Magazine Feature / People

MBA candidate fishes to provide sustainable seafood

Luke Wiedel was fishing by the age of 2 and even has photos of himself in diapers holding a fishing pole. His love for fishing, fascination with the environment and curiosity about the Alaskan wilderness and the Pacific Ocean led him to start his own company, Fera Alaskan Seafood LLC.

The Daniels MBA graduate grew up in Boulder, Colo., the oldest of six boys. After finishing his undergraduate work in philosophy at the University of Denver, he bought a plane ticket to Alaska and worked in several different commercial fisheries. Wiedel learned about oceans, wild fish stocks and the economic challenges of the Alaskan seafood industry.

It wasn’t long before he bought his own troll permits, leased a boat and began running his own commercial salmon fishing operation.

“After several years of experience in the ‘hook and line’ Alaskan salmon fishing industry, I realized that 70 percent of our wild fish stocks are over-fished,” says Wiedel. “Fish farming operations devastate ocean environments, human health and human communities.”

He launched his company this year in an effort to provide Colorado with wild seafood products while promoting sustainability and environmental and individual health.

Wiedel catches, markets and sells only those fish species labeled as ‘sustainable,’ by the Marine Stewardship Council, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to more responsible fishery management. The fish species he sells remain plentiful in wild populations and are caught using responsible fishing methods.

“The products I don’t catch myself, I buy from fishermen with whom I work side-by-side,” Wiedel says. “I buy pot-caught Alaskan prawns rather than trawl-caught shrimp because of the harm that trawl nets do to the ocean floor.

“I also buy line caught albacore, ling cod and several other species caught using responsible fishing methods.”

He sells his products at Colorado farmers markets, through his Web site and via his popular home delivery service.

“People love my products and they appreciate supporting a responsible company,” Wiedel says.

Wiedel decided to return to DU to pursue a degree at the Daniels College of Business to reinforce his commitment to sustainable business operations.

“Daniels emphasized an urgency in the way of taking careful consideration for all stakeholders involved in any industry,” says Wiedel. “I learned the importance of corporate social responsibility and its inevitable link to success in business.”

Daniels management professor Dennis Wittmer admires Wiedel for his “warm smile, open mind, eagerness to learn and his desire to make philosophical theories a reality.”

“His interest in others will make him successful in a business environment,” Wittmer says.

After he graduated in June 2006, Wiedel returned to Alaska for another four-month fishing season. This fall, in Colorado, Wiedel will continue to develop his business locally and work to bring about change in the industry through education.

“The commercial fishing industry must begin to consider our oceans, our resources and consumers themselves,” he says. “Hopefully, I have started educating consumers about responsible seafood choices.”

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