Thursday, October 07, 2010

The salmon economy bubble

Can a salmon economy be built out of man-made fish? Alaska is poised to find out, with a salmon crash looming if they've built their salmon economy wrong.

And Alaska is not alone in this mess. Since they share an ocean, Alaska is inextricably linked with Japan, Canada, and a few other places in relying on half-farmed salmon to prop up their salmon economies.

There are too many hatchery salmon in Alaska and the surrounding ocean, and Alaska insists on calling them "wild" even though they start their life in fish farms (see photo of baby "wild" salmon, left).

It's a risky way to build a salmon economy, but so far the house is still standing, so it must be ok...right?...

Uh oh-a new study says the total of half-farmed salmon is too high, the man-made fish are harming wild salmon, and a salmon population crash looks more and more likely.

In a press release, the authors state their case:
In a new paper in Marine and Coastal Fisheries, four researchers, including Randall Peterman and Brigitte Dorner in SFU’s Faculty of Environment, predict a perfect storm is evolving that could seriously reduce wild salmon populations.
“Higher levels of hatchery fish straying onto spawning grounds, combined with low numbers of wild fish, could further erode wild salmon diversity, which helps stabilize their abundances,” explains Peterman. “Many salmon from both sides of the Pacific intermingle in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and/or south of there. Together, these factors create the perfect storm for reducing wild salmon over the long term.”

Sadly, fishermen and managers seem blithely unconcerned. They're probably still holding their tech stocks, waiting for them to come back to life.

We've been down this road before, in salmon country further south. I watched Oregon's salmon economy crash after a failed reliance on hatchery-produced salmon. Oregon and Washington are now busy reforming salmon hatcheries, after learning the hard way that a salmon economy built on hatchery fish is a house of cards. But...of course...Alaska is doing it right. And so is Japan, Canada....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder where the large Foundations are that pay for "aquaculture" studies? The Moores, the Packards, the PEWs?

Seems like aquaculture research really means "unearth the evils of foreign salmon farmers" whilst "promoting only the benefits of our domestic aquaculture, 'er, we mean domestic wild-caught fishery".

Is it that obvious, or am I just being paranoid?

JR Rantor