One of the most popular questions at the hatchery is, “What do you do with all of the adult steelhead after you spawn them?” Prior to 2011, the post-spawn adult steelhead were provided to researchers (e.g. bear food, nutrient supplementation, etc.), or used for outreach efforts (e.g. classroom dissections, etc.); however, these requests demanded a small portion of the available adults resulting from spawning operations. The remaining surplus post-spawn adults were taken to the transfer station, a charge (based on weight) was assessed and the fish eventually made their way to a landfill along with other common household refuse.
In 2011, hatchery staff contacted the local Food Bank of Orofino, Idaho in pursuit of acquiring a secondary use of these fish in addition to securing another brood year of eggs to meet hatchery production targets for the Clearwater, Magic Valley, and Dworshak hatcheries.
On spawning days, a couple volunteers (referred to as “servants”) load post-spawned adult steelhead at the Dworshak hatchery into large totes in a truck/trailer. These fish are transported to a local shop in Kamiah, Idaho where a growing group of diligent servants meet following the day’s spawning efforts. An assembly line for processing the fish takes form and the fish are filleted, washed, chunked, wrapped and labeled.
Fresh fish is then transported by volunteers to food banks in Orofino, Grangeville, Kamiah, Kooskia and Elk River, Idaho. Nearly 1,500 steelhead were provided to area food banks in 2011 and over 2,000 steelhead will be circulated through area food banks in 2012.
God’s fish going back to feed his people!
After processing, the carcasses (head, tails, bones and entrails) are utilized for compost by local gardeners…….thus maximizing the use of the resource!