Penn Cove Shellfish is a premier provider of some of the finest sustainably farmed shellfish products on the market today. We talked to Ian about how Alaska Air Cargo and Penn Cove Shellfish are growing together.
What is your role at Penn Cove Shellfish?
I’m an owner and general manager of the company. My parents started the company in 1975, and my brother and I bought it from my dad about a decade later. We’ve been sustainably farming shellfish in the Northwest for about 40 years now.
How do you sustainably grow your shellfish?
We set out collector lines to catch a natural set of mussels in Penn Cove, and we start production of our Mediterranean Mussels, Manila Clams and oysters at our partner’s hatchery in Quilcene, Washington. We follow it through from planting to thinning, growing, harvesting and distribution. Farming shellfish is naturally low on resource consumption compared to other seafood. Along with purchasing algae paste, we also grow our own algae diets at the shellfish hatchery in Quilcene to feed the larval shellfish spawned and hatched there. This has led Penn Cove Shellfish to become the largest mussel farm in America. Penn Cove, Quilcene Bay and Samish Bay are prime locations for our shellfish to grow up healthy and tasty. And Alaska Air Cargo is a key partner in helping deliver the pristine flavor of our shellfish.
Tell us about your relationship with Alaska Air Cargo.
Alaska has made a name for itself in getting fish from Alaska to the Lower 48 quickly. One of the biggest issues in the shellfish market over the years has been getting it to consumers quickly to preserve the taste and freshness. We’re a company reliant upon getting our product out fresh to our customers and building a market based on high-quality shellfish. That is how we got hooked up with Alaska Air Cargo.
Alaska Air Cargo helps build your market? How?
Because of their many direct flights out of Seattle, Alaska Air Cargo gets our product to our nationwide customers in a high-quality condition quickly. As they continue to add more flight routes, we can reach more customers. We grow as they grow.
Couldn’t any airline do that?
I suppose they could, but they don’t. We have personal relationships with the people at Alaska Air Cargo, and they really understand seafood; they know how time-sensitive shellfish can be. People in their booking office, and our sales manager, Ravelle Snyder in Seattle, they understand our business. We want our nationwide customers to be able to taste the fresh-from-the-sea, kissed-by-a-mermaid flavor of our shellfish that our local Pacific Northwest customers enjoy. And the entire Alaska Air Cargo organization goes out of their way to ensure our shipments are at their destinations on time. Having those two things go hand in hand makes a perfect fit for us to be doing business with them.
Do you have any examples?
Every holiday season gets crazy in the seafood business. You have people traveling all over the country, planes packed full of passengers and packages, luggage, mail and Christmas cards, so trying to find available space and flights in a timely fashion can be tough. Alaska Air Cargo’s booking offices go way above and beyond in working to schedule flights that are going to have a likelihood of available space. If it looks iffy, they go above and beyond to make sure that space, if not available on one flight, is available on the next flight. We all know the holidays are a rough time of the year to ship, but they make it happen. And finally, Ian, is there anything else you want to say about Alaska Air Cargo? They really know seafood – not just salmon. I know they are famous for the delivery of the first Copper River salmon out of Alaska, but they know shellfish as well. Hopefully, we will get to a point where the fresh shellfish from the different seasons will become just as noted as the first of the season Copper River.