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Study: Salmon farming is here to stay
The Providence Journal


March 09, 2007
Friday AM

Americans are consuming more than four times more salmon than they were just two decades ago, according to a major study by professors in Rhode Island and Alaska. And most of that salmon was raised on foreign farms.




The changes in American eating habits reflect a changing global market for salmon. Farmed salmon grew from 2 percent of world supplies in 1980 to 65 percent in 2004, the study found. During a similar period, the value of wild salmon caught in North America declined from $800 million to $300 million.

The report analyzes the feuding between supporters of farm-raised salmon and wild salmon and concludes it's time to move away from trying to choose between one or the other.

"Salmon farming is a major world industry, which is here to stay," the authors conclude. They say wild salmon is incapable of supplying the much larger domestic and world salmon market that has been created by farmed salmon.

The report, titled "The Great Salmon Run: Competition Between Wild and Farmed Salmon," was authored by Cathy A. Roheim and James Anderson, economists at the University of Rhode Island's department of environmental and natural-resource economics; and Gunnar Knapp, a professor of economics at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

The report was sponsored by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network created by the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union. Roheim says the sponsors had no say in the study's conclusions and the final report was peer reviewed by other scientists.

Anderson, chair of the resource-economics department, and Roheim, said in interviews that they have been studying salmon for decades, so they weren't surprised when the people from the monitoring network approached them about four years ago and suggested the study.

Depending on where they are from, many people have strong feelings about salmon. They are concerned about a study that found high levels of pollutants in some farm-raised salmon. They believe salmon farming creates pollution. Many on the West Coast believe the declining prices for wild salmon are due to the low prices for farmed salmon. Some Americans want more done to keep out foreign salmon.

The authors said they found no simple answers. "Nothing is simply about salmon, salmon fisheries or salmon markets."

"Basically, we just try to present the facts," said Roheim. "We don't have a horse in this race."

In 20 chapters, the study looks at wild salmon, hatcheries, the world salmon farming industry, world salmon markets, U.S. consumption, U.S. salmon consumers, trade issues, seafood labeling programs and the future of wild and farmed salmon.

The authors have designed the report to inform policymakers, the environmental community and fish and fish-farming industries. And they hope it will become an authoritative source for educators.

"There is so much people don't know about salmon, and the relationship between farmed and wild salmon," Roheim said. "And depending on what part of the country you're from, you'll have a different attitude."

"Farmed salmon isn't bad or good. Wild salmon isn't bad or good. Neither are lily white. It's complicated," said Anderson. "Both have issues. And both can contribute to the sustainability of the food supply. It's an extremely global market."

The full report can be viewed at


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