USDA Purchases $68M of Wild Alaska 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 of 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 go to the likes of food banks, 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 and 716,800 cases of half pound cans. 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 and are valued at over $68 million by participating Alaska seafood suppliers.

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 block for the National School Lunch Program beginning in September.

In May, 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 beginning 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 us sustainably harvested and wild,” ASMI said in a statement.