Last year before the longline season a longtime back-burner project became a reality. I created Fish for Teeth, an IRS-recognized 501-c-3 corporation that seeks opportunities to extract money from the commercial fishing industry and use it to fix kids' teeth.
At this time Fish for Teeth is just starting up, and will begin fixing kids' teeth in San Juan County. I designed the organization so other communities can set up a Fish for Teeth chapter and start fixing teeth in their neck of the woods. After we fix a handful of teeth, the idea is to solicit grant funding to provide dental care on a larger scale, all in the name of commercial fishing.
The initial target for funds was from over-limit fish revenues from the Bristol Bay fishery. I realized the over-limit catch of rockfish from the longline fishery could also produce some income. Last year, from rockfish donated from the Discovery's catch then filleted and frozen from Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka, Fish for Teeth grossed over $1,500 while using these rockfish as bait for donations.
This year I managed to assemble a pack of more rockfish fillets than last year at the SPC plant during the first part of the season. They shipped them down to Bellingham while we completed our fishing, so the fillets were waiting for us in the cold storage when we arrived in Bellingham at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
I didn't load the rockfish fillets into my truck until after we delivered on Friday, May 2. There were four 80-pound wet-lock boxes that fit perfectly into one of the totes. Next I went to a place that sold dry-ice in bulk and loaded it up with 60 pounds of dry ice to keep it frozen until I got home, which wouldn't be until Saturday morning, because I still had to run to Port Townsend to take the fishing gear off the Discovery.
The fish made it home just fine, and it took some fancy stuffing and arranging to make it all fit into the two chest freezers I keep in my garage. Once contained, I put them out of my mind for a week until I gathered the gumption to host the donation day. I put the word out on my Fish List that Fish for Teeth had premium rockfish fillets for FREE — with a $6 per pound suggested donation.
I set the donation day to be May 10, 2008. As usual I was late, and had a small crowd waiting for me (I LOVE those crowds!) when I pulled into my spot at Printonyx. I had a couple dentists talking up the program while I was handing out the fish. We got rid of almost all of the fish in less than four hours' time, and landed nearly $2,200 in donations!
At our Fish for Teeth annual meeting on Wednesday, May 21, we decided to move forward with fixing teeth, since that is the purpose of our being. We figured out the forms and a rough idea of how to process the kids through the system. The nice thing is that there is no red tape. All we need is enough paperwork to document where the money is going for whom and how, and we are ready to start fixing teeth!
At this point it is pretty much in the hands of the dentists, because I am off to the land of Bristol Bay. Hopefully after this season there will be a couple of kids with fixed-up teeth so we can show the fish companies that we really mean business. Then we can really justify asking them for money so we can fix more teeth! Ultimately the goal is to encourage other communities to set up a program in their town under the Fish for Teeth organization.
Its all about fixing teeth, and FISH and TEETH!
TO BE CONTINUED...
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