News reports have widely circulated about the big declines of Pacific salmon stocks on the west coast, as well as for other fisheries around the world.  That has prompted savvy new marketing promotions by fish farmers telling consumers that they can help save wild fish by eating farmed.

There are some interesting perceptions in the consumer market on how decision making can apply to the production and management of our wild fisheries. That is very misconstrued and quite frankly, wrong.”

Michael Kohan is the Seafood Technical Director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

“Farmed production is something in a completely different arena. It has no basis in terms of a consumer’s decision making whether or not to choose a wild or a famed product at the supermarket.”

Earlier this year actor Leonardo DiCaprio invested in a company called LoveTheWild which is pushing oven-ready farmed fish dishes to U.S. supermarkets.

In a People Magazine splash, DiCaprio said “the exploitation of our oceans has left many marine ecosystems on the brink of total collapse” and that LoveTheWild is “empowering people to take action on the crisis in a meaningful way.”

Andy Wink, senior fisheries economist for the McDowell Group says the farmed saves wild push is misplaced.

“Their heart might be in the right place but I don’t think they are thinking it through. If you’re worried about that, just buy fish from a sustainable fishery. That is the best way to support responsible management. Then with your purchase you’re voting with your dollar to support those who are doing things right.”

Alaska’s science-based management is a model of sustainability for other fisheries around the world. Michael Kohan says ASMI brings as many people as possible to Alaska so they can see for themselves.

“It’s all about bringing people to the source so they can get a first hand view of what Alaska is able to provide.”

Kohan points out that the economic importance of supporting sustainable fisheries gets lost in the farmed fish message.

“Alaska’s fisheries support over 60,000 jobs that depend on the fisheries. So we have a huge community of people who rely on consumers eating wild fish and they make it their livelihood  to put wild fish on the market for people to purchase. You support wild fish by eating wild fish.”

The fact that farmers routinely douse their fish packed in crowded pens with additives and antibiotics is left unsaid.

Meanwhile, an investment fund called Aqua-Spark is backing LoveTheWild with $2.5 million to ramp up social media use and packaging to tempt consumers to buy farmed fish at more than 6,000 supermarkets over five years.

 

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