Label all seafood with point of origin

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sustainable salmon fisheries provide critical jobs and food for Americans throughout the Pacific. There is no substitute for healthy wild Pacific salmon - whether fresh, frozen, smoked, canned, or pouched.

As such, we are very concerned about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's arbitrary decision to exclude processed cooked seafood like canned, pouched and smoked salmon from labeling requirements. We doubt Congress intended federal regulators to exclude the majority of salmon products from labeling; yet that is exactly what is happening.

Labeling fish for origin and farmed/wild allows consumers to make informed choices about their seafood selections. There are many well-documented problems with salmon farms and risks associated with farmed fish. For example, salmon farms are a source of pollution and allow for foreign invasive Atlantic salmon to escape into Pacific waters posing disease risks, competition for wild stocks and serious genetic questions with long term consequences. Sustainable wild salmon are keystones of the Pacific ecosystem. Farmed salmon pose tremendous risks to Pacific salmon stocks.

The pellet-fed farmed fish are injected with dye to turn their gray flesh orange, and in some cases contain unsafe levels of contaminants such as PCBs. It is irresponsible to allow these salmon to be sold without adequate labeling simply because they are processed. The same fish sold fresh or frozen would be rightfully labeled "Farmed," and American consumers have a right to know what they are buying. This is one of the primary purposes of the law.

The federal government should support Alaska and other American fishermen as well as the commitment to sustainable oceans by requiring country-of-origin and wild/farmed labeling on all fish products, whether processed or not. This comprehensive labeling supports the long-term viability of our critically important salmon fisheries. If we are to have sustainable oceans, we must provide opportunities for consumers to make good choices for themselves and our ocean environment; and we must support fisheries with a proven track record of healthy, viable stocks. Country-of-origin labeling regulations should strongly reflect the value of sustainable fisheries and oceans, and require the labeling of all fish products. It would be irresponsible to proceed with the gaping hole of exemptions for canned, smoked and pouched salmon, and it likely violates the federal administration's duty to the Congress and ultimately the American people.

Jim Ayers, Oceana

Juneau



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