|CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Oregon’s hungry will
fare a little better this year, thanks to an
extraordinary run of coho salmon.
coho salmon makes its way up Cedar Creek on the
way to ODFW’s Sandy fish hatchery.
Photo by Rick Swart - ODFW
staff and volunteers process surplus coho at the
Sandy fish hatchery before turning the fish over
to the Oregon Food Bank to help feed Oregon’s
Photo by Rick Swart - ODFW
Thousands of surplus coho are being processed at
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish hatcheries
along the North Coast and Columbia River in
preparation for distribution to the hungry through
food banks around the state.
“These huge runs of coho couldn’t have come at a
better time, with a down economy and Oregon facing
historically high unemployment rates,” said Bill Otto,
manager of ODFW’s North Fish Hatchery Group..
For the past two weeks, ODFW staff, American
Canadian Fisheries employees and volunteers at six
hatcheries have been putting up to 2,000 fish a day on
ice in plastic containers known as totes and turning
them over to the Oregon Food Bank.
“This is a lot of fish, and there are a lot more on
the way,” said Ken Bourne, manager of ODFW’s Sandy
fish hatchery.. “What would we do with these surplus
fish if we didn’t have the Oregon Food Bank?”
The totes are taken from the hatcheries by
semi-truck to American Canadian Fisheries’ processing
plant in Bellingham, Wash., where the fish are
filleted and flash frozen for free in preparation for
distribution to 20 regional food banks around the
state next March
“It’s not often that we have the opportunity to get
this kind of premium protein for the families we
serve,” said Dan Crunican, food resource developer for
the Oregon Food Bank.
No one knows for sure how much salmon will be
processed this year – that depends on the coho, but
everyone agrees it will be considerably more than the
22,000 pounds of fillets that were donated and
distributed last year.
This year’s coho run is on track to be one of the
largest salmon returns in the Columbia basin over the
past decade, with 703,000 coho forecast to enter the
Columbia at Astoria. That compares to an actual run
size of 472,000 coho last year. This year’s run was
large enough that fishery managers increased the bag
limit to three fish a day and extended the season in
many areas. Despite these measures, several ODFW
hatcheries have been inundated with fish.
“We’ve expanded opportunities for sport fishermen,
achieved our hatchery production goals and met our
tribal obligations,” said Otto, who oversees 11
hatcheries in ODFW’s Northwest Region. “We are
fortunate that we are able to help feed a lot of
people who are hurting right now.”
The Oregon Food Bank Network is seeing a
substantial increase in the number of people needing
help, according to Jean Kempe-Ware, Oregon Food Bank
public relations manager.
“The number of people seeking emergency food
through the OFB Network is unprecedented,” she said.
The food bank and its affiliates across the state
are currently feeding about 240,000 people a month, up
from approximately 200,000 last year. More than a
third of the recipients are children, according to