The Zuanich family of Pure Alaska Salmon Company LLC, has a very long fishing history. Our Croatian ancestors fished the Adriatic Sea for centuries. We have continued this tradition, fishing the pristine waters of Alaska for over a hundred years. We want future generations of our family to have the opportunity to continue this family heritage.
We started Pure Alaska Salmon Company LLC because in 2004 we received, as a fishing family, a mere eight cents a pound for our pink salmon. The last time salmon prices were this low was in 1948. Inflation adjusted, that eight cent a pound price was the equivalent of one cent a pound in 1948. International economic forces, super abundances of Alaska salmon and the fact that not enough people ate canned Alaska salmon conspired to bring about this dire situation. Our beloved industry could not survive at these prices.
For years we had sold canned salmon to our friends and family. We saw how they came to love the delicious versatility and convenience of canned Alaska salmon. We felt there was much untapped opportunity in promoting canned wild Alaska salmon. We wanted the American consumer to think differently about canned salmon.
Because of improved handling processes, the quality of canned Alaska salmon is vastly better than what it was 25 years ago. We decided we wanted to try our own hand at promoting canned wild Alaska salmon, and Pure Alaska Salmon Company LLC was formed. Our friends, John and Lani Fortune of Fortune Design, graphic designers extraordinaire, created the branding to achieve this end.
Our goal is get more Americans to enjoy canned salmon as a preferred food choice. We are especially motivated by the idea of U.S. children getting more long chain omega-3 fatty acids into their daily diets. As scientific research documents more and more benefits of consuming cold water fatty fish, our enthusiasm only strengthens. While we know that nothing is quite so fine as a fresh fillet of Alaska salmon, canned wild Alaska salmon is the practical alternative to getting adequate amounts of wild salmon into one’s diet.
Zuanich Family History
According to cousin Kathy Zuanich-Young, Western Washington University anthropology professor, the Zuanich family has fished for as long as recorded history, or over 400 years, on the island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea. Professor Zuanich-Young thinks that Zuanich’s have likely fished for over 1000 years. Not many families can claim such uninterrupted job histories.
Grandpa Dinko (Dick) Zuanich left the island to come to the Pacific Northwest in 1900. He was the second of many such émigrées from Vis to come to Bellingham, Washington. Life was good on Vis, with vineyards planted by the ancient Greeks, abundant gardens and the fish of the Adriatic Sea. Even the educational system in that part of world was quite evolved for its day, as Dinko had an eighth grade education.
The impetus to leave Vis was provided by the four years of compulsory military service required by the then ruling Austrian Empire.
Military orders were given in German to the non-German speaking conscripts and the likelihood of death was great.
Dinko was a true pioneer in the non-native commercial fishing industry of Alaska and Washington, applying the fishing technologies of the Adriatic Seas to fishing in North America.
He built three 58 foot wooden boats and took them as far as 2,500 nautical miles from Bellingham to False Pass, Alaska.
In the “good old days” this was accomplished in a boat powered by a single piston 50 horse power Frisco gas engine, with no radio and certainly no navigational equipment beyond a compass, a sextant and a familiarity with the stars.
They would stack cages with live chickens in the bow of the boat to provide eggs and eventually chicken dinner. On occasion they would run into a storm and all the hapless chickens would drown and they would cook up one huge chicken dinner, but the egg supply was lost.
Dinko married the woman he was promised to at age three, Maria Mardesich. Dinko was about five foot eight inches, with very broad shoulders and mild temperament. Maria was six feet tall with a reputedly hot temper and a warm heart.
Dinko and Maria had five children: Andy, Tony, Katie, Pete and Dick. Each of Dinko’s four sons followed in their father’s footsteps and fished as well.
It is an All-American story with the subsequent generations going onto college and into the modern workplace; teaching, computers, attorneys and so forth.
Jim, son of Andy, Dinko’s eldest son, is the co-owner of Pure Alaska Salmon Company LLC, skipper of the 56 foot purse seine vessel, Marshal Tito, and is the only commercial fisherman left of Dinko’s grandchildren.
We are proud to say that our children Nick, Andy and Katherine Zuanich continue in the tradition.
Nick and Andy pursue fishing as careers,
and Katherine is working her way through college…
…as a deckhand on the Marshal Tito.
Jim has two college degrees, one from the University Of Washington in East European history and another in Economics from Western Washington University. Jim served a tour in the Fiji Islands with the Peace Corps teaching fishing methods to Pacific Islanders, though he wonders about the sensibility of a twenty-some year old teaching fishing to cultures with histories of thousands of years in the Pacific Ocean.
Shirley Zuanich’s family is not nearly so maritime, but she did skipper her own gillnet boat in the famed Copper River as a young woman. Her family roots of Colorado ranch folk resonates in the fishing industry. Shirley is passionate about the commercial fishing industry. ~ Shirley Zuanich
* Delicious food images courtesy of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI)