USDA to Purchase $30M of Alaska Pollock

As the season for wild Alaska Pollock got under way in January, the industry got a tidal wave of good news: a commitment from the US Department of Agriculture to purchase $30 million worth of the catch for the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

“It’s the largest single buy that USDA has ever had,” said Craig A. Morris, chief executive officer of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP), the Seattle-based trade association representing processors of Pollock harvested from ocean waters off of Alaska.

Two years ago, USDA did a surplus removal buy of $20 million, but this decision toward a federal commitment to feed the nation’s hungry tops that.

USDA is currently doing a survey of the nation’s food banks to determine the demand for wild Alaska Pollock and details of the solicitation were expected to be released to processors by the end of February.

“While details of this purchase commitment are still forthcoming, it is known that this purchase will be used to feed America’s most food insecure populations, providing them with a delicious, nutritious and incredibly versatile protein that comes from the icy cold depths of the Bering Sea and the largest, most sustainable fishery in the world,” Morris said. “Thanks to this purchase commitment, wild Alaska Pollock being harvested off the Alaska coast this year will reach even more homes, and even more hungry consumers,” he said.

The purchase could not have come at a better time for GAPP, and the broader Alaska seafood industry, “especially as we seek to build awareness and overcome competition both domestically, and in foreign markets,” Morris said.

During its December meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council set the total allowable catch (TAC) for Pollock in the Bering Sea at 1.396 million metric tons, up 2.4 percent from 1.364 million metric tons a year earlier, while the Pollock TAC for the Aleutian Islands remained at 19,000 metric tons. For the Gulf of Alaska, the council approved a 15 percent reduction from the 2018 TAC of 166,228 metric tons to 141,227 metric tons.

GAPP also announced plans to provide funding to key industry partners Trident Seafoods and True North Seafood for four new projects designed to develop new products and marketing opportunities for wild Alaska Pollock.

GAPP provided matching funds for three new projects with Trident Seafoods, including a publicity campaign to introduce wild Alaska Pollock to white tablecloth restaurants in seven major U.S. markets, a foodservice sector where the species currently has not had significant exposure. Two other grants will fund projects to introduce new wild Alaska Pollock portions and protein noodles made from wild Alaska Pollock surimi in North American club stores.