Who’s truly benefiting from salmon “conservation”? (June 2008)

DEAD OR ALIVE: Who’s truly benefiting from salmon “conservation”? Fishermen, anglers or … salmon?

Editorial by Bertrand Charron, SeafoodIntelligence.com Editor, posted on 18/06/2008

Last Tuesday night (June 17th) on Washington DC’s Capitol Hill, staffers and members of the US Congress were invited to spend the evening dining on the wild salmon cause- “one of [the US] nation’s economically valuable and delicious natural resources.”

The happy hour, which features a salmon feast complete with Northwest wines and microbrewed beers, is meant to drum up support for protecting these tasty hydro-critters. But in a sad twist of irony, the basis for protecting these salmon is ultimately the cause of its demise. And what better way to celebrate that irony than to provide free salmon treats for all,” notes sarcastically (but rightly…) the ‘Oh My Gov’ blog.

Playing the devil’s advocate…

Surely, in absolute, those truly in favour of a species’ survival shouldn’t aim to exploit it, kill salmon – be it for pleasure or subsistence. Humans are too often seing the conservation of a species through their own economic-interest glasses.

Okay, C’est la vie, long live anthropocentrism…!

Now of course, without the interest generated via angling, tourism and the great taste of salmon, there would be no funds available to conserve the species… But perhaps the levels of its stocks and its survival wouldn’t be threatened either.

Having said that: Only once we’ve first admitted to ourselves why we want to conserve a particular species, can we move on to the next step which is how?

I don’t think there is anything wrong per se with angling (I am myself a kin disciple of Isaac Newton), commercial fishing and fish farming, provided it is done in a fashion ecologically sustainable and respectful of multi-stakeholders’ interests.

And that’s when the politics, the lobbying and the media spin kick in: Every body wants the largest share of the cake. Same story again: C’est la vie!

But lets at least admit what those interests really are and be honest about them, this would avoid the weird headlines “best way to conserve salmon is to eat it” and save a lot of time for all… It would also focus the debate on sustainable harvest, resource allocation and true conservation; rather than mis-information to serve enviro-economico-political agendas which ultimately benefits no one and wastes precious time.

Time is never on the side of endangered species and, when agendas are hidden, allies of today can be tomorrow’s ennemies…

Thus the agenda is not always that of salmon conservation more than it is of salmon fishers’ conservation. Never mind the fact that this would stop confusing* consumers worldwide about the truly health-beneficial and life-saving properties of wild, ranched & farmed salmon consumption. And nowhere else than in the US of A are environmental and political agendas so intertwined, thanks to industrious “lobbying” (always for a good cause, you will be told) on Capitol Hill.

* Yes/No all/some salmon fishing/angling/farming is always/never good/bad for salmon conservation/species/stocks/health in some cases – Please cross as appropriate.

In this, it is interesting to note – among many others, still – the good work carried out by Orri Vigfusson’s North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) which acknowledges its own agenda (there can only be good salmon sportsfishing if there are salmon in the rivers) and recognises that wild salmon represent(ed) the livelihood (among others) also of many Icelandic, Norwegian, Faroes, British commercial fishermen and their local communities.

Yes, its obvious… but many haven’t yet crossed that Rubicon.

The NASF thus devised an economic compensation and buy-out system which worked to improve all concerned’s interest(s): salmon (Salmo salar), anglers and fishermen.

No, it may not be perfect (there is more than just money involved for fishers of all beliefs and occupations) but at least it is transparent and achieves more than a lot of expensive ‘environmental campaigning’.

Generally speaking, there is still a long way before all cards are laid on the table when it comes to the all-mighty wild/farmed, ranched Atlantic/Pacific salmon. But things keep moving forward.

However, it is to Salmon’s credit that it arouses such political envy & fuss. “The fish knows it all”… the Salmon of Knowledge… Lets hope it stays that way, and not only in old books.

Yesterday’s social and lobbying event was sponsored by Save our Wild Salmon, American Rivers, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Trout Unlimited, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association.

Read also: Media & Lobbying : Chefs, fishermen, fish-buyers & conservationists unite to urge Congress to ‘do more’ on wild salmon (09.05.2007).


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