ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Prince William Sound fishermen and processors have begun placing tags on individual fish to assure domestic and Japanese buyers they're getting genuine Copper River king, sockeye and coho salmon.
Fishermen reacted after reports of what they call "impostor fish" in the marketplace.
Cordova District Fishermen United, a trade organization, launched the program using a $40,000 grant from the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.
Alaska salmon industry players say tagging and other marketing efforts are vital for competing with foreign fish farmers, whose prolific output has depressed prices for the state's strictly wild salmon catches in recent years.
All major fish processors in Cordova agreed to participate in the tagging.
The money was used to make a "tag of authenticity" and to equip packers with applicator guns.
The plastic tags are slightly larger than a postage stamp and have a tiny barbed post for anchoring the tag in the fish.
CDFU marketing coordinator Rochelle van den Broek designed the tag logo, a golden fish riding atop gentle green waves. She had promotional posters and rack cards printed up for display in markets and shops.
Copper River kings and reds have a strong first-of-the-season following, but fishermen and processors in Cordova wanted to do more to protect the Copper River brand.
They reacted to a story April 10 in The New York Times that said salmon sold as "wild" in six of eight New York City stores tested as farm-raised. The Copper River producers are concerned about possible widespread fish fraud that cheats fishermen, processors and customers.
The new tags say "Genuine Wild Alaskan Copper River Salmon" on one side, with the same thing printed in Japanese on the other. There's also a code indicating which processor handled the fish, and a Web site where consumers can submit confidential comments on the quality of their salmon purchase.
Originally, the goal was to tag every king, sockeye and late-season coho coming out of the fishery but program organizers found that was not practical.