Fish Radio

Bycatch to food banks outgrows beginnings

August 2, 2016                  seashare

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch.  Alaska bycatch is feeding more Alaskans. I’ll tell you more after this –

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The decades-old ‘bycatch to food banks’ program has grown far beyond its original beginnings. Today, only 10 percent of the fish going to hunger relief programs is bycatch taken accidentally in Alaska fisheries.

In 1993 that was the only thing that Sea Share was set up to do –  to retain fish that was being thrown overboard. It was kind of a rallying point for a lot of stakeholders. From that beginning we were able to add other programs in Alaska and Washington and nationally to the point where now the bycatch represents about 10 percent of our total volume. We were in 28 states last year with over 200 million servings.  

Jim Harmon is director of Sea Share, a Seattle-based nonprofit that sources and distributes the fish through a tight network of fishermen, processors, packagers and transporters.

All we do is seafood and we are very efficient try and combine donations of fish with services and packaging and storage to create volumes that couldn’t be done by individual companies. Making business to business connections.

Some seafood companies commit a portion of their sales, or donate miscellaneous products or overages.   Sea Share is the only group authorized by the federal government to retain bycatch.

It’s important to remember that the people who work the hardest to avoid bycatch are also the ones who take the greatest care to see that those fish are retained and used for hunger relief.  

Most of the bycatch from the Gulf, primarily halibut, is earmarked for hunger relief programs in Alaska.

 We take care of Kodiak with stuff that’s produced right there. We also send it to Nome, Kotzebue and Kenai as volumes are available. We’re making good inroads in Alaska and I think for the fifth year  we’ll do 250,000 pounds in the state.  

A freezer van of 8,500 pounds of halibut is stationed at Dillingham and  more are being added to Westward hubs.  Harmon says giving good fish to the needy in Alaska and beyond also broadens a customer base to people who wouldn’t otherwise get it.

Food bank recipients aren’t the chronically homeless or unemployed, it’s the under employed, those between jobs who might access the bank for a few weeks. And if we give those people a great experience with seafood, when they are back on their feet again or they get that next job, they’ll start buying more seafood. It really is a win win.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.