Returning runs of hatchery salmon have been strong enough this fall that food banks in virtually every Washington county will receive donations of processed fish.
Some 136,000 pounds of processed coho and chum salmon– 35,000 pounds more than previously anticipated– have been distributed statewide. That amounts to a pre-processing weight of 400,000 pounds.
The salmon distribution effort sent fish not needed for hatchery production to food banks in all but one of the state's counties, according to Andy Appleby, with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) hatchery program. The exception was San Juan County, which does not have a county-wide food bank. All other Washington counties received at least 1,000 pounds of processed fish and some, such as Spokane County, received as much as 10,000 pounds.
Distributing fish to the state's hungry is just one of the ways WDFW managed this year's exceptionally strong return of hatchery salmon. The department also offered additional commercial and recreational fishing opportunities, returned salmon carcasses to streams to provide nutrients, and allowed some hatchery fish to spawn naturally in areas where they would not compete with wild fish populations. In addition, some fish were distributed to tribes, and the fish that remain will be sold to a contract buyer.
All the fish distributed in various ways were in excess of the number needed to produce the next generation of salmon at state hatcheries.
The statewide food bank distribution was coordinated by the Grays Harbor/Pacific County Food Bank Distribution Center. The fish was processed for free by American-Canadian Fisheries of Bellingham, and was transported free of charge by Rotary First Harvest.