Local stores should sell locally caught salmon because it's clean and good for the city's economy, according to a resolution passed by the Juneau Assembly at its Monday meeting. The resolution is a reaction to the appearance last month of farmed Atlantic salmon in Alaskan & Proud's display case.
The resolution notes the state's 1990 ban on finfish farming, the worldwide growth in farmed salmon production, the industry's growing pollution problems, and the negative effect on the local economy as considerations local food merchants should consider.
"Local fishermen have to compete with this product all over the world," said assembly member Marc Wheeler. "And it's killing them."
Wheeler underscored the importance of the resolution Monday with data compiled from a number of sources:
The annual release of tens of thousands of mature Atlantic salmon into the already challenged Pacific Coast ecosystem amounts to biological pollution, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Commercial fishing brings in more than $14 million in gross sales in Juneau every year, according to Juneau Economic Development Council.
Every day, British Columbia's aquaculture industry dumps the same amount of raw sewage into the ocean as a city of half a million people, according to Canada's David Suzuki Foundation.
In January, Tim Wolfe, co-manager of A&P's meat department, said sales confirmed the growing acceptance of farm-raised Atlantic salmon, a product also carried locally at Costco and Fred Meyer.
But now he's not so sure: "I only bought 30 or 40 pounds of the stuff," he said. "It was only a test."
Wolfe said the original order was for Washington steelhead trout. "We didn't take it because it didn't look all that good, but we did take the offer of the (farmed salmon)," he said.
"There's nothing out there," Wolfe said. "No fisherman wants to waste a tankful of gas for a couple of fish. Right now (the fish) are 30 miles out; it's a terrible time of year."
A&P has been able to buy only three locally caught kings in the past two weeks, he said.
Wheeler said there were, in fact, fish available, and that a "friend in Hoonah" had gone fishing for three days and come back with 22 kings.
A&P has carried wild salmon for years and should continue, said Kathy Hansen, executive director of Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance, a commercial fishermen's group. Costco sold farmed salmon when it first opened, she said, but after local fishermen objected, Costco went with wild salmon and only took up with the farmed variety again recently.
Support for the resolution was not unanimous: Assembly members Ken Koelsch and Dale Anderson gave it a thumbs-down.
"This resolution goes against free enterprise," Anderson said. "For the assembly to get into the middle of somebody's freedom of choice, it's a problem."
Anderson asked rhetorically whether government would next order locals to buy Alaskan Brewing's pale ale, Alaska jam or Matanuska Maid milk.
"I object to our thinking that we could run somebody else's life," he said.
A&P's Wolfe didn't swear off farmed salmon, exactly, but did say today, "if Pacific stock is available, it'll be in here. But until then, it'll be steelhead."
Fernand Chandonnet can be reached at email@example.com.
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