I got a kick out of Greg Thomas' blog post today about his experience in a Denver seafood joint he visited during the International Sportsmen's Expo last week. Greg asked the server at the restaurant whether the establishment's salmon was wild or farmed.
The answer? "Farmed fresh."
Greg, the editor of Fly Rod and Reel magazine, immediately stopped the server and explained that he didn't want to hear anymore. He moved down the menu and ordered something else. And good for him.
Those of us "in the know" understand that farmed salmon do much more damage than they do good--often, the fish selected to be "farmed" in net pens off the coast of the Pacific Northwest are really Atlantic salmon. And those operations are environmentally toxic--they create dead zones in the ocean around them thanks to concentrated fish waste and rotting, uneaten fish meal. They cause unnatural explosions of sea lice that don't just attach themselves to farmed salmon, but any friendly, fishy host that might swim by.
And let's not forget the escapees--there are thousands every year, and there are now documented cases of transplanted Atlantic salmon spawning in Pacific waters. The idea that farmed salmon somehow protect wild populations of salmon is simply garbage (and, frankly, I think, after the orange dye is added to the flesh of farmed salmon, that's what these unnatural fish are, as well). What's more, by creating a market for farmed fish, the industry is marginalizing the need for healthy habitat that supports a robust and sustainable wild Pacific salmon fishery throughout Alaska and British Columbia.
Thomas is one of the enlightened many who ask that all important question before
ordering salmon at a restaurant. "Is your salmon wild or farmed?" Wild salmon is superior both in taste and health value, but also when it comes to protecting wild salmon themselves. By demanding wild salmon, you're demanding that habitat for these amazing fish be kept intact. That habitat is what makes it possible for a growing number of recreational anglers to chase salmon and char in the fresh waters of Alaska.
Greg grew up in southeast Alaska fishing for salmon both in the salt and in the rivers and streams of the Tongass National Forest, which could easily be called America's Salmon Forest. I've had the privilege of fishing the Tongass a few times, and there's nothing quite like casting to dollies, cohos and pink salmon under the canopy of the Alaskan rainforest. It's a surreal experience to walk the banks of a salmon stream, not on trails made by anglers, but by bears that are doing exactly what you're doing--chasing wild fish in wild waters.
Follow Greg's lead and hold restaurants accountable. Educate them and help them make the right decision when it comes to what they serve on their menus, and why.
Farmed salmon? No, thanks.