U.S. Department of Agriculture officials are looking to distribute some 7.9 million pounds of frozen Alaska Pollock products from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 through the National School Lunch Program and other federal food and nutrition assistance programs.
According to Craig Morris, chief executive officer of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, that would bring USDA purchases for fiscal year 2021 to nearly 18.3 million pounds of Alaska Pollock, one of the world’s largest commercial fisheries, with the largest concentrations in the Eastern Bering Sea.
“We estimate they will spend about $20 million on this contract and that would bring the total (USDA) dollars spent on wild Alaska Pollock this fiscal year to $45 million,” he said.
USDA officials said winning bids for bids on Pollock fillets, nuggets and fish sticks would be announced in mid-August.
“It’s an exciting thing to wake up to om a Friday morning,” Morris said of the announcement issued on the last Friday of July. ”I knew the invitation was coming, but I didn’t know it would happen today. It makes us really proud of what we have done to build demand for the perfect protein produced right here in the USA.”
Over the past year Alaska Pollock has boosted its rating among the top 10 seafoods consumed in the country, he said. The three major niches are as a prepared frozen food item, chilled as surimi and as a fast food item in fish sandwiches served nationwide. A number of fast food chains that were selling other fish have switched to Alaska Pollock, Morris said.
“We are wild, Alaska caught, mild tasting, very nutritious and are an unmatched sustainability sourced, and the carbon footprint of Alaska Pollock is a lot lower than any other protein, including meat, chicken and plant-based burgers,” he remarked.
NOAA Fisheries promotes U.S. wild-caught Alaska Pollock as a smart seafood choice that is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested using midwater trawl nets, under U.S. government regulations.
Alaska Pollock, a member of the cod family, is considered one of the most valuable fisheries in the world. In 2018 alone commercial landings of Alaska Pollock from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska totaled over 3.36 billion pounds and were valued at over $490.8 million.
NOAA Fisheries also notes that 100% of Pollock fishing boats in the Bering Sea carry scientifically trained observers, who monitor and count al Pacific salmon caught incidentally in Pollock nets. These salmon may not be landed or sold by the Pollock fishery, but when feasible, they are doated to local Alaska food banks.