Why Fishing in Alaska is Like Robbing a Bank

Duke’s Chowder House is a leader in the sustainable food movement and has been committed to using the highest quality ingredients in our kitchens for over three decades. That’s why we use only 100 percent Wild Alaska Salmon – not only is it the freshest fish on the market, it is the most sustainably harvested. Every step of its journey – from cold Alaskan waters to your plate – has been specially designed to retain quality and minimize ecological footprints.

At Duke’s, we source much of our seafood from Alaska, and the question often gets asked: Why Alaska?

How Fishing Alaska is Like Robbing A Bank

Ever heard of Willie Sutton? He’s one of America’s most infamous bank robbers. His criminal career spanned over 40 years, and he reportedly stole about $2 million overall! Described as a witty and non-violent gentleman type, Willie managed to escape prison three times before they locked him up for good.

There’s an urban legend about Willie Sutton that has persisted since the height of his career. The story goes that a young, enterprising reporter asked Willie why he robbed banks.

“That’s where the money is,” Willie replied with a smile.

This quote is said to be the inspiration behind Sutton’s law, which is often invoked to medical students. The law basically states that one should pursue the most obvious course of action rather than attempt every conceivable option. This approach saves considerable time and effort.

So, naturally, when people ask me why I source Duke’s fish from Alaska, I smile and say, “that’s where the fish are.”

Sometimes, fishing in Alaska really is like robbing a bank. Security is tight, the rules are strict, and it’s important to leave behind no evidence that you were even there. However, when you start raking it in, boy is it worth it!

All jokes aside, though, the decision to source Duke’s Wild Salmon and Halibut from Alaska is made very deliberately and for very good reason.

Alaska: Quality & Sustainability

Duke's Chowder House

Plentiful, natural, wild and sustainable – that’s Alaskan salmon and halibut.

About 50% of the wild fish consumed in the United States comes from Alaska, and that’s really no surprise. Alaska is the only state that has a sustainable fishing directive contained within its State Constitution, putting its fisheries among the world’s most diligent when it comes to environmental practices. Seafood populations are constantly monitored for significant changes, and authorities are quick to take action should populations start to decline below sustainable levels.

I have spent decades traveling the great state of Alaska, building relationships with the people who catch and process fish headed for my restaurants. Together, we have created a detailed, step-by-step system that ensures the quality of fish is maintained to its highest level.

Wild Salmon contain high amounts of essential nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, thanks to their natural diet of tiny crustaceans. It is crucial that fish be properly bled, iced and handled in order to preserve those nutrients over time.

In the Copper River, for instance, the fishermen and fisherwomen I work with ice their fish right at capture. Within 24-48 hours, they bring their catch to a large ship called a tender for processing. The fishermen empty their boat and head right back out fishing while the tender gently transfers the fish in 33-degree seawater to Trident Seafoods or Copper River Seafoods in Cordova, Alaska. This part is tricky and precise, but Trident and Copper River are exceptional. They ensure consistent temperature control, rapid processing, thoughtful packaging and quick freezing. This process has been developed specifically for Duke’s Chowder House fish because it maintains maximum fresh taste and nutrients for our customers.

I won’t have it any other way.

Personally sourcing our fish is extremely important to me; I must be able to tell my customers the ocean-to-table story of the Wild Salmon I serve them. When you combine healthy wild fish, expert processing, and ecologically conscious transport, you benefit both the health of the environment and the health of your customers. That’s our goal at Duke’s.

The Mystery of The Salish Sea Salmon

Fishing in Alaska

People often ask why I source Wild Salmon and Halibut all the way from Alaska. Isn’t there perfectly good salmon in the ocean right in front of us in Seattle? Why not support fisheries here in the Pacific Northwest?

There is nothing Duke’s Chowder House would like to do more than proudly serve locally caught fish. Unfortunately, the salmon just aren’t there to catch anymore.

Over the past thirty years, the Chinook, Coho and Steelhead salmon populations of the Salish Sea have dropped dramatically. The survival and prosperity of these salmon is integral to the overall health of the ocean ecosystem, and the effects of the declining numbers are starting to reveal themselves.

As for the reasons behind the disappearing salmon, it’s still unclear. However, several major changes have been observed in the waters of the Salish Sea, and are believed to have negatively impacted the salmon populations, including:

  • Increased water temperature
  • Historical overfishing
  • Higher ocean acidity
  • Increase in harmful algae
  • Loss of forage fish species
  • Increase in predators, specifically seal and porpoise populations

Exactly how these changes have affected the salmon require further research, which is why groups such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation in Canada and Long Live the Kings in Washington have partnered together to create the Salish Sea Survival Project.

Launched in 2014, the Salish Sea Survival Project’s goal is to pool resources from both the United States and Canada in order to further study the factors affecting our salmon populations. It represents one of the largest trans-boundary projects in history, with over 40 diverse organizations working together.

I have supported Long Live the Kings and other organizations, like Salmon Safe and Save our Wild Salmon, for years now and will continue to work with them to restore the salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest. It’s my wish that one day, Duke’s will have locally-sourced salmon on our menu. Until then, we will continue to serve fresh, wild and sustainably harvested Alaskan Salmon and Halibut, helping to prevent similar declines in Alaskan populations.

So, Why Alaska?

Fishing in Alaska

Fishing in Alaska just makes sense. The fish tastes better, it’s better for you and it’s better for the environment. Plus, they are caught in such a way that ensures that my grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren, will also have access to Wild Salmon.

And that’s the most important thing.

You know, I’ve changed my mind. Fishing in Alaska isn’t really like robbing a bank. It’s much easier.

Come into Duke’s today and learn more about the ocean-to-table journey our Salmon and Halibut make from Alaska. Click here to book a reservation at one of our six locations.

April 23, 2017