If you enjoy eating salmon but worry about the dwindling fish populations, take heart: individuals and organizations are working to protect this precious resource and offer regulated sustainable sources of the fish for consumers.
There are a number of ways you can support healthy watersheds and help protect salmon stocks. One way is simply to purchase wild-caught salmon from West Coast fisheries and avoid farmed salmon.
“The good news about West Coast salmon is that these populations are well managed,” says Joseph Bogaard, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon. “If a population drops, it becomes protected, and this review is an annual process.” Purchasing wild salmon provides jobs to the fishermen who harvest this resource, which in turn supports local constituencies who raise their voices in support of policies that help salmon populations recover.
It’s generally best to steer clear of farmed salmon because most farmed salmon is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s "Avoid" list due to concerns such as the use of antibiotics important to human health and the potential for parasite and disease transfer to wild salmon populations. There are some sustainable salmon farms, but make sure Marine Stewardship Council has certified them as sustainable.
It’s also important to understand and appreciate that salmon are more than just a meal, according to Bogaard. “Salmon are connectors,” he says. “They connect ocean and river, desert and mountain, tribes and non-tribes. They connect environment, culture, communities, people, justice. They demonstrate the connection between economy and ecology, and ultimately I think the salmon are a guide for us, to demonstrate how we’re managing ourselves.”
Bogaard says that people can also help in more direct ways—by writing to their congressional representatives and supporting Save Our Wild Salmon and other groups that work on behalf of the environment. Because so many diverse groups are working to protect this resource, the effort to support a healthy watershed brings everyone together.
By taking the time to identify the source of your salmon, you can ensure that you are supporting sustainable salmon fishing. By doing so, not only will you be helping to protect the salmon population, you will be benefiting small salmon fisheries and getting the best quality salmon for your table.
Learn more about saving our salmon.