Steve and Jenn Kurian now have three businesses working to get sustainable, delicious Bristol Bay salmon and other Alaska seafood into restaurants, backyard BBQs and plates across the U.S.
Better yet, they use a portion of their proceeds to help in the fight the proposed Pebble mine. Today, as their Wildly Devoted Dinner Boxes launch making Bristol Bay sockeye and other delicious Alaskan seafood available to action-oriented seafood lovers nationwide, we wanted to tell you a little bit about the duo as part of our Bristol Bay Ambassadors program.
Learn about the Bristol Bay Ambassadors program here, and about the Wildly Devoted Dinner Boxes below, or on the websites, here and here.
Home City: Bloomsburg, PA (At least that is our winter home!)
Tell us about your businesses.
Wild for Salmon & Pride of Bristol Bay are family and fishermen-owned businesses focused on bringing healthy, sustainable, and affordable seafood to families across the U.S.
Jenn and I both grew up in central PA and, after our first summer in Alaska over 15 years ago, realized that Bristol Bay sockeye salmon was not represented as the premium source of wild protein in the East Coast market space. We started selling our catch of wild sockeye salmon at local Farmer's Markets and now distribute wild Alaska seafood through our brick and mortar store, wholesale accounts, buying clubs and two online stores offering the premium wild seafood -- and still attend many of our local Farmers Markets!
Tell us a little bit about your background and connection to Bristol Bay.
I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Forest Management and landed my first forestry job in Idaho soon after school. A friend from my time in Idaho introduced me to fishing, so I changed directions and headed north to try my hand at set-netting for salmon in Bristol Bay. Seventeen years ago, my wife, Jenn, and I first experienced Bristol Bay and the wild salmon that return there each summer. Our love for fishing, wild places, and adventure called us to change our careers and become commercial fishermen.
Why did you decide to dedicate a portion of your proceeds to Trout Unlimited for the Save Bristol Bay effort?
I believe that my love for wild places was embedded in my psyche as a young child. Growing up in the heart of Pennsylvania, we all fished and hunted. This area is coal country and the destruction of mining was obvious even to young kids. Every day I drive along a stream polluted by mine runoff. I can't imagine this happening in Bristol Bay, the last untouched pristine wild sockeye salmon ecosystem.
As a fisherman, I watch too many fishermen take this wild, renewable resource for granted. Trout Unlimited’s efforts to protect Bristol Bay and maintain the health of salmon and trout habitat are very impressive. Their work has inspired me to donate back to protecting the environment that fuels my love for adventure and upon which my family has built our livelihood.
When you think about heading back to the Bay each season, what makes you most excited?
In my mind’s eye, I think about all the millions of salmon that are headed back to Bristol Bay and how the cycle of life keeps on going.
As the airplane starts descending on the King Salmon airport, the landscape starts to come into view, snow-capped volcanoes to the south, lining the Ring of Fire, the pristine tundra ecosystem just coming out of a long winter freeze. Water everywhere--streams, lakes, and rivers -- are all full of life. The vast landscape is untouched by man, pure wilderness...the last of its kind. You can see how the water moves in every direction and know so quickly that this is no place for a mine that will pollute this environment.
When on the water, I picture the first "Jumpers" of the season. This is a fishing term that refers to salmon jumping out of the water as they head upriver to their spawning grounds. They just look so happy to be returning home.
What is the most rewarding part about helping the fight against Pebble mine?
For me, it's getting folks to make the connection between the amazing wild seafood that people want on their plates and the need to protect the Bristol Bay's ecosystem from mining that has destroyed so many miles of streams all across the world. I am still meeting folks every day who have yet to really understand where their seafood comes from; many still haven’t heard of this issue.
We have a chance to protect one of the last great ecosystems left on the planet and I think it’s a fight worth fighting for my kids and their kids...Our family has made a commitment to wild places, and we just hope our children will have similar or better opportunities to take advantage of the great outdoors. Editor’s note: take a moment to say NO to pebble mine here!
Are you a sport fisherman?
I have been chasing trout since I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I’m pretty sure that chasing brook trout as a kid in central PA is what taught me to think like a fish and become a commercial fisherman. June 8th is the opening day for rainbows on the Naknek River. I would head up to Lake Camp every morning at 4 a.m. to fish the night’s end of the salmon smolt migration out to sea. As schools of smolt migrate down the Naknek, big rainbow trout make the water boil. Fishing a big Dolly Llama, I hooked up a 28-inch rainbow. This was my first large trout landed on a fly rod.
When you think of the future of Bristol Bay, what gives you a sense of hope? What makes you concerned or worried?
The people who love the wild place, wild trout and salmon, coming together and making enough noise to keep the mining companies out make me hopeful. My concern comes as technology and greed take over the world, there are fewer people that love the wild places and are willing to take on this fight.
Anything else you want Save Bristol Bay readers to know?
This is the last place on earth where wild salmon continue to thrive in great numbers, untouched by the modern world, allowing you to eat as much wild salmon as you desire without health concerns from contaminants in the flesh. Once gone, it will be gone forever! Spread the word to protect these great fisheries in Bristol Bay.
Note from the editor: if you haven't done so already, tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject Pebble's permit application today!
If you believe in voting with your fork like we do, check out the Wildly Devoted Dinner Boxes!
These boxes are the ultimate opportunity to host a dinner for 8, enjoy high quality wild-caught salmon, and take action against Pebble Mine. Wild for Salmon and Pride of Bristol Bay are honored to offer this special box designed to start the conversation with your family and friends and tell the Army Corps of Engineers that we still stand AGAINST Pebble Mine.
Box includes: 8-6 oz.Sockeye salmon portions, 1-2.6 oz. bottle of Bristol Bay seasoning, 2-4 oz. pkgs smoked salmon, 1-8 oz. tub of Cajun smoked dip, 2 recipes, personal letter from Steve and Jenn Kurian, Take action information from TU, 8-comment cards, 8-"Wildly Devoted" stickers. Cost (including shipping to the lower 48) $99
Get one today at:
Our Bristol Bay Ambassadors program highlights the people who help in the fight to save Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine. As we said at the launch,"For every person we highlight, we know there are hundreds more, doing their part because they care about Bristol Bay." If you know someone who should be featured, please send us an email at jweis [at] tu [dot] org.