Some of the best and healthiest parts of a fish never make it into the American diet. An e-book called "The Whole Fish -- How Adventurous Eating of Seafood Can Make You Healthier, Sexier, and Help Save the Ocean" shows simple ways to use fish heads, skin and bones in appealing new ways.
"Omega 3s increase serotonin levels and they really do work as aphrodisiac," said author Maria Finn. "Plus fish adds healthy vitamins and minerals, so it actually does help increase your sexual desire and sensitivity."
Finn is a former Homer fisherman who said her whole fish philosophy stemmed from years of field work with Fish and Game.
"When I was on the Yukon Delta I worked with a lot of Yup'ik people at their fish camps. They showed me how to use the whole fish -- the heads, the eggs and milt, the bones, and what they didn't use was pickled or fed to the dogs," she said.
Now Finn lives near San Francisco where using the whole animal is the trend in high-end restaurants.
Finn has seen salmon bellies featured as entrees, salmon roe as garnishes, tuna heart grated over pasta, and salmon bones ground with salt to provide calcium and Omega 3s. The e-book has recipes and also draws attention to sustainability issues and food webs.
UFA annual meeting
At its recent annual meeting, United Fishermen of Alaska outlined several of its policy concerns for the coming legislative session; the group also gave out awards and made a job offer. UFA is the nation's largest industry trade group representing nearly 40 organizations.
UFA is working closely with state and federal overseers to craft a management plan for exploding populations of sea otters in Southeast Alaska. The mammals, which were reintroduced to the region in the 1950s, are feasting on fishermen's shellfish catches and wiping out stocks in prime areas. Sea otters are protected under the Endangered Species Act and may only be hunted by Alaska Natives for traditional uses.
UFA is closely tracking new rules and provisions being debated by Congress within the 2010 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. The group also backs development of a deepwater port in the Arctic and increased presence by the USCG at "high latitude" regions.
The fishing group also maintains an ongoing dialog with Alaska mining interests.
"UFA has had a long-standing position against Pebble mine, and we also currently are in opposition to the Chuitna Mine's plan to basically obliterate a salmon stream," Vinsel said. He pointed to the Kensington Mine near Juneau as an example of good communication benefiting both industries.
"There was opposition from local fishing groups but they were able to work out their concerns in the planning stages of the Kensington Mine and ended up with changes that accommodated those concerns. That is the way both industries can move forward successfully," UFA executive director Mark Vinsel said.
Other highlights: UFA awarded Ray Riutta its Man of the Year award. Riutta is stepping down as director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute after 10 years.
UFA Hall of Fame honors went to John Winther and Eric McDowell, both of whom passed away this year.
The Fishermen of the Year award went to Alaska scallop harvesters and industry advocates Jim and Mona Stone.
UFA also offered the job of executive director to Julianne Curry of Petersburg. Vinsel is leaving the position but will remain as UFA administrator. Curry has two weeks to decide if she will take the UFA job.
Shellfish growers need seed
Blue mussels, oysters and the need for seed will top the agenda for Alaska shellfish growers when they gather for workshops, training and annual meetings this week in Ketchikan.
Alaska's aquaculture industry continues to grow slowly but steadily in the Southeast and Southcentral regions, primarily for farmed oysters. So far, 67 farms are permitted but only 29 are producing. About 900,000 Alaska oysters were sold last year, valued at $500,000.
A new focus for growers is blue mussels, which will be field tested in a state-backed pilot project at Kachemak Bay near Homer.
"Mussels from Kachemak Bay are just incredible, so I'm really looking forward to this," said Ray RaLonde, a Sea Grant aquaculture specialist and technical adviser for the project. "There is a huge demand for mussels in the U.S., and there is a shortage -- we have to buy our mussels from Canada or elsewhere in the U.S."
One big challenge will be keeping the tasty mussel crop away from sea otters. RaLonde said the project will test wire mesh netting to foil the otters.
"At a world aquaculture conference they showed netting used for marine pen-reared fish and it is shark proof. So the hope is that our otters won't be able to get through it," RaLonde said.
Oysters are by far Alaska's biggest bivalve crop, and the small industry is poised for expansion. The biggest hurdle RaLonde said is getting enough seed to start them off.
"We can't get enough seed and neither can the entire West Coast because the hatcheries in Washington that produce most of the seed have been hammered with ocean acidification problems and the oyster larvae aren't surviving," RaLonde said.
Ketchikan's new Oceans Alaska Center has built an oyster-starting facility and is growing geoduck larvae seed as well. The Alutiiq Hatchery at Seward also plans to begin doing seed soon. The ultimate goal, RaLonde said, is to "close the loop" in Alaska.
"We've got to move our production away from reliance on Outside sources. But we are in a transitional phase right now and it is not an easy time for farmers to make adjustments," he said. "Industrywide we are trying to help each other out as much as we can. We're at that stage now where we want to raise the whole ship."
Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state. This material is protected by copyright. For information on reprinting, contact email@example.com.