Dillingham family's small-scale fish processor is a hands-on operation

Jun 29, 2021

“We hope that this is a model for other fishermen. If you look at the scale of what we’re doing, it’s very small as far as the total salmon market,” said Downey, co-owner of Little Alaskan Fish Company. "There’s tons of opportunity for small-scale direct marketers and microprocessors to get in, start something and be financially viable.”

Conor Downey, Tiffany Bennett and their kids.
Credit Courtesy of Little Alaskan FIsh Company

Little Alaskan Fish Company is a small Fish Processor based in Dillingham. The company catches, processes, and sells sockeye and Chinook salmon, as well as halibut. 

Spouses Tiffany Bennett and Conor Downey own the company. This spring, they were among the winners of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation’s annual Path to Prosperity business competition.

In a BBNC video featuring the winners, Bennett said she wanted to make waves with their catch. 

“Bristol Bay is my home. I was raised on fish, I know quality salmon,” she said. “Together, we built this company from the ground up to do more with our catch.”

Bennett is from Dillingham, while Downey grew up in the midwest. He said that gave him a different perspective on how the local fishing economy works.

“Not having grown up in the region in the fishing lifestyle, it’s absolutely insane to me that fishermen do all this work and turn in their catch and then are told at the end of the season what they’re being paid – it just blows my mind,” he said.

Their company’s target demographic are conscientious consumers and seafood enthusiasts who care about high quality seafood and how it’s produced. For instance, they process smaller batches of fish to improve quality.

“From start to finish our hands are on it every step of the way whether that’s myself on the boat or Tiffany in the processing plant,” said Downey. “So we really are maintaining that high level of quality throughout the whole process.”

The couple also wanted to change the way seafood is shipped.

“The industry standard is to use the CPS foam, Styrofoam coolers. That is just ubiquitous, it’s what you see everywhere,” said Downey. “Theoretically they are recyclable but in practicality, how many people actually take the time or make the effort to actually do something with them instead of throwing  them away?”

Instead, the Little Alaskan Fish Company uses biodegradable packaging made with cornstarch polymers that are “technically edible” and can dissolve in saltwater or in landfills.

While the company is able to purchase from other fishermen starting this year, Downey and Bennett said they hope to set a precedent for others who want to start similar businesses.

“We hope that this is a model for other fishermen. If you look at the scale of what we’re doing, it’s very small as far as the total salmon market,” said Downey.” There’s tons of opportunity for small-scale direct marketers and microprocessors to get in, start something and be financially viable.”

Little Alaskan Fish Co. can be found on Facebook and Instagram. Their email is littlealaskanfishco@gmail.com

Contact the Author at brian@kdlg.org or call (907) 842-2200