Apparently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working to legalize fish farming in federally controlled waters, beyond the three-mile state jurisdiction. This, obviously, is not going to bode well with Alaska fishermen. Most fishermen here hold nothing but contempt for the fish-farming industry. In fact, you can't go more than a couple miles in any coastal Alaska town without seeing a "Friends don't let friends eat farmed fish!" bumper sticker.
While I empathize with those who earn their livelihood as commercial fishermen, I think that we all need to realize that fish farming is here to stay. To put it in the proper perspective, I doubt there is anyone who would stick a bumper sticker on their car that reads, "Friends don't let friends eat farmed beef."
There is a reason that people began cultivating food sources. It reduces overhead, provides greater return, and ensures quality. Now I know there are many (most of the opponents of fish farming, in fact) who will say that farmed fish is of a lower quality than wild-caught fish. This may be true. What we need to realize, however, is that quality can be controlled and therefore improved. Arguing against an industry simply because of a low-quality product is an empty argument.
Alaska is already far behind the rest of the world in fish-farming technologies, but rather than learn from the mistakes of others, we have, up to this point, stuck our heads in the sand while fighting tooth and nail to keep fish farming out of the state. Meanwhile, the countries that do farm fish are constantly perfecting their methods of production to meet the demands of the consumer. How long will it be before they are able to provide a product that meets or exceeds the quality of wild-caught fish? Ten Years? Five years? Less?
Fish farming, whether you love it or abhor it, is the future of the fishing industry. Those who claim otherwise are merely deluding themselves. We would be better served to get involved in the industry so that we can address the issues of quality control, pen design, and waste management. By doing so, we will be able provide the world with a quality Alaskan product and provide sustainable employment to many good Alaskans.
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