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Restore wild salmon, Eat wild salmon!

What is behind Greenpeace’s “Oh-no-Costco” campaign and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program’s recent decision to avoid California and Oregon caught salmon.  Read our blog on buying salmon to learn more….


Go Wild! Vote with your fork!  I recently bought several pounds of Alaskan wild salmon at Costco for about $7.00 a pound, the same price or cheaper than farmed salmon in other local supermarkets.  What a deal, I was giddy at the thought of the cheap and compassionate salmon purchase. We cooked it, we smoked it, we shared it, and we ate it for weeks. I felt good about the purchase because I advocate eating wild salmon, as opposed to the farmed salmon we typically see in supermarkets, and I always carry a pocket seafood shopping guide to ensure my fish purchases are sustainable and sound. Some recent events, however, have caused me to re-evaluate and double my efforts to be a conscientious salmon consumer.


Most consumers don’t know the difference between wild or farmed salmon and the environmental impacts that come with a salmon purchase.  California’s ‘water crisis’ has sparked a renewed public interest in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, its Central Valley tributaries, and the use (or over-use) of our water resources.  This crisis is leading the West Coast salmon fishery to the brink of collapse.  The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the North American coastline, seems to be heading towards a similar fate as those estuaries worldwide which have lost their native salmon runs. Without urgent action by all Californians our salmon runs could go extinct.


Farmed salmon are becoming a problem worldwide, and are causing human health problems, pollution of our oceans, and the decline of wild fisheries where these salmon are farmed.  Aside from having twice the fat content, the farmed fish contain PCB’s and other toxins that bioaccumulate during their lifecycle and pass on toxic levels of these pollutants to humans.  The practice of raising salmon in captivity has spread to pristine shorelines across the globe and these farms threaten local waters with viral infections, parasitic sea lice, pollution from antibiotics, dyes and unnatural foods, genetic damage to native fish from escaped stock, and algae blooms which are toxic to native fish.  One salmon farm can ‘contaminate’ many watersheds by spreading disease and upsetting the food-web during migrations.  Even labels such as ‘organic,’ ‘sustainable,’ or ‘ecologic’ do not ensure safe salmon farming practices. 


Alaskan salmon species are recommended for purchase (including Chinook, chum, coho, pink and sockeye salmon) as they are currently being harvested sustainably and face less environmental hardships and pollution.  California and Oregon salmon runs, however, have recently been targeted as fish to avoid by several watchdog groups due to the extremely low population numbers and their threatened or endangered species status. The amount of returning salmon in the Sacramento River was 40,000 in 2009, down from 2002 which logged 800,000 returning salmon. 


Wild salmon need clean water supplies, access to spawning grounds and rearing areas, and abundant food supplies. These needs are similar to those of all other aquatic species and also for humans if we are to sustain the water supplies and fisheries that nurture us.  Wild salmon fisheries create jobs and can be successfully managed as a self-sustaining, renewable natural resource.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s widely popular Seafood Watch Pocket Guide scientifically guides consumers on which fish are the best, ocean-friendly seafood choices. The Aquarium in July recommended avoiding California and Oregon-caught salmon. The decision met fierce opposition by salmon fishermen who felt the ‘avoid’ listing placed an undue burden on fishermen who were trying to make the most of a short season after two years of closed commercial seasons. The timing of the release was said to have caused the price of these fish to plummet during an already short 8-day fishing season.  Catches this year indicate nothing is changing for the better and returns may again be low.


Still glowing from my Costco salmon purchase, I was challenged to reassess my purchases the other day as I received an email announcing the “Oh-No-Costco” campaign, alleging that Costco sells 15 of the 22 fish listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.  When I sign the petition to boycott Costco I will unfortunately lose my link to the best Alaskan steaks in town. These everyday decisions are difficult, but essential to the effort to restore salmon.  As consumers we must place a high value on wild salmon or we may lose this priceless natural resource. In hopes of one day seeing a rebounded California salmon run, please support local stores and restaurants that use ocean-friendly purchasing practices, and do your best not to feed into the problem. Your dollar is your vote when it comes to purchasing. Go wild!


Chris Acree, Executive Director

Revive the San Joaquin


Join the “Oh-no-Costco” boycott here:


Check the Environmental Defense Fund’s online resources, get a copy of the seafood and sushi buyers guides:


Read more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s recent listings to their Seafood Watch:


Watch a video on the dangers of farmed salmon here:


Keep a copy of a seafood buyer’s guide in your wallet or purse and only buy ocean-friendly seafood:



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