Reel History: Fish For Food Banks

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Marina Cummiskey/KMXT

Hi, I’m Marina Cummiskey, an intern here at KMXT as part of the station’s summer archiving project. This week I listened to an Alaska Fisheries Report, produced in November of 1993 by Laine Welch. One of the stories on the reel was about a way to put Alaskan by-catch to good use.
“It’s no secret that the amount of waste in the nation’s fisheries is raising the ire of an increasingly aware public, but the experimental by-catch food bank program, headed by Terra Marine and participants of the Bering Sea Troll Fleet, has holiday meals of salmon being served to the hungry and homeless in Seattle.”
A story the new menu at a low-income housing unit in Seattle, written by Leslie Bennett of KUOW, was aired on NPR’s morning edition.
“St. Martins’ serves three meals a day, seven days a week. Most of its food comes from Food Lifeline, a distribution service for shelters, meal programs, and food banks. James Dale opens the freezer door, and points to the 50 pound boxes of salmon, which have been processed, and frozen. The money for storage, transportation, and processing came from individual donations and contributions.”

Bennett explained the idea came from Alaskan fishermen, frustrated with throwing back “perfectly good fish”, when they could serve as a nutritious meal for the hungry.
“Food banks are struggling to get more resources, and here we have this massive, high protein resource being thrown away, by law, and it just seems right to change that now.”
That was Tuck Donnelly, fisherman and director of the north-west chapter of Terra Marine, a marine research and education company. Donnelly also explained that the idea would also help reduce tremendous waste that gets thrown back. In 1992, 16 million pounds of halibut, and 100,000 pounds of salmon got thrown back into the Bering Sea.
I did a little more research beyond the reel, and found an article from March of 1999, written by Samantha Miller for People Magazine. After a two year battle, Donnelly obtained a permit to collect salmon and halibut by-catch, and with 55 Alaskan fishing vessels and 30 seafood processors on his side, Donnelly donated three million pounds of fish from 1994 to 1999. In 1999, his non-profit organization Northwest Food Strategies was, other than the federal government, the largest source for hunger relief in the nation.
Pat Graham, the manager of St. Martins, was amazed at what good food can do for the people coming in.
“ When they come in, and they get health food, because it’s good food, and they feel better about who they are, and some amazing things happen.”
Thanks for joining me, Marina Cummiskey, as I recap my week of archiving reel to reel audio.

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