By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

Alaska donates 90,000 pounds of canned pinks to Ukraine relief effort


February 22, 2023

More than 90,000 pounds of canned Alaska pink salmon purchased and donated by the state of Alaska is being distributed as wartime relief in Ukraine.

The cans were donated to the nonprofit World Central Kitchen and arrived in Ukraine this month after months of shipping and customs delays. The food is the state’s biggest contribution to Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion that started a year ago.

Other than appropriating money last year to buy the canned salmon, the war has remained a back-burner issue in the state Capitol. No Ukraine-related legislation has been proposed this year, and no significant legislation passed last year.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and one state legislator proposed bills last year to sell Alaska’s holdings in Russia-linked investments but neither became law and the state still holds investments in Russia, officials from the Department of Revenue and Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. said Feb. 13.

As of Jan. 31, 2022, the state held $333 million in Russia-linked investments. APFC Chief Investment Officer Marcus Frampton told the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 13 that the corporation still holds “the vast majority” of what it did before the war began, but most of those assets would be worth less than 1% of their prewar value if sold today.

The Department of Revenue still holds some Russia-linked assets as well, said Aimee Bushnell, the department spokesperson.

“Russian equity markets remained closed to foreign investors, so securities still cannot be bought or sold. As a result, we are holding Russian securities at a zero value,” she said by email.

Members of the state House voted in favor of a ceremonial resolution in support of military aid to Ukraine, but in terms of consequential action, the canned salmon is the biggest to date.

“That will enable the citizens of Ukraine that are facing a lot of strife in the war to be able to feed their kids, their elders and themselves many meals,” said Sitka Sen. Bert Stedman in a speech Feb. 13 on the Senate floor.

He noted that canned salmon can be eaten without cooking and is resistant to cold, heat “and probably bombardment.”

Lawmakers last year inserted $300,000 to buy the salmon via the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and Stedman suggested that legislators repeat the appropriation this year.

The institute, a public corporation, is in charge of marketing Alaska seafood to customers outside the state.

Jeremy Woodrow, the institute’s director, noted that it has been charged with organizing food aid before — to the Philippines after a tsunami — and in this case, the institute reached out to its Eastern European division and hired a graphic designer from Ukraine to create a new label that can be used in all food aid programs moving forward.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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