Skipper Otto members enjoying the benefits of hyper-traceable, quality seafood is a pretty simple story to wrap one’s head around. But the equally important part of what Skipper Otto does is its impact on BC fishing families.

BC Fishing Industry Barriers

The BC fishing industry has barriers to independent fishermen that heavily favour consolidated ownership of access to what should be “the commons” – the BC fishing grounds, and many of these won’t change until government regulations change. However some of the biggest problems for our BC fishermen are simply the “regular” practices of the industrial buyers of seafood on the coast. It is shocking and sad how the practices are intentionally designed to push risk back onto the fishermen and their families.

As an example, a small independent fisherman will spend their own money (or line of credit) to buy and/or maintain a boat and all their gear (nets, hooks, freezers, video monitoring gear, etc); pay for their annual licences, quotas, logbooks; and then stock up on fuel, bait and ice. When a fisherman then comes in with a catch, a buyer agrees to take the fish off their hands but does not commit to either a price or tell the fisherman when they will be paid! They may get a down payment but the fact that they do not know what price they are being paid means there is no option to seek out a better price – especially since most other buyers won’t set a price either.

A Simple Upfront Price

One of the simplest things that Skipper Otto does is set an upfront price with our fishermen and then pay them in full when the catch is delivered. It is shocking that this simple practice, is a major disruption to the traditional industry and one of the big things that sets us apart. This is only possible because our members pre-pay for their shares ahead of the fishing season. This commitment to our fishing families is what truly makes our company different and one reason why fishermen really appreciate working with us.

Fishy Tactics

Companies play other games to obscure the price they pay a fisherman, such as setting prices that vary by weight of fish (even for the same species). For example, a fisherman will be paid one price for fish over 5 lbs each and another price for fish that are under 5lbs each. While this may sound kind of logical, there are a few problems: one is that it costs the same to catch a 4lb fish as it does to catch a 6lb fish. The other problem is in who actually weighs the fish. Since the fishermen are not weighing fish individually, the buyer gets to decide what the actual breakdown of fish weights/prices are.

Global Supply Chain Hoops

In some of these cases, I don’t even blame the buyers or the processors that interact with the fishermen – these middle-men are trying to jump through the myriad hoops of a global supply chain whose rules and expectations would surprise a seafood-loving consumer. For example – a grocery retail chain might insist on a large order with a set price before the season even starts or a foreign buyer may only want one particular size of spot prawn but not the other sizes that are caught alongside them. It really reinforces how our members’ agreement to eat with the ecosystem makes the lives of fishermen easier too. Skipper Otto does not penalize (or invent reasons to penalize) a fisherman for seasonal variations like tuna loins being a different size from one year to the next or a tub of shrimp tails containing inconsistent sizes or switching to more abundant coho salmon in a year where sockeye is scarce.

Traditional Supply Chain

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The Skipper Otto Difference

With us, our fishermen always get a bigger share of the market price. This is what makes Skipper Otto different for fishermen. It happens because Skipper Otto members value traceable seafood and trust us to act differently. We are honoured by that trust and will stick to our values even in days when things seem scary and uncertain.

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