Good advice on salmon

Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2001

On a broader scale, it is the equivalent of a 'Buy American' campaign of the types that ripple through society, commerce and culture when news about the closing of some plant reminds us that American jobs are being lost to overseas production of automobiles, sports shoes, shirts and electronics.

It is important that the specific details of the city assembly's wild salmon resolution not become distorted amid the name-calling that has followed.

Specifically, the assembly voted in support of urging local merchants and consumers to avoid farmed salmon products in favor of wild Alaskan salmon products.

That's all.

A majority of the assembly members supported the resolution.

The resolution has no more force of law than does a Chamber of Commerce resolution. It does not forbid nor hinder free commerce. It encourages a form of local commerce.

It is the equivalent of a "Shop Local" campaign of the type practically every merchant and assembly member has subscribed to at one time or another.

On a broader scale, it is the equivalent of a "Buy American" campaign of the types that ripple through society, commerce and culture when news about the closing of some plant reminds us that American jobs are being lost to overseas production of automobiles, sports shoes, shirts and electronics, to name a few examples.

The "whereas" preface to the "therefore be it resolved" conclusion spelled out several considerations. We've heard many of them, but some bear repeating:

The Alaska Legislature banned finfish farming, including salmon, in 1990.

The ocean net pens used in finfish farming in British Columbia and Washington state create concerns about disease, pollution and the escape of farmed fish - with their diseases - into the wild.

Pacific salmon, by comparison, are wild and healthier, posing few if any disease or environmental problems.

Alaska fishermen contribute to the local and state economy by catching and selling wild salmon.

"Our community prospers most when we respect and support all local businesses, including fishermen and merchants."

Does that last point sound like the product of socialists - downtown or otherwise? To some people, the answer was yes. To us, it sounded like a reminder to consider the local consequences of buying a foreign (or at least out-of-state) product to save a buck or two.

The analogies are endless. Here's one: It's easy to buy a book by going to the Amazon.com site on the Internet. If local bookstores provide the same product, personal service and a competitive if somewhat higher price, we all have a choice. If we all buy off the Net, local bookstores will become memories and our choices will be diminished.

Those points made, every merchant is free to stock and sell whatever the market makes available and whatever the public will purchase, just as consumers are free to choose between farmed foreign and out-of-state Atlantic salmon and locally caught wild Pacific salmon. If there is a price difference between farmed salmon and wild salmon, consumers will decide whether to spend a little less or a little more.

Supporters and critics of the resolution probably are not as far apart as they seem. It is unfortunate if critics believe the assembly tried to eliminate choice.

On the contrary, the majority encouraged those of us in Juneau to make an informed choice. Good advice.



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