Puppy Love will soon be putting more people to work in Seldovia, a town of fewer than 300 people at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula.
The love comes in the form of salmon pet treats, formerly made in Anchorage and now ready to come home, helped by funding from the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.
"The goal was always to come back to Seldovia," said Brendan Bieri, chief operating officer of Seldovia Wild Seafoods. "It's a value-added product, so it's not like we're processing and putting it on ice and shipping it across the bay. We're making and packaging it here, and we can palletize it and ship it at a cost that makes sense business-wise."
Bieri combines his tech-savvy marketing skills with the cooking know-how of his father, Michel, a trained chef who grew up in France and moved to Seldovia in 1986. The duo created a special smoked jerky recipe for the dog treats made from minced salmon.
"Michel is a great cook because he's got such a background in food chemistry. We made our own thing and we are really proud of it," Brendan said.
The Puppy Love line includes three items: jerky treats, trainers and sticks.
"It's all smoked salmon, shelf stable; you don't need to freeze it. Just keep it on the counter and it's good to go," he added.
The treats so far are sold at several Anchorage feed and pet stores, as well as boutique shops. Bieri said they have interest from buyers in the U.S. and Asia and Europe. The focus now, though, is getting the new downtown plant operational to ramp up production,
The company plans to put at least 10 people to work when it's up and running, hopefully this spring, and purchase its salmon from local fishermen this summer.
Pet treats are a $2 billion business and the Bieris hope to bring a small portion of it to Seldovia. The Puppy Love line, Brendan said, is as much about promoting Seldovia as selling the treats.
"It's a beautiful area that we want to get people excited about again."
Smoked salmon ice cream
Candied salmon ice cream by Coppa, a Juneau retailer, took home the grand prize in the 24th annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition. The creamy ice cream, dotted with bits of candied smoked salmon, took a first in both the food service category as well as the people's choice award.
Winners in four categories were announced at a legislative soiree and awards ceremony Wednesday in Juneau.
Seafood cakes with Dungeness crab from Odyssey Seafoods took second place in food service, and Orca Bay's Mexican seafood soup (Albondigas) won third.
In the retail category, Dear North's Alaska Salmon Bites made by Authentic Alaska LLC won top honors. Dear North is a partnership with the Juneau-based Huna Totem Corp.
Second place went to Orca Bay's Jjamppong, a Korean seafood noodle soup, and Bambino's Baby Food Sockeye Salmon Bites captured third place.
In the Beyond the Plate category, which features items made from byproducts, Tidal Vision's Crystal Clarity, a crab shell-based pool and spa clarifier, won top honors.
"It's a great event for the industry but it also shows how much work and effort is going into developing new products, which is good for everyone because it creates more value for the resource," said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, sponsor of the seafood symphony. "And, in the case of Beyond the Plate, it is actually promoting using more of the resources."
Alaska Naturals Salmon Pet Oil from Trident Seafoods won second place in that category, and the Salmon Sisters' Salmon Leather Clutch took home third.
The winner in the Beyond the Egg category was Bruce Gore Coho Salmon Bottarga from Triad Fisheries of Bothell, Washington. Second place went to Trident's Sake Flavored Pollock Roe.
In all, 18 new Alaska seafood products were entered in the popular event. The grand prize and first-place winners get a free trip to Seafood Expo North America in Boston in mid-March.
Trump rules hold up halibut fishery
It's still anyone's guess whether the Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries will open as scheduled on March 11. Donald Trump last month put a 60-day freeze on all new and pending regulations until they are reviewed by people in his administration. The fishery start dates and regulations must be published first in federal rule books, which still has not been done.
Trump also is requiring that for every new regulation issued, at least two previous ones must be identified for elimination. That directly hits new rules that allow for sablefish to be caught with pot gear in the Gulf of Alaska to prevent sperm whales from robbing the fish from longlines.
At a recent stop in Ketchikan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she did not know if the halibut and sablefish fisheries would be able to start on time.
Enriching Washington residents
The state of Washington continues to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Alaska's fishing industry.
According to the United Fishermen of Alaska's annual Fish Facts, Alaska's seafood industry puts more people to work than any other private industry, more than 60,000 workers in 2015. Just 46 percent were Alaska residents.
And while 71 percent of active fishing permit holders call Alaska home, most of the gross earnings go to the state of Washington. Alaska resident fishing permit holders and crew made gross dockside earnings of just over $602 million two years ago. That compares to more than $904 million made by nearly 6,580 Washington-based fishermen.
Harvesters from Oregon took home more than $126 million from Alaska's fisheries and Californians pocketed nearly $28 million. That adds up to more than $1 billion flowing out of state to nonresident fishermen.
In terms of poundage, the 2015 harvest by Alaska residents is estimated at 1.4 billion pounds. For Washingtonians, that skyrockets to 4 billion pounds, driven by that state's dominance in Alaska's pollock and other whitefish sectors.
A McDowell Group analysis revealed that total ex-vessel (dockside) income from Alaska fisheries two years ago was $1.8 billion. Fishermen earned the lion's share at $920 million, or 38 percent of all direct labor income generated by the seafood industry.
Fishing-related taxes paid totaled $250 million, of which 38 percent went to local governments, 55 percent to the state and 7 percent to the federal government.
Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based commercial fishing columnist. Contact her at email@example.com.