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The USDA plans to buy millions of pounds of salmon and pollock

A Bristol Bay fishing boat unloads at a processor
A Bristol Bay fishing boat unloads at a processor

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase nearly two million cases of canned salmon and 15 million pounds of pollock according to a February 20 press release from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Alaska’s congressional delegation praised the salmon bids in a joint press release on February 14, saying the department’s salmon purchases will account for up to $100 million. About $70 million will go toward buying 1.4 million cases of pink salmon with the rest buying 300,000 cases of sockeye salmon.

In January, dozens of state lawmakers signed a joint letter to the USDA requesting it buy Alaska seafood to help stabilize the industry, citing a tight timeline with processors needing financial support to prepare for the 2024 season.

Other industry groups have also called on the department to boost its support for Alaska seafood products. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute said in its press release that it had asked the Secretary of Agriculture for assistance at the request of those in the seafood industry. The release said that the institute worked with those within the industry, as well as the USDA and the Alaska Delegation in Washington to help secure approval for these purchases

Major seafood processors such as Trident Seafoods and OBI Seafoods have both stated that they have struggled to sell their supply, citing decreased domestic demand as well as a tightening international market. Across Alaska, several processors have closed facilities.

The department will buy the pinks per its Section 32 program while the sockeye purchased will come through the Commodity Credit Corporation. Both the program and federal corporation have their origins in Great Depression-era legislation that aimed to support the farming industry.

Prices paid to fishermen crashed across several species last year. The purchases should help move products ahead of the upcoming season and this year’s base price announcements.

The fish purchased through the USDA will go to programs aimed at reducing hunger, including school meals and food banks.

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Christina McDermott began reporting for KDLG, Dillingham’s NPR member station, in March 2023. Previously, she worked with KCBX News in San Luis Obispo, California, where she focused on local news and cultural stories. She’s passionate about producing evocative, sound-rich work that informs and connects the public.