Fish Radio

Bycatch to food banks continues to grow

December 10, 2015

Halibut bycatch Credit.:

Halibut bycatch

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Alaska’s bycatch goes to more food banks. I’ll tell you more after this —

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Bycatch is a problem in nearly all fisheries. Since the 1990’s in Alaska, much of the accidentally caught fish goes to food banks and soup kitchens, instead of being thrown overboard as required by law.

We make it very clear that we are not asking for bycatch. the people with us are some of the best fishermen who work hard to avoid it. But when they do catch it, they want to see something good done with it. They want to utilize everything that’s in the net so they donate it to us.

Jim Harmon is director of Sea Share, a nonprofit that has become one of the largest protein donors in the nation.

Fishermen have the opportunity to retain those fish and to bring them to shore and donate them to Sea Share. We are the only agency authorized to receive prohibited species catch. If they don’t retain them for us they have to throw them overboard so there is no economic incentive for them to retain high value salmon when they are fishing for pollock.

Last year Sea Share steered 1.5 million seafood meals to America’s hungry.  Ten percent of that is from bycatch, the rest was donated by seafood companies.

We try to make it easier for fishermen and processors to donate and we are able to bring in other companies who can help with packaging or freight or storage, whatever it takes to make the product available so the donating entity doesn’t’ have to bear the whole cost to get it out there.  

It still costs about 42 cents a pound to get the fish into the hands of the hungry. Harmon says more than 120 Alaska boats are working with Sea Share. They include every boat in the Bering Sea pollock fishery and more than half of the trawl boats in the Gulf.

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Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture.    In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.