A love for the ocean and the mountains inspired Durango native MJ Carroll and her boyfriend, Eric Macias, to start Silver Wave Seafood Co. and share their passion with Southwest Colorado.
Macias is a salmon fisherman who spends his summers off the coast of Southeast Alaska, near Ketchikan. Carroll is a freelancer in marketing and public relations who lives full time in Durango.
They met two years ago in Seattle, where Carroll was working a marketing job for K2 Sports, a sporting company that sells skis, snowboards and equipment.
During fishing’s off-season, Macias worked as a carpenter on Bainbridge Island, west of Seattle.
“Early on in our relationship, I told him I was planning on moving back to Durango. He is a waterman at heart and a big surfer, so he was intrigued by the idea. He told me he wanted to market his fish and put a private label on it,” Carroll said.
They tossed around the idea of starting a company for about a year when Carroll quit her job with K2 Sports to freelance. Then, things began to fall into place.
In June, Carroll moved back to Durango and Macias went back to Alaska to fish. She began marketing their startup company immediately, launching the website in early July.
Macias’s fishing vessel is a 1967 wooden boat, aptly named the Silver Wave, after a large shoal of Coho salmon swimming together.
The fishing preseason starts in April or May, when Macias repaints and repairs the boat. Every year, he hires a crew in the middle of May, and they leave for Alaska from Port Townsend, Washington, in June after one last Costco run to purchase nonperishable food items.
For the rest of the summer, Macias and his crew live on the boat, returning to land only to drop off their catch and restock on fuel, ice and fresh produce.
Carroll recalls one summer when she spent about a week fishing with him.
“I did the Inside Passage with him from Seattle to Ketchikan and went fishing for a few days,” Carroll said.
At the time, Macias had hired a crew completely new to fishing.
“I got to see the organized chaos of teaching a boatload of people how to fish,” she said.
Carroll said Macias is passionate about fishing, but she prefers to stay on land and market the fish instead.
With Silver Wave, Macias will spend the summer fishing for salmon in Alaska, typically from mid-June until late August, which he will deliver to a seafood processing plant to freeze, package and label. From there, the fish will be delivered by barge to Seattle and taken by truck to Salt Lake City, where Carroll will rent a freezer truck and deliver it to Durango herself.
“It is a long process. That is why it’s hard to find good fish in landlocked states,” Carroll said. “We transport the fish all at once, rather than flying in fish on a weekly basis because it would increase our carbon footprint. We want to create a demand for the fish once a year.”
She refers to their boat-to-table business as community-supported seafood.
“The idea came up from a community-supported agriculture share,” Carroll said.
Community-supported agriculture allows residents to have direct access to high-quality, fresh produce grown locally by farmers. The idea is the same with Silver Waves Seafood Co. – just substitute produce with Alaskan salmon.
A typical fishing day for Macias starts at about 4 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m., not counting the time it takes for him and his crew of four to unload the fish at the processing plant.
“This business is a way for me to not only keep fishing, but to bring the fish back home and create a brand for ourselves,” said Macias over a satellite phone from the remote Kendrick Bay in Alaska. “It takes fishing one step further.”
Individuals and restaurants interested in Silver Wave Seafood Co. salmon should place their orders online by Aug. 25 for September delivery. All orders will be half Alaskan Sockeye and half Alaskan coho to provide a variety of taste, and sell for about $12 to $14 per pound.
Additionally, Silver Wave Seafood Co. sells smoked and canned salmon with a shelf life of three years. If kept frozen, the packaged salmon will last a year.
“What got me thinking about smoked salmon is being a backcountry skier, and a lot of my friends would bring it for lunch. ... Salmon is healthy and delicious, and yet all the options at the store are overpriced and farmed,” Carroll said.
Orders must be picked up at the Centennial Center parking lot, 331 S. Camino Del Rio, near Office Depot on Sept. 21-23. Home delivery is an option for an additional fee for those who cannot pick up during this time.
“We are trying to bring the mountains and the ocean together,” Carroll said. “This year is really important because we want to get our company off the ground and get people aware.”