How sustainable is YOUR fish?
Bering Bounty, LLC with Mark McKeown
“When I was a boy, about 10 or 11 years old, I wrote a list of what I wanted to do in life and #5 was fish in Alaska,” quips the charismatic Mark McKeown, commercial fisherman and owner of Bering Bounty, LLC. For two or three months out of the year, that childhood dream comes true as Mark and his crew fish the pristine waters of Southwest Alaska. When he is not fishing, Mark’s business and distribution are centered in Verona, WI – which is considered “local” to VFC (within 100-miles)!
Mark fishes all five species of salmon found in Alaskan waters through a technique called drift gillnetting. Gillnets are panels of mesh about 300 feet long by 6 feet deep held between cork and lead lines. The net is tightly wound onto a reel on the vessel with a buoy attached to one end. The buoy is thrown over and the net drifts with the tide. Salmon are caught in the net by their gill plates, gills, tails, or fins. Once the net is pulled in, the salmon are removed by hand and immediately bled out in an ice slurry, then packed in ice. This process maintains the freshness and quality of the salmon, from the sea to your plate.
Five varieties of Alaskan salmon
All five varieties have a distinct taste, texture and appearance, as well as varying health profiles:
1. King Salmon – highest in Omega 3’s – great for brain function and nervous system health.
2. Sockeye Salmon – red flesh; robust flavor; high in both vitamin B and D; great in winter to naturally boost your mood
3. Coho Salmon – mild, orange meat; high in Vitamin D
4. Keta Salmon – most economical variety; full-bodied, meaty flesh
5. Pink Salmon – pink flesh; light texture and flavor; ranked 2nd highest variety in Omega 3’s
Having fished many places in the world, from his childhood home in Wales, to the West Coast of California, Mark is passionate about fishing in Alaska due to their commitment to sustainability. “Alaskan fishing practices are the gold standard,” said Mark. “The sustainable model in Alaska is the envy of the entire fishing world.” While other areas have a short-sighted approach, Alaska deliberately took the 120 year or long view for the protection of all species and how they are caught by writing sustainability into their constitution in 1959 and mandating the practice of “sustained yield” by law.
In all aspects of his livelihood, whether fishing alongside Native Alaskans or educating customers on the benefits of salmon, Mark is committed to building authentic relationships and partnerships. This is one of the many reasons why we at Viroqua Food Co+op are honored to be working with him to provide our community with fresh, wild-caught sustainable seafood.
You can find Bering Bounty, LLC fish varieties in our frozen bunkers in the Meat Department along with sable fish, a.k.a. “black cod,” a soft-textured and mildly flavored fish that is known as a delicacy in many parts of the world.
Mark’s Cooking Recommendations
Cook your fish straight from frozen to keep it moist, fresh, and tasty throughout. Other tips include baking or grilling salmon with any of your favorite spice blends. And for a dinner party or special treat, Mark loves the effect of Sockeye Salmon covered in homemade pesto. “It is stunning when you first cut into it to see the bright red of the salmon against fresh green pesto!”