Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Wild Caught Salmon at Your Doorstep with Nic Mink and Richie Mann

Meet Nic Mink, the President of SitkaSalmonShares that offers premium wild-caught seafood delivered straight to your doorstep. Mink shares their community model of ownership where the fishermen actively participate in the business. He also dives into how their company allows members to know their fishermen, thereby adding credibility to ethical, smartly sourced, sustainable salmon. Learn about the concept of natural resource extraction and how Sitka Salmon Shares responsibly undertakes the same. Mink also speaks of small boat fishermen and the link to climate change. For more information and to order your share, visit SitkaSalmonShares.com.

Shownotes:

[00:00:04.370] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations, where we delve into the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine and talk to the professionals who share their expertise on natural health with you. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle, and today we're talking with Nic Mink, the President of Sitka Salmon Shares, and their Minnesota community manager, Richie Mann. Thank you both for being with us today. And I was wondering if you could share with us, maybe give us an example of one of your owners and how they got started with you and kind of what's happened in their life since.
 
[00:00:37.280] - Nic Mink, Guest
Yeah. I mean, we built this company around an ownership model and a community model of these fishermen who own the company and they participate in governance. And, you know, we had we had our first three fishermen who came on and owned and, like, when they first did that, that was a really radical act, right? We were starting a new company. It was highly risky. But then I think a lot of our owners kind of come to us, like we have a fisherman named Drew Tahar. He bought in about six years ago as one of our earlier non-founding owners.
 
[00:01:23.360] 
And most of our fishermen who come in and own part of the company are part of a community of fishermen that has gotten to know Salmon shares through selling to us the world of small-scale fishermen and fishermen in general. It's a very kind of close social network. So you've got your one buddy and the one buddy says, oh, yeah, I've sold the Salmon shares or I got involved with them. It's been really great. And then they tell somebody like Marsh is one of our co-founders, told Drew, and then generally, the process is someone like Drew.

[00:01:58.280] 
We give them the spectrum that we want, which is like I said, a little bit different than most of the ways in which the fleet fishes. And we test the water, so to speak. They do a few deliveries for us, and we give them feedback on their fish and see if it works out for us. And if it does and it works out for them, then we usually figure out a way for them to buy-in. And, you know, Drew is like many of our boats is that there's something not pleasing for a lot of the people who fishermen who come to Salmon shares, which is they take great pride in the fish they catch, and they really are uncomfortable with good handling practices and making sure their fish are well taken care of.
 
[00:02:53.680] 
And then they just sell their fish to a processor normally, and it goes off into a global commodity market where their hard work is not valued, where it's being pooled with the fish from hundreds, if not thousands of other fishermen. And one of the real values that we add for people in our fleet, like Drew and the 24 others, is that they really appreciate and, like knowing that people know who they are at the end of the line, all of our fish is traceable back to one of our fishing vessels, and we tell stories about them.
 
[00:03:35.740] 
And we allow our members to get to know who they are. You know, for someone like anybody in our fleet, they really there's a huge value in knowing who eat their food in the same way that for so many the consumers. Now one of the best ways to really ensure that you're eating food that's ethical and smartly sourced and sustainable is knowing who that producer is. And and the same goes the other way. Our producers really like to know who eats their fish because it adds value to the, you know, incredibly hard work that they do.
 
[00:04:16.500] 
Drew has actually just to talk a little bit about him. He's pretty unique in that he's not one of our second or third-generation fisherman. Drew moved up to Alaska from Ohio, I think, seven or eight years ago and got on a boat and found out that he was really passionate about fishing. And then, like many go from being a deckhand where you're basically helping a captain catch a fish to buying his own boat. He ran his own boat for a year before he became an owner of Salmon Shares and now is one of our most important King and coho fisherman.
 
[00:04:54.380] 
And most of our fishermen are all of our fishermen are like Drew. They want to know who's at the end of their line, they want to capture more value for catching fewer fish. They're not into kind of a high-volume production ethos. They're into a low volume, high-value production ethos. And that's really different than most. I'd say, people who harvest fish in Alaska, I mean, there's incredible fisheries in Alaska, but, you know, I think the dominant ethos is you harvest fish like you cut down a tree or you harvest fish like you would mine gold or mineral.
 
[00:05:36.630] 
It's natural resource extraction. And for us, we as a company. And all of our fishermen really understand that this is so much more than natural resource extraction. This is producing food that is going to go on someone's plate. And that philosophy is really, you know, profoundly ingrained and all of our fishermen and not just from the company, but from their own, like, understanding of why they value being a Alaska fisherman.
 
[00:06:12.800] - Candi Broeffle, Host

Well, you can certainly tell the difference in the product itself. We get the salmon Shares ourselves, and the product is just phenomenal never have had fish like that. So thank you. It's also really taking a look at this is where they live. This is where they live. This is where they work. This is where they're raising their kids and really taking a look at how to be more responsive. And I know, one of the areas that you are particularly interested in is climate change and how it's impacting the fish that you put on your plate.
 
[00:06:49.360] - Nic Mink, Guest
Oh, yeah. You know, to speak to that point and tie it to climate change. I mean, the small boat fishermen who we work with, they all live in the communities where they fish. Right. So that's so different than how a lot of fisheries are what is called prosecuted, meaning how they take place, which is big boats that can chase fish across the ocean. And they go thousands and thousands of miles to be able to harvest fish. And then they come back and bring them to a large Port where they are all consolidated in.
 
[00:07:26.060] 
And that's so different than how our fishermen fish, which means they live in the community. I would say our fishery shed, maybe in Sitka is about 100 miles, 100 miles away from Sitka is about as far away as our fishermen typically go. But many of them are just fishing a couple of dozen miles from shore. And one that means you've got to be a different steward of that resource. You have to understand how important the local habitat is and the local fish populations are to your well-being.
 
[00:08:02.510] 
And you're going to be much more invested in making sure that there's long-term fish to harvest rather than, hey, we can just go across anywhere, anywhere the ocean and go find the fish.
 
[00:08:13.700] - Candi Broeffle, Host
And when we come back
 
[00:08:16.280] - Nick Mink, Guest
Impact climate change. Oh, go ahead.
 
[00:08:18.490] - Candi Broeffle, Host
So when we come back, Nic, we're going to continue to talk about that and talk about how it does impact climate change or how climate change is impacting that. So for people who want to know more, they can go to SitkaSalmonShares.com You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950, the Progressive Voice of Minnesota, and we will be right back.
 
[00:08:49.590] 
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations, where we meet the professionals straight from the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine who share their expertise and natural health with you. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle, and today we're talking with Nic Mink, the President of Sitka Salmon Shares, and their Minnesota community manager, Richie Mann. So just before the break, Nic, you were starting to tell us or you were introducing us, really, your fisherman owners and the work that they do and why it's so important, especially as residents and stewards of their local communities.
 
[00:09:26.530] 
But one of the big things that is important to our readers and to our listeners is really the impact that climate change is having on our food systems. So what is it that you're seeing with the fish that are coming out of the oceans? What are you seeing as some of the changes that are happening?
 
[00:09:47.740] - Nic Mink, Guest
Yeah. I mean, it's in some ways some of the changes are profound and quick and some ways they're very gradual. But if you think about climate and our oceans, I think there's a couple things to keep in mind and why we are so concerned about this phenomenon, which is the oceans are primarily, I think some studies say that about 50% of all that carbon that is being released in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is being re sequestered in the ocean. And that's doing one thing called ocean acidification, which means that carbon is being sequestered hydrogen ions.
 
[00:10:47.880] 
And what that's doing is it's not allowing shells to form in zooplankton? And what that does is it pretty much is radically and quickly changing this first part of the food chain, meaning what all of our salmon, what a lot of baby fish eat are these little zooplanktons and these zooplanktons are having a harder and harder time with being able to form their shells. And thus we're seeing is like pretty radical change in the ocean food web, where this first place, where the Sun's energy becomes life in the ocean is now being remade because they can't make their shells.
 
[00:11:40.950] 
And what are the consequences of that? We are seeing some of our salmon populations having both unexpected increases in numbers. Right. So it's not like all these fish are being wiped out. Some fish are doing really, really well in this new regime, and some fish are unexpectedly disappearing. One example that is pink salmon, which are heavily reliant on plankton for feed. And we've seen some of the worst pink salmon years that we've ever seen in the last few years in Alaska so bad that some of these pink salmon fisheries have been declared federal disaster areas.
 
[00:12:26.820] 
And the second thing is, Besides the sequestration of carbon and the oceans, which is remaking the food web is oceans are warming and they're warming more quickly towards the poles. And we've seen this summer in Sitka, we have regularly seen our little part of the ocean be about five degrees warmer than it normally is. And that's an incredibly big difference to fish that are highly tied to fish temperatures. It's amazing how much these thermoclines as they are called effect things like species distribution, biomass, and kind of what that means is we have for sustainability to work, we have to have good science and have to have good models.
 
[00:13:21.380] 
But the predictive ability of our models to predict fish runs to predict biomass, to predict species composition is increasingly less accurate. And so what that means is it's not a good or a bad thing. Some species are really going to thrive in these coming decades in Alaska. We know, for instance, that key to salmon should be doing really well in this new environment. Fish like we catch, like rockfish, black bass, Pacific cod in some ways should be doing really well in this environment. But some species are not going to be doing as well, like King salmon, very likely co salmon that have adapted to much more specific environment.
 
[00:14:13.450] 
And then for our fisheries and for our fishermen, the real challenge is going to be that these models that have historically allowed us to plan our seasons and be sure about or be more sure because these are wild creatures. But be more sure about what we're going to harvest and when we're going to harvest are going to be less and less accurate. And back to the last segment, which is we've got these small little fishermen that are highly tied to these places, right. So they can't just go chasing fish wherever they are.
 
[00:14:48.680] 
Right. And so they're the ones that are going to be most impacted by climate change because they can't just go racing off to 300 miles north because that just happens to be where the pocket of cool water is that the Halo that are going to be in this year. Right. And so for us and thinking about climate change and thinking about, like, consumers in the role in climate change is that the fish that we're going to be eating in the next couple of decades is going to have to be different than the fish that we're eating now.
 
[00:15:25.240] 
And we're going to need to be increasingly aware that the changes that are happening in our oceans are not going to be mitigated by just being able to go off further and further out with bigger and bigger boats to harvest these fish. And, you know, like it is with agriculture in the Midwest. I think we're increasingly going to need to be looking at resilient solutions to be able to adapt to the changes that are going to take place. I mean, I think it's not only change, but the unknown that are increasingly going to be everything is unknown, but increasingly going to be happening to disrupt how we have traditionally harvested food, be at fishermen or farmers.
 
[00:16:15.640] - Candi Broeffle, Host
So what about how is it impacting even the quality of the fish that's coming out or the nutritional aspect of it? I.
 
[00:16:29.780] - Nic Mink, Guest
Don't know if we have seen or know of any quality differences linked to climate change. I mean, obviously we know of the real challenges that we have with, like, pollution. But the big thing with climate changes for our fleet and for fishermen in Alaska is increasing risk that is involved in not knowing if the fish that has historically been in particular places are going to continue to be in places and thinking about it. All these fishermen are small boat family operations. How do you how do you make investments in your operations to either grow your business or sustain your business when you don't know what type of fish are going to be out there, you don't know what you're going to catch on.
 
[00:17:38.840] 
Great seasons are great, and there's going to be some great season here in the future. But there's going to be a similar number of seasons where unexpected things are happening because of the changes that are taking place in the ocean.
 
[00:17:56.300] - Candi Broeffle, Host
I think one of the things that's so interesting, too at Sitka Salmon Shares. And I know, Richie, I shared this with us as well is when you become a part of the share. You're not ordering the particular fish that you want to have. You're getting the fish that are available at that time, which is really a big part of that. We don't really know what's going to be coming in or what's going to be available at different times. But I think as a customer of the shares, I think it's really interesting because it opens us up to trying things that we've never tried before and to really just be open to seeing what else is out there. And I think.
 
[00:18:46.760] - Nic Mink, Guest
It is a unique part of our model, and it's a direct adaptation to to make our model more resilient in the face of climate change, which is we have what we're projecting, and we have projected poundage. And one of the time we're we're right on to what we're projecting. But what we didn't want to get into a position doing is when fish don't show up, what are our options right? Do we want to chase after fish that aren't there, or do we want to put pressure on the ecosystem, or do we want to put pressure on our fishermen to go harvest fish?
 
[00:19:27.210] 
And we've really embraced and adopted this idea, which is we're going to provide our members the highest quality, seasonally appropriate fish that are out there that our fishermen are harvesting. And we're going to tell you what we're projecting the harvest, and we're going to give you a species composition that we're projecting that appear in your boxes. But if the fish aren't there, the other options are not what we value, which is bind from bigger boats, putting pressure on fisherman, putting pressure on the resource bind from other unknown sources that may not hold the same values that we hold about transparency and sustainability and quality.
 
[00:20:14.190] 
So we tell members you're going to be happy with what you get, and if you're not happy, you can give us an email and we'll figure something out for you. But I think one of the most detrimental parts of the whole seafood system is it it's a pretty chaotic thing. Wild fish are pretty chaotic. They're only going to get more chaotic and unpredictable. And then to ask a market which markets are based around predictability and consistency. But it's impossible to do an increasingly more impossible to do in the place of the changes that are happening because of warming oceans and an ocean acidification.
 
[00:20:56.170] 
So saying that this is what we think is going to happen. But if we have to change it, we're relying on nature and relying on our fishermen to be our guides through us and through our program.
 
[00:21:09.700] - Candi Broeffle, Host
And they are the ones that are getting that information to you. Now, I know in our next segment now we're going to come back and we're going to talk with Richie about some of the new things that are happening this year, and also a premiere of a documentary that you guys are a part of. So when we come back, we're going to be taking a look at that. But, Richie, can you share with people where they can go to learn more? What is the website?
 
[00:21:36.500] - Richie Mann, Guest
Yeah. We're looking at SitkaSalmonShares.com and everything's right there on the front page. You can dive in as deep as you want.
 
[00:21:43.740] - Candi Broeffle, Host
All right. So when we come back, we're going to continue talking with Richie and Nic, and we're going to learn more about Sitka Salmon Shares. To read the online edition of Natural Awakenings Magazine, visit NaturalTwinCities.com. You can find a podcast of this show on AM50Radio.Com or on Apple and Google podcast. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950, the Progressive Voice of Minnesota. We will be right back.
 
[00:22:23.570] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations, where we delve into the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine and talk to the professionals who share their expertise on natural health with you.
 
[00:22:33.750] 
I'm your host, Candi Broeffle, and today we're talking with Nic Mink, the President of Sitka Salmon Shares and their Minnesota community manager, Richie Mann. So, Richie, you have some information for us about some things that are coming up with Sick of Salmon Share. So right now, you guys are starting your new season.

[00:22:52.650] - Richie Mann, Guest
Yeah. It's really exciting. We launched this just two days ago, our 2020 season. So we have a short period about a week that between our end of our 2019 season and then our upcoming 2020 that we just kind of don't do any enrollment. There's no sales happening. We kind of regroup. And then we launch everything. And so we have currently four shares available, and they're incredible. And you can jump up online and kind of research them yourself. There's a gamut. There's our premium share, which is our most popular.
 
[00:23:25.530] - Richie Mann, Guest
It's actually the only share that has our spot Prawns. And that is a nine-month share. I think that's what you had Candi, right. And then it goes down to our seven months or Sitka of Seafood share. And then it jumps to a four-month share, which is a Sitka Salmon Share, which is just salmon. That's our original share. That's four months. And then there's another four months, which is called The Taste of Summer. It's like a sampler is kind of an introductory kind of get your feet wet in the company and see if it makes sense for your lifestyle.
 
[00:23:58.860] 
And so there's a really large range from nine to four months. Anybody. And within those anybody that goes to the website, you kind of see the different species that are in there, the different price points. And yeah, that's what I recommend. And we're doing in the month of October is our most deeply discounted opportunity for any of these shares. If you go to the website, you'll see the promo code that is applicable to each share. And you can just use that promo code for that discount off.
 
[00:24:29.920] 
And if you're thinking about it, I would do it. Now. We're not going to run these sort of deep discounts at all through the rest of the year October is a month to do it.
 
[00:24:38.140] - Candi Broeffle, Host
And so explain to us why you do the deep discounts in October.
 
[00:24:42.530] - Richie Mann, Guest
Yeah. It really has to do with kind of mitigating risk for a fisherman. A lot of what Nic talks about these fishermen, these owners of our company, there's a lot of investment upfront in the beginning of the season for whether you be a farmer or a fisherman is just a lot of upkeep and whatever it might be. And so having a really strong idea of our membership enrollment and projections in the early front end of our season helps our fishermen tremendously. So really, it's that idea.
 
[00:25:13.280] 
If you ever sign up for a CSI, you usually pay all in full. That's the same kind of concept. And you do have that opportunity with Sitka Salmon Shares to this month and through the whole year to either pay in full, which is much appreciated. And there's a bit of a discount for that. Or you can also do once a month. So it's whatever fits with your financial situation.
 
[00:25:33.430] - Candi Broeffle, Host
But in October is such a great time to get in. I mean, if you look at your own personal finances, October is good right before the holidays, for taxes, a little bit.
 
[00:25:44.110] - Richie Mann, Guest
Yeah.
 
[00:25:44.590] - Candi Broeffle, Host
And you get it all taken care of and then just be surprised every month.
 
[00:25:48.380] - Richie Mann, Guest
It does part because you forget about it until our first month's shares deliver in April. So if you sign up for anything now, your first, the earliest share you can get is going to be starting in April.
 
[00:25:59.360] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Okay.Yeah. And it is surprising how long it lasts every time every month. When the new share comes, I'm like, wow, we have another one. I can't believe that it's come that quickly.
 
[00:26:10.170] - Richie Mann, Guest
And I think I've told you this fish because of the way we take care of it. And the way our freezing process is so incredible. It's a year-long, about a year-long freezer life that you have on your fish, so don't have to eat it all at once. It not.
 
[00:26:22.320] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Well, that's good to know, but we haven't had a problem trying to go. We do have a little extra every month. But exactly. So you also have some other things that are coming up.
 
[00:26:33.840] - Richie Mann, Guest
Yeah. Minnesota has been really fun. 2019 has been incredible growth from Minnesota. Our community is growing rapidly, and with that are going to be coming some really fun events down the pipe for 2020. So one of the big things that we're actually doing nationwide within all of our hubs, really in here in the Midwest is our Last Man Fishing premiere. Last Man Fishing is a documentary about 60 minutes time that we help fund along and produce along with Patagonia. And so this is kind of a deep dive into the challenges of small boat fishing along the coast there up in Alaska, specifically with some of our fishermen.
 
[00:27:07.330] 
And so it's really just about that community. The struggles is about the positive end, about the negative end. And we're doing a premiere with partnering with Patagonia here in St. Paul, along with the Alaskan Wilderness League as well. We're going to be doing a give-back campaign for the Alaskan Wilderness League, which that money will go towards tongs the Tongass National Rainforest, which, if you don't know, as a listener, that the rainfall, forest and the ocean are intimately tied together. And so if our trees aren't healthy, then our fish are salmon aren't healthy.
 
[00:27:48.750] 
So we're giving back to the Last Can Wilderness League. They'll be there. And that is going to be November 11. So you can sign up on Briant Lake Bowl dot com and buy a ticket. I think it's $8 in advance and then come and see us. We're going to waste some fish, some cool Patagonia gear. And then I'm doing a Gallat today. If anybody wants anything to to the Friends of the Mississippi is doing their their yearly annual gala. And we're giving away one of our great shares as well as some fish on site.
 
[00:28:20.910] 
And we donated some money to just kind of show the support for the money. The big money, the great Mississippi River here that runs through the course of the Midwest. It's so important. So we are trying to help raise money for restoration of the river as well.
 
[00:28:35.610] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Great. So how would people get where is the movie or the Premier? The Premier. I know where that's going to be. The documentary, where is this going to be shown?
 
[00:28:47.440] - Richie Mann, Guest
It's going to be at Brian Lake Bowl. They have a theater there. It's about 85% theater. And so it's going to be shown right there on-site at Brian Lake Bowl.
 
[00:28:56.420] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Okay. And can people see it anywhere else? I mean, is it going to be traveling or they're going to be pretty much select showings.
 
[00:29:03.050] - Richie Mann, Guest
I think Nick mentioned he's going out to California next week.
 
[00:29:07.820] - Nick Mink, Guest

Are you Oregon or Oregon is week West Coast Premier?
 

[00:29:11.560] - Richie Mann, Guest

Yeah. So that's really exciting. It's in a film festival or two that I know, but I'm going to be doing a couple of their showings, too later on in the spring, some events, and you can really catch a lot of the stuff on our calendar if you wanted to see the movie, but it won't be for public viewing on YouTube or you think that it's going to be private showing only.
 
[00:29:31.890] - Candi Broeffle, Host
 Very neat. Okay. And then what about the holiday season? You have anything coming up for the holidays?
 
[00:29:37.560] - Richie Mann, Guest
We'll have to keep that in our back pocket as we're kind of working on some cool promotions for people. But I'll keep you informed of that Candi that rolls out. You can always catch us though, at our farmers markets, we are almost done with their outdoor season, but we have our indoor season kicking in so you can go to the website and click under farmers markets. And then if you're here in Minnesota, you can see where we're going to be at and just pick up a couple of ins of fish if you need it, or come and talk to one of our incredible stewards that will be on-site and answer questions about enrollment if you want.
 
[00:30:07.630] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Okay. And I'm going to encourage people to take a look at Natural Awakenings Magazine because I will make sure Richie shares what their specials are going to be for the holidays. Absolutely. We'll get them in there. All right. Well, thank you, Nic, and Richie, for being with us today. We really appreciate your time and your expertise. So to learn more and to take advantage of the special offers that you have in October, people can go to Sica Salmon Shares dot com front page has everything you need to know great, and to read the online edition of Natural Awakenings Magazine, or to check out our complete online calendar of events, visit NaturalTwinCities.com
 
[00:30:46.490] - Candi Broeffle, Host
You can find a podcast of the show on Am950Radio. Com or Apple and Google Podcasts. Thank you for joining our conversation today. As we awaken to natural health, you've been listening to Green Tea Conversations on Am950 The Progressive Voice of Minnesota, and I'm wishing for you a lovely day!

Read the full July 2022 Magazine