It's a big victory for sustainable harvesting: After decades of careful oversight, Alaskan salmon numbers are on the rise. In fact, biologists have predicted that this season will see the biggest populations ever recorded. Here's how the salmon have succeeded, and why you should make wild-caught Alaska salmon a part of your diet this spring.
Few people know that Alaska is well ahead of the curve in terms of sustainable harvesting. But it's right there in the state constitution, which specifies that "fish… be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained healthy yield principle." Since Alaska joined the U.S. in 1959, the state has limited catches and funded hatcheries to help restore one of its greatest resources, which in the first half of the 20th century was dangerously overfished. In 1990, Alaska banned fish farming, and in 2000 the state salmon fishery was certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. The result: In 2010, Alaska fishermen set a record, bringing in 70 million fish at about $1 per fish.
Salmon runs up and down the Pacific Coast are expected to be bigger in 2012 than they've been in several years, probably due to catch limits and other steps taken to help save the seriously overharvested fish. It's a clear indication that sustainable management practices are working, and a great sign for tuna, sea bass, roughy, shrimp, snapper and other threatened populations. With time and good fortune, hopefully those populations will return just as triumphantly. In the meantime, stick with sustainable seafood to help stop overfishing.
You already know salmon is delicious and amazingly good for you. The 2012 season is just beginning, so look for wild-caught Alaska salmon wherever you can, and enjoy the well-earned harvest.
image: Arthur Fellig