown away or wasted. 

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2. To ensure quality and freshness

The longer that a fish is out of water the more that its meat degrades. Ensuring quality begins when the fish is caught at sea. The fish must be handled with care, bled, and put on ice or frozen. When seafood is frozen at a very low temperatures, it is essentially "locked" in time- meaning that the freshness and quality are preserved.

Image Courtesy of Alyssa Russell

The figure to the left demonstrates the differences between "fresh" and "frozen-fresh" salmon predictions in "days since harvest (on ice, exposed to air)" and "shelf life remaining".
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3. To help fishermen

The seafood market is volatile due to prices, variables, and demand constantly shifting. Being able to store and market frozen product over a range of time means that fishermen can choose to fish in good weather, can diversify into new species of fish, and can sell product outside of fishing season (when prices or demand might be higher).

Image Courtesy of Alyssa Russell

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4. To help consumers

By offering frozen seafood, producers can be confident that their fish is of high and consistent quality. Producers can also offer the fish at lower prices, ship the fish in bulk or via less carbon-intensive methods, and provide fish outside of the fishing season. Consumers can stock up on high quality, frozen fish for the entire winter if they'd like, and don't have to feel rushed to cook a product that will degrade or spoil quickly. Plus, according to a recent study (read on for more information), they get better fish!

Image Courtesy of Alyssa Russell

 

Measuring Freshness

 Image Courtesy of EcoTrust

Image Courtesy of EcoTrust

Consumers taste tested flash-frozen seafood from Alaskans Own, Port Orford Seafood, and Real Good Fish and compared it to never-frozen, "fresh" fish from a local store. Consumers preferred the frozen product, which also proved to be higher quality when measured by the CQR device.

The data from this study proves that blast frozen seafood is higher quality than much of the "fresh" seafood that is marketed across the US. 

Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood.

    Image Courtesy of EcoTrust

 Image Courtesy of EcoTrust

The study also utilized a new device, called the "CQR" (Certified Quality Reader) and created by a company called Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.

 

The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR”.

The CQN's for fresh black cod, fresh salmon, frozen-fresh black cod, and frozen-fresh salmon were 15, 20, 80, and 79, respectively. Differences in the CQN can be seen here, where both of the frozen fish's CQNs were higher than the fresh fish. This graph also demonstrates the difference in days exposed to air.

 

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The CQR device, when pressed into a piece of seafood, can give a numerical measurement of quality. This is the first time that we have been able to quantify the quality of seafood- before, smell and appearance were the signifiers used.

 

 

 Image Courtesy of Alyssa Russell

Image Courtesy of Alyssa Russell

 

WHEN YOU BUY FROZEN WHAT ARE YOU INVESTING IN?

Healthy, sustainable fish stocks

Healthy fishermen and communities

A cleaner environment

The creation of more vibrant local economies ensuring a better future for Alaska

 

 

Ready to jump on board with flash-frozen seafood?

If you are interested in purchasing sustainably sourced, flash frozen seafood, please use our vendor distribution map to find a retailer, community supported fishery (CSF), or processing plant near you. Do you have suggestions for our map or would you like your business to be added to our map? Just shoot us an email or drop us a line!


Images courtesy of Alyssa Russell