Salmon and halibut taken as bycatch by Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawlers will continue to feed hungry Americans and Alaskans.

Federal permits were renewed for the nonprofit SeaShare to take the fish that by law would have to be discarded and instead distribute it to the nation’s food banks. Jim Harmon is SeaShare director –

“We resubmit our application every three years, it has to be authorized. And we submit a new list of boats that participate in a new list of short plants that participate and a new list of food banks that participate. So it’s been a good program and we’ve generated over six and a half million pounds in the last 25 years. And that equates to 26 million servings of fish that would otherwise have been thrown overboard.”

The bycatch to foodbanks program began 25 years ago in the Bering Sea and expanded to the Gulf a decade later.  It now includes 136 boats, 12 shoreside processors, 34 catcher processors and three motherships. Harmon says longstanding partnerships get the goods from the docks to needy Americans.

“The nice thing is that the donations that the fishermen and processors make, it enables us to bring in other donations of freight, cold storage, packaging, processing, and those things they wouldn’t be able to donate if we didn’t have the fish.”

The Sea Share program is nationwide and has expanded to accept a wide variety of fish products. But a good share of the fish caught in Alaska goes to Alaskans.

“What SeaShare’s done is we purchased five freezers and put them in regional hubs, allowing us to distribute to remote communities from those hubs. So thanks  to Juneau and St. Paul and Kodiak and Bethel and Dillingham, we’re able to serve 34 other smaller communities that weren’t getting our fish five years ago.”

Harmon says the millions of lost jobs stemming from the Covid pandemic has pushed up demand at food banks to unprecedented levels.

 “The clients that go to food banks have doubled this year. It’s I believe 22% of Americans are accessing food banks and that’s unprecedented. That’s an incredible need. And so what we’ve done so far this year is kind of flush through everything we had early in the year and thankfully, we’ve distributed over 5 million servings in the first six months. But now we’re trying to back fill that and find out where the next million or two million servings is going to come from.”  

Harmon says there are many ways to help get healthy fish to hungry Americans.

“If you do have something to give, whether it’s seafood or whether it’s dollars or services, please log on to www.SeaShare.org and click on Donate and we’ll make sure that your donation is maximized to the fullest extent possible.”

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