Salmon Run View From Above. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Seafood
Nature, by nature, produces excess. Cut open a tomato and see how many seeds there are. Somewhere between none of these seeds and all these seeds will become a future tomato, depending on the level of desire, care and knowledge of the gardener. Beekeepers know that bees store vast excess quantities of honey to feed themselves through winter. Knowledgeable beekeepers take enough honey to satisfy their honey needs for a year but leave enough honey in the hive for the bees to sustain themselves through winter. Thereby the bees can get a good head start in spring on another season of gathering pollen and nectar, so that they can continue to produce honey for the beekeeper for the following winter.
Seafood and, most emblematically, wild salmon work in a similar way. If managed correctly, wild salmon runs produce excess and can feed us into perpetuity. Nature produces excess so that we can harvest salmon each and every season for as long as we like. That is, once again, if managed correctly by human beings, and there are plenty of examples around the world where wild salmon populations haven’t been managed well.
But the state of Alaska has written into its constitution to harvest by the sustainable yield principle, which establishes the baseline for the excess to be harvested. As a result, Wild Alaskan Salmon populations have consistently been abundant. All told, Alaska supplies more than half of the wild-caught seafood in the United States. And Alaska will always be home to the greatest salmon runs in the world, providing around 95 percent of North America’s wild salmon. All finfish from Alaska are sustainably harvested and wild by law. There is no finfish farming in Alaska, so you can count on all species from Alaska being wild caught, natural, and sustainable.
Chefs and consumers alike struggle to know what is and isn’t sustainable when it comes to seafood. There are various certifications, watch lists, and environmental group lists. It’s hard to know who to trust. In Alaska, we continue to focus on just how long our fisheries have been sustainable. Globally, Alaska is viewed as the gold standard in responsible fisheries management. As a result of the state’s commitment to sustainability, and rigorous fisheries management, no Alaska seafood species has ever been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
In addition to being a sustainable protein that renews itself every year, Alaska salmon is packed with omega-3s, vitamin D, iron, zinc, astaxanthins, and selenium, a remarkably nutrient-dense protein. Alaska salmon is real food made by and for real people. One of the least understood aspects of the Alaska fishermen with whom we work is their deep appreciation of the environment within which they work and their extraordinary commitment to keeping their livelihoods sustainable and the habitats within which they work wild and pristine.