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Leftover Salmon? OR Food Bank ‘Angling’ for Fillets

October 23, 2009

BONNEVILLE, ORE. - It's looking like a good year for Northwest salmon - at least, for hatchery fish. So good, that the Oregon Food Bank network will benefit from some of the catch. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife sells some Columbia River hatchery fish to a processor in Bellingham, Washington, which has a market for fish roe and carcasses, but not for the fillets. The processor freezes the fillets and returns them to Oregon for the Food Bank, where Mike Moran says they'll be distributed starting this spring.

"We have not seen a substantial amount of fish - in fact, we haven't seen very much fish at all - for the past three or four years coming from Fish and Wildlife, because the returns have been so low. But this year, things have changed quite a bit."

Moran says they never know how much salmon will arrive. The Food Bank gets whatever is left after Fish and Wildlife's other priorities are met.

"They have agreements with the tribes for a certain amount of the fish, and they also have stream restoration programs, where they're reintroducing fish mostly for nutrient replacement upstream. In years like this year, where there's a substantial amount of fish coming back, and all of their obligations are met, all of the excess fish then goes to Oregon Food Bank."

Moran calls it a unique partnership between a business, a charitable group and a government agency, which ensures no part of the fish goes to waste. He adds, no wild, native salmon are part of the process; they are sorted out as they head upstream and over Bonneville Dam. The donated salmon should arrive at the Food Bank in March.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR