Why American Seafood Matters

One of the great virtues of wild Alaskan seafood is that there are no antibiotics and no hormones added to plump up the fish, as there are with a lot of the beef and chicken, not to mention farmed fish, sold in this country.

You’ve probably read from sources like Paul Greenberg that 80 to 90% of the seafood Americans eat is imported–half of which is farmed. Several studies have shown that numerous contaminants and antibiotics are found in the farmed fish we import, particularly that coming from Asia. 18,000 imported shipments were rejected between 2005 and 2013 because…filth. Filth is rat feces, illegal antibiotics, glass shards. As the USDA stated, “The safety of imported seafood clearly continues to be of significant concern, based on the number of shipments rejected by the FDA.” Given growing human populations, there will always be a need for farms but conditions in fish farms, and many other money-making farm, are ripe for causing havoc and requiring the use of antibiotics and other sometimes dubious control measures: Overcrowd a single species into a monoculture, resulting in stress for the species and hence more disease. On top of that, we have animals bred for specific characteristics, making it easier for an infection to find equally susceptible hosts.

Two-thirds of the salmon we eat is imported–mostly from farms in Chile, Canada and Norway, or from processing factories in China. Meanwhile, more than half of the wild salmon caught in the United States is sold overseas to buyers that appreciate high-quality wild seafood.

Opting for the foreign salmon, or unwittingly consuming the foreign farmed salmon because of poor labeling practices, has a number of negative consequences:

  • There just aren’t as many of those health benefits that we crave with farmed salmon.
  • Why not support hard-working American fisherman, say like Tom Fisher  or Amy Grondin, rather than Norwegian moguls (the primary beneficiaries of farmed salmon profits)?
  • What about all the excrement within which farmed fish live and what about all the algal blooms that have resulted where fish are farmed, leaving negative consequences for the environments in which farms are present?
  • When you eat wild, you save wild by preserving the economies of coastal communities and the ecosystems upon which wild seafood and, especially wild salmon, depend (like clean rivers, healthy forests and plentiful wetlands).

As Americans we used to eat a lot more fish–both coastal populations who ate fish like salmon, but also people in the interior who ate freshwater fish like walleye. But after World War II there was a mandate to build corporate farms and hence land food, like chicken and beef. In an effort to squeeze every last penny out of land food, corporate farms have pumped them up with hormones sometimes to the point that chickens can’t even walk they’re so top-heavy with the all important and profitable breast meat.

We as Americans are now eating half the global average of seafood per capita. We eat 13 times the global average of red meat and poultry. But in the last few years we’ve realized the health benefits of wild seafood. What Americans haven’t realized, at least based on conversations with our customers, is that eating wild seafood also gives incentive to keeping our waterways clean–another obvious health benefit but not so obvious benefit to our nation.

Here is the big disconnect. Wild seafood consumption is dismal in this country and that low consumption has had negative impacts on our health, natural environment, and our souls.

Wild salmon are a unique and valuable natural resource and just about the most poetic creature we can think of and –nomadic, wandering miles before swimming up a river (usually the river where they were born) to die but only before producing the next generation. They’re like a canary in the coal mine, giving us insights into how we are treating our water, the surrounding trees and soil.

Do we really want to hand down to our grandchildren a bunch of clogged rivers, algal blooms, excrement farms, and eat food raised by robots? There is a group of counties  in North Carolina with hog farms that produce as much excrement as the humans of the metro areas of Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City combined. The key difference between the hog excrement and the human excrement is that the human waste is treated before it is released back into the environment.

Get food from a producer you know and trust. Get fish from a fisherman. Like Lance and his line-caught salmon here. The best thing to do is to get your wild seafood from Alaska Gold Seafood, where you can find fish caught by members of a co-op owned and operated by quality-oriented fishermen. Or, the next time you’re at a restaurant and see salmon on the menu, ask what kind it is. It matters. King, Coho, Sockeye, Chum, Pink–each has its virtues. Or Atlantic–indubitably farmed and imported. What also is important is that wild Alaska seafood is managed to be sustainable, so that fishermen’s grandchildren can fish the same way they do. That’s why American seafood matters.