The little fish that grew a new industry


When the lucrative Pacific salmon industry went belly-up in the late 1970s, West Coast fishermen blamed foreign fleets so close to shore. The U.S. Senate responded by claiming sovereign territory to 200 miles offshore, and Oregon fishermen saw an opportunity with the low-value whiting fish once targeted by foreign factory ships.

Developing a shore-based whiting industry for Oregon was the first project for the brand-new Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station when it opened in 1988. OSU research proved that good quality surimi and other products could be produced by on-shore processors. Substantial interest and capital investment followed. Fish packing plants that had been boarded up for a decade reopened as manufacturers of surimi. And the boney whitefish reviled by Oregon salmon fishermen got a marketing makeover and became the highest volume fishery in the state.

Today, OSU runs an international Surimi School each year, designed to improve the industry through research and teaching on chemistry, seafood quality, safety, and product development.

Media Image: 
Credit Text: 
Lynn Ketchum
Caption Text: 
Surimi is used around the world to make a variety of seafood products like these on display at the OSU Surimi School in Astoria. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)