A bonanza of coho salmon are returning to fish hatcheries this fall, and 300,000 pounds of them are headed to Washington food banks.
Once the donation is processed, it results in 100,000 pounds of salmon fillets.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) already has donated enough fish to produce 80,000 pounds of fillets, half of which has already been distributed. Another 20,000-pound distribution will be made Thursday (Nov. 9). By the time the remaining 20,000 pounds is distributed later this year, every county will receive some of the salmon, according to the Grays Harbor/Pacific County Food Bank Distribution Center, which is coordinating distributions statewide.
Although WDFW has donated fish to the program for the past 11 years, this year's donation is larger than last year's.
That's because returns of hatchery coho were unexpectedly strong this year. The foodbank donations are just one of several steps WDFW has taken to make good use of the extra coho. Other actions include offering additional commercial and recreational fishing opportunities; using salmon carcasses to provide stream nutrients, and allowing some hatchery fish to spawn naturally in areas where they will not interfere with wild fish species. Some fish are donated to tribes, and the remaining fish are sold to the contracted buyer who qualified under a competitive bidding process.
The fish donated to food banks are processed for free by a Bellingham firm, American-Canadian Fisheries, and are transported free of charge through arrangements made by Rotary First Harvest, according to the food bank distribution center.
Counties which have already received fish distributions include: Spokane (5,000 pounds); Pierce (15,000 pounds); Lewis (5,600 pounds); Thurston (6,200 pounds); Jefferson (4,200 pounds); Clallum (4,000 pounds). This week's distribution will go to Cowlitz County (5,000 pounds), King County (7,500 pounds) and Snohomish County (7,500 pounds).