USDA Purchases $76M of Wild Alaska, West Coast Seafood

Image: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Federal agriculture officials have purchased more than $68 million in wild Alaska sockeye salmon and $8 million in Pacific rockfish fillets from Alaska and the West Coast, taking a lot of the leftover 2022 harvest off the market.

An added bonus, according to Bruce Schactler, food aid program and development director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), is that this could give millions of people their first taste of wild Alaska sockeye salmon.

Efforts to market the past season’s abundance, mostly millions of pounds of sockeyes from the Bristol Bay fishery, have been in motion since the 2022 season ended.

“It finally came to fruition, a little later than we hoped,” Schactler said.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has a variety of domestic programs, and its purchases of seafood support food banks, those who provide take-home meals for seniors and school lunch programs.

On July 26, ASMI announced that the USDA had purchased 3.7 million pounds of wild Alaska sockeye salmon in four-ounce fillet portions, along with 716,800 cases of half-pound cans. The USDA also bought $8-million worth of Pacific rockfish fillets from Alaska and the West Coast.

The purchases were made through Section 32 under the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture. 

The Section 32 program has benefitted domestic fisheries by responding to supply-chain disruptions and various other market difficulties. The program provides high-quality, sustainable seafood protein to people in need.

These purchases came on the heels of the buys earlier in June of 47,000 cases of canned pink salmon for food banks and 910,000 pounds of Alaska pollock, blocked out for the National School Lunch Program in September.

In May, the USDA announced the purchase of 1.3 million pounds of wild Alaska pollock frozen sticks and fillet portions for schools and food banks, with deliveries to begin in August.

The USDA’s nutritional guidelines recommend two servings of seafood each week.

“Alaska seafood is a win-win for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service programs, as it provides consumers with the highest quality seafood from Alaska’s pristine waters that is sustainably harvested and wild,” ASMI said in a statement.