Friday, August 29, 2008

Support Sustainable Salmon Fishing -- Or You Might Not Be Able to Find Healthy Salmon Choices in the Near Future

It boggles my mind to realize that most of the salmon that people eat in the world these days comes from unhealthy, irresponsible sources. I'm nauseous when I see cheap salmon for sale because I know it came from farms. For example, big-box warehouse stores are notorious for selling high volumes of unsustainable, farmed salmon. Unsustainable means that the way in which these salmon are farmed cannot continue indefinitely due to the health and environmental consequences of salmon farming. In most cases, only wild salmon in their un-farmed natural habitat are sustainable.

According to an article in Trout Magazine --

"Since 1980, farmed Atlantic salmon has gone from just 2 percent of the world salmon market to 60 percent. Huge salmon farms in British Columbia, as well as Europe, Chile and Washington State, spread disease and parasites to wild fish and dump hazardous chemicals and raw sewage into estuaries. Fish escaping from salmon farms compete with wild salmon and steelhead and threaten to dilute the genetic diversity of famed fisheries such as those in British Columbia’s Skeena River system.

"Fed a steady diet of food pellets, antibiotics and pigments, these farmed fish have fewer health benefits and more dioxins and PCBs than wild fish. But what they lack in quality and taste, they make up for in abundance—the flood of farmed fish has driven down prices and undermined the value of wild salmon. Local fishers and fisheries, their well-being tied to the wild salmon market, now struggle to survive."

What can you do to stop this proliferation of unhealthy salmon breeding, farming, and fishing? You can "vote with your fork" -- says the Trout Unlimited organization, which has as its mission "To conserve, protect and restore North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds."

Voting with your fork means that you only choose wild salmon. If wild salmon can once again become the salmon of choice, then this will help force interest on conserving their habitats. On the website it says:

"If we fail as consumers to demand wild salmon as our fish of choice they will soon be replaced in the marketplace by inferior, chemically laden farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Wild salmon conservation and management programs will diminish as a priority and the wild salmon populations will begin to disappear as well. Salmon is big business and we as consumers control the purse strings - remember to vote with your fork." -- Chef Greg Higgins, Higgins Restaurant and Bar, Portland, Oregon

This is how you do it:

  • Only choose wild-caught salmon -- at the grocery store or restaurant

  • If they don't offer wild-caught salmon, refuse to buy

  • If your budget doesn't allow wild caught, buy something else
  • Carry with you a Seafood Watch card in your wallet -- helps remind you of what seafood to buy and not to buy
  • Reefnet fishing (see a video of how it's done here) of salmon is one of the most sustainable ways to catch wild salmon -- you can look for brands that carry reefnet-fished salmon along with the guidelines from Seafood Watch

UPDATE 9/1/08: You can also go to the Chefs Collaborative website to search for restaurants in your area that prepare sustainable seafood.

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