SeaShare began in 1994, with the help of a small group of commercial fishermen who took unintentionally caught fish (known as bycatch) that were required by law to be thrown back into the sea, and gave those fish - vital, healthy protein - to food banks. SeaShare proposed, lobbied, and eventually achieved changes to fishery management regulations in Alaska - the largest fishery in the United States - to allow the retention of bycatch solely for use by hunger-relief agencies. The success of those efforts won national recognition. It was an important story about fishermen who valued every fish they pulled from the sea. Rather than throw dead fish overboard, those fish could be a significant source of nutrition - badly needed protein - to help fight hunger. SeaShare's goal isn't just to feed people, but to use seafood to feed people well.
Bellingham Technical College teaches Fisheries Management at their Whatcom Creek Hatchery. The program prepares students for employment in a variety of fisheries occupations with emphasis on fish culture and aquaculture. Since 2003 the college has donated chum and pink salmon to SeaShare. Returning salmon are harvested for roe and milt to support ongoing operations at the hatchery. The balance of the fish are donated to SeaShare. In addition to fisheries management, students learn the valuable lesson that donation programs can be part of a successful business model.
SeaShare works with nutritionists and food bank staff to promote seafood. Throughout the year SeaShare provides "Day-of-Fish" training programs for agencies receiving our donations. These programs focus on the safe-handling, preparation, and nutritional value of fish, so food bank staff can educate clients who might not be familiar with seafood.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
SeaShare received the 2011-2012 "Top Donor Award" from Food Lifeline and the 2009 "Outstanding Food Donor Award" from Food Lifeline of Seattle. We were also honored with the "Alaska Champion Award" in 2011.
"SeaShare and Food Lifeline have a long history working together to provide nutrition to the Western Washington food bank network," said Jim Harmon of SeaShare. "Having an experienced distribution team at Food Lifeline allows SeaShare to focus on sourcing donations of high-protein seafood."
This year SeaShare has been asked to provide even more protein to the food bank network. We know there is more seafood available for donation, if we can support the costs to re-process, freeze, and ship. SeaShare has donors willing to donate the majority of the costs, and we remain one of the most efficient hunger-relief organizations in the country. With every additional dollar, SeaShare can acceess 5 more seafood servings.
We need more people pulling on the same oar. Please consider joining the effort. Together we will continue to make a difference in the lives of hungry Americans - the portion of our population that can benefit the most from a nutritious meal.