Bottom trawlers launch WASA! to promote Wild Alaskan “sole”

The Seattle-based trawlers will greenwash consumers about the many environmental positives of the Alaska hard-on-bottom flounder fishery.

by | February 21, 2024

Butter sole

Now in its “brand development phase” – campaign will tout “environmental friendliness”

Seattle-based trawlers that are responsible for the vast majority of halibut, crab, sablefish and other species taken as bycatch in the Bering Sea have launched a new non-profit marketing association to promote the “significant advantages” of Alaska sole.

The new group, called the Wild Alaska Sole Association (WASA) includes the 19 boats that comprise the Amendment 80 fleet which has the highest rates of halibut bycatch, according to NOAA Fisheries. It’s the same fleet that has filed a lawsuit against NOAA for approving a new plan that puts a limit on the amount of halibut the trawlers can take each year as bycatch. The new plan went into effect last month.

WASA members include Fishermen’s Finest, North Star Fishing, Ocean Peace, O’Hara Corporation, and U.S. Seafoods, with American Seafoods and Glacier Fish Company serving as associate members.

According to a press release, Jim Johnson of Glacier Fish Company and North Star Fishing Company serves as its President, with Frank O’Hara III of O’Hara Corporation as Vice President, Annika Saltman of Fishermen’s Finest as Secretary, and Pat Tracey of Ocean Peace as Treasurer. Seafood marketing expert Pat Shanahan, formerly with the trade group Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) is the association’s Executive Director.

“The Alaska flatfish fishery is the second largest federally managed fishery in Alaska and the largest flatfish fishery in the world, but until now there has been little effort to educate consumers about its great taste, sustainability, and versatility. WASA is committed to changing that,” the announcement says.

The Bering Sea bottom trawl fisheries target cod, Pacific Ocean Perch, Atka mackerel and various flounders (sole). They have received the stamp of approval for being “sustainably managed” from both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program for over a decade.

“Our fish has significant advantages over inferior farmed whitefish options. It’s an abundant and conservatively managed fishery that can provide consistent, high quality supply. Best of all, it offers all of the benefits the U.S. consumer is looking for – great taste, a unique eating experience, tremendous nutritional benefits, and certified sustainability.”

Jim Johnson, Wild Alaska Sole Association President

Johnson told SeafoodSource that WASA plans to emphasize those benefits once it creates consumer campaigns and product promotions. Initial projects include research and analysis of the global flatfish market, consumer research in the U.S. market and selected European markets, and the use of these research findings to inform the development of a global brand for Wild Alaska Sole.

“We are committed to making sure that more consumers learn about our fish, its great taste, and [its] sustainability so wild Alaska sole will be top of mind when deciding what to eat for dinner,” Johnson said.

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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