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Huge coho run will help feed Oregon’s hungry
 
October 23, 2009

 

CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Oregon’s hungry will fare a little better this year, thanks to an extraordinary run of coho salmon.

Coho
A coho salmon makes its way up Cedar Creek on the way to ODFW’s Sandy fish hatchery.
Photo by Rick Swart - ODFW
Coho
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 hungry.
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 Kempe-Ware.

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Contact:

Bill Otto (971) 673-6006
Rick Swart (971) 673-6038

 

 

 
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