Sitting on my bookshelf, still waiting to be read, are two of Mark Kurlansky’s books: Salt: A World History and Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. Now his latest release, Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate, is about to join them.
Last week, the Guardian published an edited extract of the newest book. Titled Net loss: the high price of salmon farming, it discusses many serious problems caused by farm-raised salmon:
Farmed fish escaping confinement often cross-breed with wild salmon. The problem isn’t so much with escaped males, who can’t compete in the “tough and often violent process” of spawning. Escaped females, however, lay eggs which wild males fertilize.
The farmed-wild offspring are much less likely to survive at sea. After all, their mothers were bred to reach a marketable 3.5 pounds as quickly as possible. They have none of the traits needed to survive outside their underwater cages.
Sea lice plague farmed salmon. Wild fish don’t congregate in numbers large enough to attract them. Swimming too close to the cages, however, threatens them with a lice infestation.
My search for a worldwide wild salmon population estimate was unsuccessful. But in Norway, farmed fish outnumber wild by an 8 to 1 margin, 4 million to 500,000. And Alaska’s total wild catch for 2019 was just over 200 million.
Compare those numbers to the human population of 7.8 billion. The world’s wealthiest nations continue consuming these fish, even the ones whose populations are officially endangered.
Our appetite isn’t the only problem. Rivers which used to be home to salmon are now altered to the point of no return. Specifically, the Snake River Coho salmon are now considered extinct!
As if that’s not alarming enough, the Smithsonian Magazine reports:
“In the Pacific Northwest, 19 populations of wild salmon and steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. On the Skagit these include chinook and steelhead. These are, of course, extant runs. Salmon have already gone extinct in 40 percent of their historical range.”
Surprisingly, the debate amongst prominent salmon conservationists, fish farms and the fishing industry seems to entirely ignore the most obvious solution. I found not a single article or website willing to suggest that we should eat less salmon.
Even Mark K., after all his incredible research, thinks that “There are good reasons for fish farming.”
I don’t need to read any more of his book to heartily disagree. But he also writes, “The salmon has always been a barometer for the health of the planet.” On that, we wholeheartedly agree!
For humans, eating salmon is a luxury, not a necessity. We simply don’t need them – or any fish – to survive. We can live on plants. So let’s pursue a healthy planet for all Earthly creatures by promoting a plant-based diet.
Leave the salmon alone, and let them thrive again!