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Halibut bycatch delivered to Kotzebue food bank

Posted: June 26, 2013 - 11:07pm

KODIAK — A U.S. Coast Guard cargo plane made a special delivery this week to a food bank above the Arctic Circle: halibut that otherwise would have gone to waste.

The C130 Hercules delivered 13,000 pounds of filleted and vacuum-packed fish to the food bank in Kotzebue, KMXT reported.

The halibut is the bycatch from trawlers that is delivered to Kodiak. The delivery was arranged by Bainbridge Island Wash.-based Sea Share, an organization that redirects fish once thrown overboard to food banks.

Sea Share Executive Director Jim Harmon said the group has donated more than 180 million seafood meals throughout the United States.

“I know there’s a vibrant Coast Guard Station here on Kodiak, so when we had excess fish here, I contacted them to see if they’d be willing to do it again,” he said. “It took some time, but they were more than willing to do it. We had to wait for good weather; we had to wait for the season in order to have the fish available, so it kinda came to fruition here quickly in the last week.”

The trawl fleet in the Bering Sea participates in the retention program, and recently it began working with fishermen in the Gulf of Alaska, with up to 70 boats retaining salmon and halibut. Even though it’s a national program, Harmon said the group likes to donate the food locally.

Ocean Beauty Seafood’s processed the halibut, and Carlile Transportation moved it from the cannery to the Coast Guard’s air station for the flight Tuesday.

“Kodak’s a great community and the processors here said, ‘We want to see these fish be used as locally as possible,’ which Sea Share, of course, supports,” he said.

“The most efficient thing we can do is donate anything as locally as possible. In order to do that, we need to have the fish made into family-sized portions, either steaks or fillets — small enough packages that families can pick them up from any of the smaller food banks on the island, so we’ve been doing that for about three years.”

Food bank representatives planned to split the donation into smaller packages for shipment to about a dozen surrounding communities.

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