Our Community

Our seafood comes from harvesters who have built their lives around the rich bounty that comes from carefully managed resources.
Ekuk Bluff
58° 35’ 33”N,
157° 13’ 58” W
Kvichak Bay
Every summer in Alaska tides rise and fall as tens of millions of wild salmon make their way with uncanny precision back to their natal streams.
This is a fisherman’s time to harvest; our days and nights are consumed with the rhythm of the ocean.
We set and pull nets, deliver our catch, maintain and repair boats and gear, find a few minutes for a meal and maybe, just maybe, get an hour or two of sleep.

Resources managed with care

Strict fishery management regimes have been developed over decades to ensure fishermen only harvest as much fish as the ecosystem can handle. This science based approach has created a symbiotic relationship between the fishing industry and marine ecosystems. Thoughtfully managed resources allow fishermen to fish, and seafood species to flourish. It’s vital to our communities, to our harvest and to the quality of the product you’ll serve to your customers.

Community Resource
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Meet our community

  • Jeff Regnart

    Fishery Manager

    Every year sockeye salmon migrate with uncanny precision from the ocean, through Bristol Bay, and back to the natal river where they were born. In the past twenty years the average total return of wild Sockeye Salmon to Bristol Bay has been 39 million fish. In the past five years - 58.3 million fish.

    Over the course of Jeff Regnart’s 30+ year career he has been an integral part of the community committed to sustaining and growing this precious resource. Jeff's connection to Alaska and life as a fishery manager began before he could understand the stakes of protecting Alaska’s wild ocean ecosystems. When Alaska became a state in 1959, his father was one of the first people the Alaska Department of Fish and Game hired under the new state administration. Jeff was a small child unknowingly watching his father lay the groundwork for what would become his life’s work.

    In 1990 Jeff finished grad school and was hired as an Assistant to Fishery Biologist Don Bill in the Naknek-Kvichak region of Bristol Bay. He spent the first years of his career in the field gathering the data that forms the basis of whether or not the fishery opens for its 1600 boat fleet to fish, or whether it stays closed so fish from the ocean can continue to swim up their natal rivers to spawn and replenish the resource. Some days this meant standing on a tower on the edge of a river staring into the clear water counting Sockeye swimming upstream. Other days it meant hopping in a plane to get above the fishing grounds and evaluate the volume of Sockeye moving though the fishing district. On these trips he’d observe how the distribution of the fleet relates to how many fish were present in different river systems. His observations would inform whether commercial harvest could continue while enough fish would move through the fishing district into the rivers to spawn.

    It’s a love of these complicated but beautiful dynamics of Pacific salmon and specifically Bristol Bay that led Jeff to commit to his career as its protector. As his role evolved into a Fishery Manager, and eventually as the Commercial Fisheries Director for the state of Alaska Jeff interacted day to day with fewer fish, and more people. Jeff says, “It’s the processors, fishermen, village councils, ACG and advisory committees, all of them, that are a part of the process. There is a relationship that is built among all those parties to make sure that the fishery is going to be run effectively and that we're going to protect it for the future…… And I would say that the Bay is, not just the best or largest Sockeye run in Alaska, but the most robust thanks to the remarkable cold water fisheries habitat in Bristol Bay. This collaboration ensures sustainability, genetic diversity, and all the things you need to do to make sure that salmon are going to return in as natural of a state as possible a hundred years from now. That's the work that is being done today. This kind of collaboration across the industry and across the state of Alaska makes the management of Bristol Bay not just the best run, but the most robust salmon resource in the world.”

    So put that salmon on your plate and rest assured; stewardship, oversight and protection for the Bristol Bay Sockeye resource will be there for generations to come”

  • Alina Fairbanks

    Deck Hand on F/V Sumo. Fishing for 6 years
    Alina for profile

    Alina Fairbanks was three-years-old when her father John was packing to go fish for Pollock in the Bering Sea. He looked away for a moment and Alina jumped in his duffel bag, hiding in hopes of joining him on the water. “He would pretend that he didn’t see me,” she says. “He’d carry me downstairs in the bag and say, ‘Alright, I’m going to Alaska!’ And I thought, ‘I’m going to Alaska too!’”

    15 years later Alina made it to Alaska. She worked two seasons in the packing department of a salmon processing plant, and then spent a third season in HR. “I fell in love with the industry so much that I transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to the College of Fisheries and Sciences, and got my BA in Fisheries and Minor in marketing.”

    Alina decided she wanted to fish around that same time. But when she sat her dad down and told him she wanted to fish for him on his boat, he refused. After some back and forth that got nowhere she said “OK, then I’ll fish on someone else’s boat.” John Fairbanks considered this for a moment. “No,” he said. “You’ll fish on my boat.” Just like that, she was hired.

    She worked that first summer as a bleeder, where she would slice the gill plates of all the salmon brought on board, a requirement used to preserve flesh quality and prevent bruising. “It can be miserable out there. You’re seasick and exhausted. You get an hour or two of sleep a day during the peak of the season. It’s grueling.” One experience stands out. A few seasons ago, at around five in the morning, the weather turned. “It was super rough, and our net twisted into one huge ball. It was so rolled up it wouldn’t go on the drum like normal. So we had to pull it in by hand. It took hours to bring that in.” Despite the moments of suffering, or perhaps because of them, there’s an allure to a life on the water that carries with it a rewarding sense of accomplishment. It’s what keeps Alina and so many others coming back year after year. “It makes you appreciate what you have and forces you to be self-aware of your actions. It's character building.”

    Outside of the sockeye season, Alina works for Rising Tide Communications, a Marketing agency in Anchorage. The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association is one of their clients. Her understanding of so many realms of the industry is invaluable, and she is encouraged to fish every summer. “It’s a rewarding lifestyle to be able to do two very different jobs. One in an office that involves advertising, content development, strategic communications for our clients, and the other on a 32-foot boat, getting seasick, working as hard as you can to catch fish.”

    This summer marks Alina’s sixth season fishing with her Dad on F/V Sumo. “It’s incredibly rewarding to be on deck and look up at my dad smiling, laughing, and making faces at me while we fish. I’m lucky that I have a great skipper.”

  • John Fairbanks

    Owner/Operator of F/V Sumo. Fishing for 44 years
    John for profile

    A Lifetime of Fishing

    John Fairbanks grew up in Bellingham, WA, and felt the pull towards fishing when he was a little boy. “I always wanted to fish when I was young,” he says. “I would see all the boats heading across the bay in the summer, and wonder where they were going.” John landed his first fishing job out of Bellingham in 1977 when he was 16, and was hooked right from the start. “When the fish hit the net, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s just an adrenaline rush.”

    John’s love of fishing as a young boy quickly morphed into a life-long career. In 1987 he bought his first boat and was fishing year-round in multiple different fisheries. Nowadays, John fishes exclusively for Salmon in Bristol Bay, on the Sumo, the F/V he bought in 2012. Fishing was, and still is, an integral part of family life. His daughter Alina is a deckhand each summer on Sumo, and his daughter Jade worked two seasons in a salmon processing plant. A few seasons ago, his wife Patti joined him on the boat, fishing for Sockeye at the end of the season.

    Product Quality

    In Bristol Bay the devotion to quality starts right at the point of harvest. Fishermen bleed the fish to preserve the meat and prevent bruising, and then place them in a hold filled with refrigerated seawater (RSW), which is chilled down to 33°F. When the hold fills up, the catch is offloaded onto larger boats called tenders. “They weigh it in a big sack on a crane called bailers. You must keep your bailer weight down, so that it doesn’t crush the fish at the bottom.” The tenders, also equipped with RSW, transfer the catch to shore to be processed and packaged. The extra work to go through all these steps pays off—in higher prices for the fishermen, and in a superior quality that means a more delicious product for consumers.


    Bristol Bay is home to the largest wild salmon run in the world, but that’s only part of the story. The management of the fishery is highly focused on sustainability and is a case study for fisheries around the world. This commitment to sustainability shows up at every stage of the process. There are a limited number of boat permits allowed for Bristol Bay, and the boats can be no larger than 32-feet long. Salmon are caught by gillnet right at the mouths of 4 different river systems, which results in practically no bycatch. Throughout the short season, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) establishes firm escapement goals, which ensure that a carefully determined and biologically diverse number of salmon make it up their natal rivers to spawn. The fishery is only open to fish once these goals have been met.

    John’s lifetime of experience and devotion to sustainability led him to serve on the board of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “I consider myself a conservationist, and that is to allow for sustainable harvesting. People often ask ‘Is it ok to eat Bristol Bay salmon, is it being overfished?’ The truth is, it’s not. 2018 was the largest catch/run ever. *2021 continued this trend and was the largest run of Bristol Bay Sockeye in recorded history* This is a hugely sustainable product, and it’s amazing how strong it is.”