Governor John Kitzhaber on May 21 signed House Bill 4068, clearing the way for fish, previously gone to waste, to make its way on to the plates of people who are hungry.
The legislation targets bycatch, which is fish caught unintentionally while commercial fishing for another species. In Oregon, bycatch is mostly salmon, caught while fishermen are fishing for whiting. This new law allows bycatch to be processed for food-bank distribution.
The legislation makes it clear that food processors are allowed to process bycatch for food banks and are allowed a portion of the bycatch to help defray processing costs.
"This bill offers an innovative way for commercial fisheries, local fish processors, and the food bank network to get nutritious, protein-rich food to hungry families across Oregon. It's an excellent example of the important relationship between government, commercial businesses, and community-based organizations accomplishing more together than we ever could on our own," said Gov. Kitzhaber.
State Rep. Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach, and State Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, were the bill's chief sponsors.
"Oregon Food Bank thanks Rep. Boone, Sen. Thomsen and Gov. Kitzhaber for their leadership on this new law, which provides an innovative solution to hunger. This legislation will provide an important source of rich protein and other nutrients to people in need," said Jon Stubenvoll, director of advocacy, Oregon Food Bank.
"This was a bi-partisan bill," said Boone. "It's a good example of partnerships. Everyone gets a win out of this."
"The need for emergency food just keeps getting greater," said Thomsen. "I'm proud to put my name on this bill."
"Fishing is important to our Oregon's coast communities," said Marlin Martin, who heads CCA Regional Food Bank in Astoria. "This bill also helps keep our fishing- industry workers on the job."
"It costs us $2 billion a year to leave hunger untreated," said Gov. Kitzhaber, underscoring hunger's tremendous economic cost. "Finding solutions to hunger is critical," he said. "This innovative solution helps the fishing industry and food processors to reduce waste while bringing food to people who are hungry."