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Copper River Nouveau

Fisheries Achievement Award

During our dockside reception, we acknowledge an individual or a group of individuals who have made a significant contribution toward the sustainable use of fishery resources in Prince William Sound or the Copper River regions. We honor individuals for their innovation, perseverance, dedication, and hard work on behalf of Cordova and our region. The awardee(s) are guests of honor at the pre-dinner reception and at the Copper River Nouveau gourmet dinner.

Recipients

2017 - Bill Gilbert

In recognition of his mentorship, his efforts to develop positive relationships between fishers and processors, and his successful efforts help to develop new domestic markets for Copper River seafood by promoting quality production; all accomplished with his clear thinking and wonderful sense of humor during his career at Trident Seafoods in Cordova.

2016 - Rhey Velasco

In recognition of his commitment to ensuring the highest possible quality of products at the Ocean Beauty processing plant in Cordova; and thanks to his refrigeration expertise, which allows our industry to maintain a connection between quality and value, contributing to the sustainability of our region’s fisheries products.

2015 - Alaska Airlines and Lynden

In recognition of air, sea, and land transportation specialists whose innovations and improvements to freight management and delivery have significantly contributed to increasing the value and quality of our sustainable fisheries products.

2014 - Bill, Sr. and Irene Webber

Bill and Irene were honored for their lifelong commitment and leadership in building the success of Copper River and Prince William Sounds fisheries through vision, innovation, teamwork and mentoring; and for their love and pride of family, many friends, and their cherished community of Cordova. Read more here.

2013 - Bill Bailey III

Bill Bailey was honored for his commitment to advancing the quality and marketability of Copper River and Prince William Sound salmon as a commercial fisherman and fish processor, for product innovation and market expansion, as a mentor to young fishermen, and in recognition of his unsurpassed skills in the smokehouse.

2012 - The Copper River Fishermen's Cooperative

The Copper River Fishermen's Cooperative was honored for innovations in branding, international marketing and fleet-wide quality control.

Founded in 1981, Cordova's Copper River Fishermen's Cooperative started out in the old Pt. Chehalis Cannery building, what now serves as our Science Center. They soon bought what is now the Trident South facility and became one of Alaska's most successful fishermen's co-ops and a key link in the Copper River quality and marketing legacy.

The founders were committed to quality, which was viewed as a key to better prices. The co-op fishermen had the first fish-hold inspection program in the State and fishermen were required to bleed and ice their fish. The plant instituted grading standards that were strict and uniform. Every fish that was shipped was identified, caught and produced by the Copper River Fishermen's Cooperative.

While a small band of fishermen worked initially with Seattle marketers to move high quality, fresh fish from the Copper River to market, it was the formation of the co-op that took the Copper River brand internationally and laid the cornerstone of quality practices on a fleet-wide basis. The co-op developed strong markets in France for silvers- creating demand that helped maintain late season prices.

There were many dynamics driving the Alaska fish industry at the time. Japanese salmon markets dominated, farm fish was on the horizon, and there were few fresh markets, especially for coho. All these things played into the formation of the co-op. The response to these challenges helped change the quality and marketing of Alaska salmon.

The co-op was bankrupted in 1990 by impacts from the oil spill, but their legacy lives on.

Founding members: James Mykland, Tom Copeland, Floyd Hutchins, Sylvia Lange (Meyers), Andrew Smallwood, Jeff Stonehill, Tom Keenan and Arthur Newman.

2011 - Steve Moffitt, Research Biologist, ADF&G

Steve Moffitt, Research Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, was honored for his enormous contributions to salmon and herring research for over 20 years. Steve's expertise easily makes him one of the most knowledgeable persons about these fish in our region. Known for his commitment to facilitate research cruises and collaborations among multiple organizations, he recognizes the importance of sharing current and historical data.

Steve was instrumental in establishment of the herring data portal website, and his PWS herring research far surpasses his job requirements, his financial compensation or the acknowledgment he has received. His efforts have been purely focused on developing a greater understanding of herring and salmon ecology in Prince William Sound.

2010 - Peter Kuttel

Peter Kuttel was honored in 2010 for his contribution toward the sustainable use of fishery resources in Prince William Sound and the Copper River region. As owner of Bear&Wolf processors he made major changes in how the fish were caught, bought, tendered and processed. His tender fleet was fast and large, often pumping large live fish out of the seine. In processing he went to a 24-hour operation, which allowed processing of 'just in time' delivered fish no matter when they hit the dock. He was also very generous, often making large contributions to community organizations and addressed important needs like scholarship funds.

2009 - Thea Thomas

Thea Thomas, a Copper River gillnetter for more than 20 years, was honored in 2009. Thea was instrumental in the successful formation of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association, Alaska's first Regional Seafood Development Association. She has served as Board President since its inception in 2005. At the state level, Thomas has been active with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. She is a past Board Member and current Committee Member on ASMI's Retail and Salmon Committees.

Additional fishery organizations in which Thomas has been active as an officer or Board member include the Copper River Salmon Producers Association, Cordova District Fishermen United, and Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation.

2008 - Ken Roberson

Ken Roberson, a former Glennallen resident and retired ADF&G biologist, was honored in 2008. He worked on Copper River fisheries issues for 39 years. In 1973, he helped establish the Gulkana River hatchery, which has now become the world's largest fry production facility. He also initiated the escapement mode of management and installed the first sonar counter at Miles Lake in the late 1970s. His long-term vision and hard work are credited for the sustainability of the salmon fisheries out of Cordova.

2007 - R.J. Kopchak

In lieu of the Fisheries Achievement Award, Kopchak was honored for his many contributions over the years to the Prince William Sound Science Center. He is the founding President of the Prince William Sound Science Center, sat on the Advisory Board of the Oil Spill Recovery Institute from 1992-2007, and has raised many thousands of dollars for the PWSSC with his extraordinary auctioneering skills at previous Copper River Nouveau events.

2006 - Ken Roemhildt

Ken Roemhildt, plant manager for North Pacific processors, was honored in 2006 for his nearly four decades of work in the fish processing industry. One of his more notable contributions was the relationship he developed with Hormel to produce the first canning in volume of skinless, boneless pink salmon. Another cherished contribution was his ability to maintain local, year-round employment. Ken saw an opportunity when he realized that PWS pollock and cod were being shipped to Kodiak for processing. He switched the North Pacific filet lines over for white fish to accommodate wintertime processing. He was an innovator who cared and worked tirelessly for the local fisheries, the fishermen, his workers, and the community of Cordova.

2005 - Jon Rowley

Jon Rowley, a nationally recognized food consultant and promoter, is regarded as the visionary behind the marketing success of Copper River King Salmon. More than 25 years ago, he proposed that Copper River king, with its high oil content, rich orange color and earth complex flavor could have a bright future in the market place. With a small group of Copper River fisherman willing to do the extra handling necessary to assure quality, Rowley's first delivery of Copper River kings to Seattle restaurants was in 1983. The response was incredibly enthusiastic and spread worldwide. The legacy continues today.