I recently listened to a Ted Talk from a famous chef regarding a very interesting sustainable fish farm in southern Spain. Unfortunately, the chef doing the talk stepped out of the kitchen and spouted a bunch of dire and untrue statistics on the state of wild fish stocks. He seemed to think fish farming represents the hope for the future for responsible fish consumption. He clearly overlooked the great state of Alaska where the facts suggest that sustainable management of wild harvest trumps farming – by a long shot. A few examples:
- Salmon harvests were down to 25 million fish per year in 1959 when statehood was granted. The harvest was 270 million salmon in 2013 – a tenfold increase in sustainable harvest due to proper management. Salmon farms are prohibited in Alaska.
- It’s estimated that 7 to 8 billion pounds of halibut have been harvested in the North Pacific since the late 1880’s. While halibut have fallen off the peak attained in the 1990’s, the resource is still producing sustainable harvest of nearly 40 million pounds coastwide and the biomass is slowly rising again.
- Pollock stocks, currently harvested at a rate of 3 billion pounds per year, have nearly doubled in the past decade to an estimated 20 billion pounds.
These are just a few examples of what well managed fisheries paired with good habitat can sustainably produce. That’s the hope of the future worldwide and it’s how things are right now in Alaska. Perhaps a chef’s place is in the kitchen.