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Dr. Strangefish

August 24, 2017

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Farmed Atlantic Salmon.

Okay, “love” is too big of a word. I got a little carried away with the title of today’s post. Let me state for the record, once again, that I do not love farmed Atlantic salmon. Actually, I try to avoid it. And just to be sure I’m doing a good job at avoiding farmed Atlantic salmon, I will avoid all salmon unless I’m reassured of its provenance.

Yes, that usually means skipping the lox, or nova, at every bagel platter I encounter. It means skipping out on salmon sushi, salmon spreads, and salmon canapes.

My fish of choice are typically lower on the food chain. “Junk fish” are also high on my list. It’s been far too long since I’ve had the fried whiting and grits with eggs at The Breakfast Spot in Albany. I’ve also just pickled some red onions to go with tinned sardines on toast.

But today is about the recent news of a farmed Atlantic salmon escape in the pacific.

Some of the first reports suggested the number of fish that escaped was as large as 300,000. Now that number is estimated to be around 5,000. The big number is the population of fish that lived in the tide damaged pen. But apparently, despite the damage, most of the salmon didn’t escape.

Part of me thinks the estimate of farmed fish released into the wild is shockingly low. Especially when looking at a video of the destroyed pen. There will be a full accounting in the future, once all the fervor has blown over. So at some point we’ll know the truth. However, by that time, most people will have moved on.

This is managing a PR crisis 101.

There are some real concerns about non native fish being released into the wild. On the other hand, escapes happen all the time. And back in the late 1990s there were a lot of farmed Atlantic salmon escapes in the pacific. How many? How about 89,000 in 1998 alone.

And the wild salmon are still here.

Even though salmon eat smaller fish, the ones that have been raised on farms have no idea how to hunt. Farmed fish also have never needed to hone their defense mechanisms. I like the analogy which compares them to a cow that wanders out into the Serengeti. These creatures are ill equipped for life in the wild.

All the same, for those who work these waters fishing for native stocks, these escapees are a nuisance at best. I also don’t blame people for getting angry, since even though the risk of damage to the fishery is small, it’s still a risk.

Buried at the end of the Seattle Times story is the fact that these fish were “treated for yellow mouth, a bacterial infection, in July 2016” although “the fish that escaped are believed to be healthy and disease-free.” That doesn’t fill me with confidence. Especially when in the same story we hear from local fishermen who have caught some of the escaped salmon, “I wouldn’t call them healthy. They have weird little deformations on their faces.”


As an aside, when doing a little research into the company that wasn’t able to safely predict the rising tides that accompanied the lunar eclipse, I found this little gem. Their farmed Atlantic salmon was served at the presidential inauguration earlier this year.

So, steak well-done with ketchup, and farmed Atlantic salmon. Sounds about right.

One Comment leave one →
  1. RogerK permalink
    August 24, 2017 12:38 pm

    I thought you were going to end with an association of the fish being served at the inauguration and the subsequent actions/decisions coming from the current administration! ;>)

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