At a time when donations are down to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and needs are high, the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Assoc. (CIAA) donated two totes of fresh caught and iced pink salmon, “The need always seems to increase during the summer and this is the first time we have received fresh caught pink salmon to provide to people in need thanks to the CIAA and the Soldotna Rotary volunteers who are fileting all the fish,” said Linda Swarner, Food Bank executive director. Lisa Ka’aihue, CIAA Special Projects Manager was also present at the processing operation last week, “These fish came from Tutka Bay lagoon hatchery where they were originally released and then returned this year,” she said. Ka’aihue was raised on the Peninsula and received much of education first hand on the waters of Cook Inlet, “My interest lies in the fact that I come from a commercial fishing family here on the Peninsula and I have a personal interest in protecting the resource for all user groups and keeping it healthy for all the users. This is not a pink year to return but fresh pink salmon are very delicious and we’re glad to have been able to make these fish available to those in need,” she explained.
Soldotna Rotary president Dr. Matt Pyhala rather than out fishing himself gathered some of his club members and armed with filet knives put in over 6 hours fileting the fish, “One of our members got a call from Linda saying there was an opportunity for a service project for us to come out and help so we put the message out and here we are cutting fish. Rotary likes projects where we can get in and get our hands dirty, doing what we can to physically be of service and not just get our pocket books out. These type of service projects I think are the most enjoyable for club members we get to have fun and fellowship as well as have a direct impact on our local community,” said Pyhala. “We’re now serving approximately 700 households a month and a few years ago it was barely 300 households a month and this year the average number of households are up another 10% who are asking for assistance because of their economic situation. These fish will go to people who are hungry and in need,” said Swarner. More information is available by calling the Food Bank at 907-262-3111 or visiting their website at kpfoodbank.org.