A Bristol Bay resident on vacation in the Lower 48 last week was surprised to pick up a package of Ocean Beauty Seafoods Cajun smoked salmon and find on the back the words “Farm Raised, Product of Chile.”
Ocean Beauty Seafoods -- a major player in the U.S. seafood market -- is half owned by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit community development corporation that provides jobs, training and educational opportunities to eligible residents of Bristol Bay. The corporation -- founded in 1992 as the Community Development Quota holder -- is also charged with providing economic development tools and resources for communities in the region -- particularly in relation to fisheries.
So a company half-owned by Bristol Bay fishermen selling farmed salmon products was a surprise to some, especially fishermen who remember the price dive Alaska salmon took in the ’90s as farmed fish began flooding the market.
But some fishermen, as well the head of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. and the vice president of marketing at Ocean Beauty Seafoods, say farmed fish is for the most part good for Alaska salmon.
“Producing smoked salmon from farmed fish is what allowed us to build our wild salmon business,” said Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing with Ocean Beauty Seafoods.
Wild salmon accounts for less than one-third of U.S. fresh and frozen salmon consumption, while farmed Atlantic salmon production has grown dramatically in recent years, according to a report released this spring titled “Trends in Alaska and World Salmon Markets” by Gunnar Knapp with the Institute of Social and Economic Research with the University of Alaska Anchorage.