Group Urges Ships to Buy Wild Salmonby Christine Schmid
Juneau Empire, May 13, 2004
Bob Johnson of Denver took one bite of wild Alaska salmon served Wednesday at Marine Park and quickly offered his first impression to his wife, Joyce.
"Honey, when you get on the boat, say, 'If this isn't wild salmon, stuff from the ocean here, don't bring it to me,' " he said. "If it's from some farm, tell them to keep it at the farm."
Johnson's may have been the ideal reaction for the organizers of the salmon tasting. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council held the barbecue to celebrate one of Southeast Alaska's core industries and to convince cruise lines to serve wild Alaska salmon on their ships.
Serving wild Alaska salmon on cruise ships will provide a valuable market to Southeast Alaska fishermen, said Russell Heath, executive director of SEACC.
Maintaining the health of both the salmon and the tourism industries is a natural way to protect the environment in Southeast Alaska, Heath said.
"We're working with sectors of Southeast's economy that depend on the environment - clean water, clean air and a magnificent forest for their livelihoods," Heath said.
The Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka provided three fish, nearly 50 pounds, for the barbecue. Local fishermen cooked the fish, while SEACC employees handed samples to tourists and locals.
Dick HofMann, who has fished commercially for 25 years, said the price his fish fetched from processors last year was the lowest he's seen in his career.
The fishing industry and the cruise lines would benefit from serving wild Alaska salmon on cruise ships, HofMann said.
"We'll have a better market, plus they'll have an opportunity to provide their customers with the true Alaska," HofMann said.
More than 1,000 people, including Gov. Murkowski, several legislators, commercial fishermen and representatives of industry organizations signed a letter to the cruise lines urging them to serve wild salmon.
Many of the smaller cruise lines have included wild salmon on their menus, said Emily Ferry, a SEACC employee who helped organized the event.
Princess Cruise Lines and Holland America purchased $2 million each in Alaska salmon last year, Ferry said.
Royal Caribbean Cruises serves Alaska and farmed salmon on its cruises, said Don Habeger, director of industry relations for the company. He was unable to say how much Royal Caribbean spends on Alaska salmon.
Royal Caribbean has to keep several issues in mind when choosing whether to buy Alaska salmon, Habeger said.
"Some of the broad and general things that they look at is quality and quantity, and whether they can get it in the right season," Habeger said. "We serve seafood all year round. And price is a consideration as well."
Whether or not Royal Caribbean will increase its Alaska salmon purchases this year remains to be seen, Habeger said.
Mark Vinsel, executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, distributed the video "Fishing for the Future" at the salmon feed. The UFA has actively pursued cruise ships as a potential market for Alaska salmon for a number of reasons, he said.
"First and foremost we want to drive the market," he said.
A second and equally important result of serving Alaska salmon on cruise ships is that passengers learn the difference between wild Alaska salmon and farmed salmon, and possibly will seek out wild salmon after their vacation, Vinsel said.
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