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Business

‘Ocean to Table’ Seafood Company Lands at Flathead Valley’s Shores

Molly and Steve Box of Worthy Seafoods are returning to their Montana roots – and bringing freshly caught Alaskan halibut with them

By Denali Sagner
Packaged halibut fillets from Worthy Seafoods in Whitefish on Oct. 27, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Molly and Steve are the owners and operators of Worthy Seafoods, a family fishing business dedicated to delivering fresh, sustainably caught Alaskan halibut to dinner tables throughout the U.S. While the couple has lived and worked out of Juneau, Alaska since the early 1990s, their Montana ties recently brought them back to Whitefish, where they are expanding their fresh halibut market to the greater Flathead Valley.

Steve already had years of Alaska fishing experience under his belt when he and Molly met as first-years at Montana State University in 1985. Both members of the ski team – Steve a downhill racer and Molly a Nordic skier – the couple began dating in college and married a few years later, moving to Juneau. Molly became a teacher and later an administrator in the Juneau School District and Steve bought into the fishing industry, which he had worked in since the age of 13.  

After Molly and Steve settled in Juneau, fishing became a way of life, not just for the couple, but also for their two children, Corey and Nikki. Both kids had a hand in the fishing experience from early on, accompanying their parents on boat trips through Alaska’s pristine waters. Since Worthy Seafoods’ official founding in 1997, all members of the Box family have been involved in the business, from catching the fish to marketing the products to handing off filets to customers.

“It’s just been a huge privilege to work with my family,” Steve said.

The Worthy Seafoods’ fishing vessel in Alaska in June 2022. Photo by Molly Box

Worthy Seafoods stands out not only in its commitment to freshness, the couple explained, but in its unique access to Alaskan halibut.

Steve holds a Lifetime Access Permit (LAP), which allows him to fish commercially in Glacier Bay, a practice that was almost entirely banned after Congress voted to phase out commercial fishing in the bay in 1998 in the name of marine life preservation. Because Steve had held a commercial fishing permit for years when the legislation was passed, he was grandfathered in and awarded a LAP, which cannot be transferred or sold to another fisherman. As of 2016, there were fewer than 90 Glacier Bay LAP holders, Steve being one of them.

Molly and Steve take seriously their unparalleled access to the protected waters, and their mission to “bring your catch directly to the consumer,” Molly said.

For years, that consumer was the local community in and around Juneau. But after Molly’s retirement from teaching in 2021, the couple saw a perfect window to return to Montana and expand the business.

“We’ve always had roots in Montana. We’ve had family in and out of the Flathead Valley for years,” Steve said.  “We’ve always wanted to come back, so three or four years ago we bought a place down there. Now we’re trying to bring some of our seafood down to share with the Flathead Valley.”

Packaged halibut fillets from Worthy Seafoods in Whitefish on Oct. 27, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Now, Worthy Seafoods’ Flathead outpost is officially in operation, with Molly selling Alaskan halibut out of their Whitefish home. Though the halibut travels via air to Montana, Molly said that her ability to pick up deliveries herself, which are shipped directly from Steve in Alaska, allows the business to maintain the freshness it’s known for.

With Molly down in Whitefish and Steve up in Juneau, the couple has been able to “cut out two or three people in the middle,” Steve said, in order “to get a fresher, better product to the consumer.”

While the price of freshly caught fish from Glacier Bay is not cheap, the couple said that they’ve found a local market for their halibut, as people appreciate the “ocean to table” model of their business.

“It does cost a little bit more money, but people are willing to pay a little bit more if they know where the source was and if they know the family behind it. I think that means a lot and that’s part of what we’re trying to step into,” Steve said.

Molly’s customer base in the Flathead has grown recently, which she said has allowed her to build community ties and meet her neighbors, a more unexpected and enjoyable part of the business.

“For us, it’s really fun to be able to connect with the people we live around and provide this amazing resource,” she said. “I think it’s pretty special to be able to have the family that’s catching the fish be delivering it to your door.”

Those interested in bringing Worthy Seafoods’ freshly caught halibut to their own table can visit worthyseafoods.com or call Molly at 907-321-4444.

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