Jeremy Brown is a commercial fisherman in Bellingham, Washington.


Are you concerned about the Atlantic salmon you are catching?

We’re very concerned; Atlantics have been caught as far away as Dutch Harbor, which is about 1200 miles from the nearest fish farm. We’re getting a lot of them on hook and line gear which means that they’re feeding aggressively, competing for feed.

What are the implications of that? Why should that matter?

It matters because it means they are surviving. It means they can survive in an alien environment and can compete against the native species.

Why is it a concern that a few Atlantics are in an entire ocean full of Pacifics?

Some runs are on the ropes, but then some aren’t. Some of our salmon runs especially in Alaska are in extremely good shape and that’s because we have good fisheries management, good controls in our fishery, and don’t want to risk that with a biological experiment. Look at what happened with starlings.

Consumers are afraid of buying wild salmon thinking they are endangered. Is this valid?

The salmon that you see in the stores, the wild salmon are not endangered. Now, in Alaska we have very healthy salmon runs that have been very conservatively managed. We just don’t go fishing except when there are abundant runs of salmon around.

Have you personally caught Atlantics?

I haven’t personally caught an Atlantic, no.

Are fishermen catching Atlantics?

Yes, Atlantic salmon are showing up especially in the Alaska fishery quite frequently. Most times what you hear is heresy, but we’ve got enough samples back to the labs to be absolutely confidant that they are Atlantics.

What kind of concerns do you have about salmon aquaculture and the way it is operating?

The concerns we have about salmon aquaculture are many. I am very concerned about the effects in the environment of these fish: the parasites and diseases they can harbor. I’m concerned about what’s happening in the market place that consumers are not getting good information about the food that’s available to them.

Since fishing is your livelihood, are you concerned about wild salmon staying abundant in their stocks?

We are very concerned about the long-term future of the salmon in the Pacific. We want to restore the runs that are in trouble and we don’t want to jeopardize the health of these fish by experimenting with importing alien species from somewhere else.

How does this directly affect your livelihood as a fisherman?

We’re very concerned about the health of the ocean, the ocean is where we make our living and if the rest of the world treats the ocean as a toxic dump, then of course that’s going to hurt us badly. It’s going to hurt the rest of the world eventually, when that food comes back to them.

Do you have other concerns about the threats posed by salmon farms?

One concern I have about farmed salmon is as we do restore salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest, it’s very important for people to realize that those salmon depend on clean rivers and healthy forests. Farmed salmon don’t need clean rivers, they don’t need healthy forests. So when consumers see lots of salmon in the store, they’re misled into thinking that the environment is healthy. That may not be true if we rely on farmed fish.

Heltsik fishermen think there are more jobs at stake in the wild Alaskan fisheries than there ever was or will be. What do you think?

One of the advantages the fish farmers have is essentially industrialization, and the process of making fish. That means making more fish with fewer employees. Wild fish, captured fisheries are less efficient, they employ a lot of people; they tend to be in far-flung communities. Now, how do you get fish to market for less money? You do it by employing fewer people. So salmon farming destroys jobs. It destroys more jobs than it creates.

How important is salmon to coastal communities in Washington?

Salmon are vital to our coastal communities, there are very few other employment opportunities if you live out on the coast and salmon farming threatens that. It undermines the integrity of our rural communities who have so few options.

How have the large amounts of salmon on the market, at wholesale costs, devastated commercial fisherman?

The amount of salmon on the market has been hugely devastating in the fishing community. In Alaska over the last 8 years there’s been a 38% loss in rural employment. That’s a huge portion of the largest public employer in Alaska losing jobs.

Why is it important to hold together commercial fisheries? People think you have caught all the fish.

Not only have we not caught all of the fish, but there’s every reason in the world why we shouldn’t. We should have fish forever. The fishermen are the best stewards of that. Just as your family farmer’s the best steward of our countryside.