Fish to Schools program launches annual coho salmon donation drive for commercial fishermen

The Annual Fish to Schools Coho Donation Drive starts on Monday, Aug. 19.

The Sitka Fish to Schools program brings communities together around a food that is culturally, traditionally, and economically important to Sitka. By integrating locally caught seafood into Sitka school lunch programs, Fish to Schools fosters a deeper youth understanding of local seafood, teaching children that salmon require respect in both harvest and habitat. Coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, the hope is this program will lay the groundwork on how fishing works and inspires children to either support or become involved in the industry.

Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School student Naomi Capp, age 9, talks with fisherman Steve Lawrie Wednesday (April 25, 2018) during lunch at the school. The elementary school was hosting fishermen who donated part of their catch to the Fish to Schools program. The program is managed by the Sitka Conservation Society and provides fish dishes as part of the lunch programs at Baranof Elementary School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, Pacific High School, the SEER School, and Mount Edgecumbe High School. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The Fish to Schools program (click here to see short video) started as a community wellness project of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit. It quickly spread from providing one monthly fish option in one Sitka school lunch to providing weekly fish options at all Sitka schools (including some not in the Sitka School District). The Sitka Fish to Schools program has been used as a model for school districts all over the state, and helps teachers with lesson plans about fishing in Alaska. The program also seeks photos of commercial fishermen at work, which can be used to teach the students more about how the fish got to their plates.

The program received an innovation award from the Alaska Farm To Schools program during a community celebration dinner in May 2012, and now serves as a model for other school districts from coastal fishing communities. In May 2014, the Fish to Schools program released a guidebook so other school districts in Alaska could create similar programs.

While the donation drive targets commercially caught FAS (frozen at sea) coho salmon, there is room for yelloweye rockfish donations. But please don’t target yelloweye rockfish for the program — it only wants yelloweye that are accidentally caught.

The drive will run from Aug. 19 through Sept. 5. To donate, tell scale operators how many fish you would like to donate as you offload at Seafood Producers Cooperative or Sitka Sound Seafoods. The program can only accept commercially caught fish (no sport or subsistence fish).

If you have any additional questions, please contact Heather Bauscher of the Sitka Conservation Society at (907) 747-7509 or heather@sitkawild.org.

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