Flying fish – Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak conducts humanitarian flight for hunger relief

A Coast Guard Air station Kodiak aircrew spends time with Kotzebue community members in Kotzebue, Alaska, Aug. 10, 2016. The HC-130 crew transported thousands of pounds of frozen halibut for hunger relief. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

A Coast Guard Air station Kodiak aircrew spends time with Kotzebue community members in Kotzebue, Alaska, Aug. 10, 2016. The HC-130 crew transported thousands of pounds of frozen halibut for hunger relief.

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 crew teamed up with the non-profit organization, SeaShare, to transport approximately 15,000 lbs of frozen halibut to Kotzebue and Nome, Alaska, August 10, 2016. The halibut is by-catch donated from commercial fisheries to be distributed to remote Alaskan communities as a food source throughout the winter.

The Coast Guard has partnered with SeaShare five times so far to transport fish for hunger relief. Jim Harmon, SeaShare’s executive director, has been involved with the annual Alaska shipment for four years.

A Coast Guard Air station Kodiak HC-130 flight mechanic prepares to offload pallets of frozen halibut in Nome. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

A Coast Guard Air station Kodiak HC-130 flight mechanic prepares to offload pallets of frozen halibut in Nome. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

“Getting to be part of the whole mission was hugely rewarding,” said Harmon. “We have so much gratitude for all the partners, from Kodiak, to the Coast Guard, to the remote villages. Even though the Coast Guard crew changes every year, their commitment and support remains constant.”

The crews loaded the fish onto the plane in Kodiak and took off for their first delivery to Kotzebue with barely enough room for two crewmembers and three passengers to sit, shivering behind the pallets of frozen fish in the cabin of the HC-130.

A group of volunteers in Kotzebue met the plane and started sorting boxes for distribution as soon as the forklift offloaded them from the cold, dark cargo hold. The boxes were sorted and separated according to village populations of 12 remote communities that freckle Northern Alaska.

True to its name, the Last Frontier is home to many communities of Alaska Natives in areas so remote they are inaccessible by car. They get most of their food and resources from the land or sea rather than a local supermarket.

Members from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak work with volunteers to offload donated frozen fish in Nome. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

Members from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak work with volunteers to offload donated frozen fish in Nome. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

“Seafood has dietary and cultural significance for rural Alaskans, but for a variety of reasons it is not readily available to many families,” said Harmon. “Donating in Alaska encourages local seafood companies to do more when they can.”

The next stop to offload the rest of the halibut was Nome, Alaska. The Kawerak Corporation, a tribal non-profit consortium, will distribute to more communities which have been impacted by low walrus harvests recently. The villages rely heavily on being able to hunt for walrus meat during the spring and summer to fill their freezers for the winter.

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules airplane crew gives a tour of the plane to local community members in Kotzebue. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules airplane crew gives a tour of the plane to local community members in Kotzebue. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

After one last stop in Anchorage to deliver two boats that were loaded up in Nome for Alaska Fish and Wildlife, it was time to call it a day and head back to Kodiak. The crew covered a distance of approximately 17,000 miles over 13 hours to deliver a winter’s-worth of meals to dozens of rural communities. All in a day’s work.

“Our Coast Guard partnership has had a magnetic effect, encouraging other donations across the state,” said Harmon.

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