National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.



Here we are midway through December and the holiday season is in full swing. It's easy to get cynical about the rampant commercialism surrounding Christmas. But leave it to the commercial fishing industry to remind us it's the season of giving.

According to KTOO-AM radio in Alaska, SeaShare, a Seattle-based non-profit group that works with the seafood industry to deliver fish to soup kitchens and shelters nationwide, has donated 18,000 pounds of individually wrapped chum salmon steaks to the Glory Hole, a Juneau soup kitchen and shelter. The 2011 SeaShare video below shows how donated salmon are cut into steaks and individually wrapped for eventual delivery to the food banks.

The fish being donated to the soup kitchen is chum bycatch from the Bering Sea pollock trawl fishery. And while the pollock fleet has worked to reduce salmon bycatch substantially, it's been a sore subject in Western Alaska especially where king salmon runs are low.

But let's focus on the food bank donation, which is a great thing. Of the 18,000 pounds of salmon donated, Glory Hole will keep 3,000 pounds and will help distribute the rest to more than 10 other organizations, including the Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Food Bank, which will receive 5,000 pounds.

"That's a very generous donation," Southeast Alaska Food Bank manager Darren Adams told KTOO. "We can always use an influx of protein. We tend to get a lot of empty calories but it's always nice to get stuff like salmon and other meats that allow us to offer something healthy to our clients."

It's good to hear that bycatch is being utilized to feed people who really need it. It puts bycatch to good use rather than wasting the fish and dumping it overboard.

What would really be great would be if as part of the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization a provision was added that called for all bycatch to be donated and distributed to local food banks. That would truly be a gift that keeps on giving.

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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