Sustainable Seafood: Wild Alaskan Salmon Edition
Wild salmon fisheries in Alaska are some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world, but they haven’t always been that way. When the salmon canning business expanded in the 1920’s, the stocks of all species of salmon began to drastically decrease to the point that Alaska was declared a disaster area in the 1950’s. The mismanagement of the fisheries culminated in the current permit system that was put into place in the mid-1970’s by the Limited Entry Act. Basically, a set number of permits are issued to Alaskan fisherman giving them limits on the amount of salmon that can be harvested each year. In this way, it protects the ecosystem from overfishing, and keeps the proceeds that come from Alaskan seafood within the Alaskan economy. This system is still going strong today and has helped to vastly increase the wild Salmon stocks as well as to ensure that these stocks are stable and productive in a sustainable manner for the indefinite future.
When looking at sustainable seafood, we examine the viability of fishery stocks in the long-term while also taking into consideration the effects on the local ecosystem. Due to the legal measures put in place to protect Alaskan fisheries, these fisheries are some of the best, well-managed in terms of habitat damage, overfishing, and pollution. The state of Alaska is fully committed to maintaining the health of one of its largest cash crops for future generations to benefit from. This commitment is so great that the Alaskan constitution specifically mentions fish being managed in a way that fosters sustained yields. The state of Alaska is truly committed to the future health of its seafood industry, and this commitment has made Alaska a model for sustainable fishing worldwide.
The strength of Alaska’s sustainable model is admirable, and the strength of this system is very important because a large portion of the wild-caught seafood that we consume in the United States comes from Alaska. Up to 95% of all wild salmon consumed comes from Alaska, with the rest coming from Oregon, Washington, and California. With such a large quantity of seafood coming from this region, we must be diligent in protecting the pristine waters and ensuring that the populations are healthy, reproducing, and being managed in such a way that these resources continue to supply us with extremely high-quality salmon.
At Healthy Living we partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a participant in their Seafood Watch program. This allows us to receive feedback on the sustainability of the various types of seafood that we are purchasing, and it allows us to pass that information along to our customers so that they can make informed decisions about their seafood consumption. According to the Seafood Watch program, Alaskan seafood is some of the most highly-rated in terms of ecosystem health and viability. This means that because the fisheries are so well-managed that consumers can buy Alaskan seafood and be comfortable in the fact that they are making a responsible choice not only for their own health, but for the health of the planet’s oceans and resources as well. Come stop by Healthy Living’s Meat and Fish Department and you may get to catch a glimpse of us filleting some whole salmon!