Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Seafood Sustainability - Who to believe?

There has been a lot of "news" or more appropriately "buzz" in the Seafood Industry over the past few months that is striking close to home. We do recognize that the general tone regarding Wild Salmon has been an advantage to us and many other companies focusing on Wild Seafood. Most recently, two separate items have caught our attention:
1. Yukon River King Salmon "Buzz"
2. Frazier River Sockeye Salmon to be "Certified" as "Sustainable".

So, lets get started with item #1. The Yukon River is one of the longest rivers in Canada.. yup, Canada. It is true that it's headwaters are in the USA, but the majority of the river system is in Canada. Lately the "buzz" has been to buy "Yukon River King Salmon" because you are "helping the local population". The fact is, that the Yukon River King Salmon are suffering from a parasite called Ichthyophonus hoferi. This is the first known Wild Salmon population to contract this parasite. If the water is just a couple degrees warmer than normal, the parasite presents itself in the fish with little white spots in the heart and liver, and large grayish white lesions in the meat. In years that the parasite presents itself, large numbers of fish perish in mid journey and do not spawn. (This parasite has been found in Pacific Herring populations previously). As a result, populations of Yukon King Salmon have dropped significantly, to the point that there are no longer enough fish to operate the one remaining processing plant. That's why WE don't sell Yukon River King Salmon. You can read a good article on this at Your YUKON. This problem has been with the Yukon River King Salmon for a long time. The article link is from 2000, but it is written in English and gives a good background. If you want more detailed info, just type "Yukon king salmon disease" in google.

Item #2 is a REAL head shaker: About 12 years ago, large scale mining began near the head waters of the Frazier River System in British Columbia, Canada. Over the past 8 years, populations of returning Sockeye Salmon have plummeted by 90%. This has forced the closure of the Frazier River Sockeye in every year since 2006. Since the Sockeye return every 4 years, it does not take a rocket scientist (although it looks like we are going to have a surplus of those soon) to figure this out. IN SPITE of the plummeting return rates, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is poised to certify this fishery as "sustainable"! You can read the entire article about this in The Atlantic. So, it now appears that if you have enough money, you can put "the blue MSC bug" on any kind of fish and sell it to WalMart! Note: Even the Canadian Government objects to this certification and are currently scheduling hearings on this fishery's collapse.
Our Take - If the elbowing by various "Sustainability Advocates" reminds you of politics, it should. There are more than a dozen of these organizations who regularly issue press releases relating to Seafood Sustainability and Health. This naturally brings forth the political, environmental, and social biases of each group. These press releases are often fashioned into some sort of op-ed/news hybrid and delivered by the media with a snappy headline. Of course, these "stories" are not, in the main, written by individuals with any scientific background. So, pick your poision! You likely know just as much or more than the person writing the article!



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