Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wild Salmon?

It is an exciting time of the year for wild salmon enthusiasts because the season is just beginning and in just a few weeks markets everywhere will be stocked with bright red, fatty fish.  Most people prefer the taste of wild Pacific salmon to that of farmed Atlantic.  Some just prefer the politics of it all.  Farmed salmon has gotten a really bad rap over the years, mostly with due cause, but few people recognize the great strides that the farming industry has taken to correct the problems of production.  I will admit that they are not there yet, but they sure are better than they used to be.  Though I also prefer the sustainability of wild salmon and its flavor, I have to say that there are conscientious Atlantic salmon farms out there that are striving for healthier product that is better for the environment.

California King
I do encounter some people that will not even attempt to taste farmed salmon, claiming that the fish are inferior by-products created not by nature but by laboratories, regardless of how they were farmed.  They want to taste salmon as nature intended.  Well, lets take a minute to really look at our wild salmon and where they are coming from.  I want to point out that a lot of our wild caught salmon actually begin their lives in hatcheries.  That's right.  They are not the result of a struggling pair, dodging man and bear over rough waters, but actually are born out of laboratories created to sustain stocks and fishermen.  Salmon hatcheries have become necessary to maintain fish populations on the West Coast.  98% of California kings are hatchery bred.  Around 38% of all wild salmon caught in Alaska are hatchery fish.  In the hatchery system fish are bred and then released.  They go out into the wild, feed, and return to be harvested for our plates.  Fish are tracked by tags and now they are developing ways of coding salmon on their olotith bones (read ear here) before they even reach the smolt stage.  Because we have ravaged the habitat and stocks of wild salmon, these steps are necessary to sustain the fishery and salmon population.  In reality, these fish begin their life farmed and then are 'wild caught'.  It is a high probability that the next wild salmon you purchase began its life in a laboratory/hatchery.  I understand that this does not make them essentially farmed, but the next time before you degrade everything farmed in defense of 'wild, natural' product, think about the science behind the fins.  Without the science, without the hatcheries, at this point in the game 'wild' salmon would not be possible.  

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