Ethical Eating

Copper River Salmon Picks Up Brilliant Marketing Campaign, But Does That Make It Better?

Seasons 52 has announced that beginning May 29, the restaurants will be offering wild Copper River salmon from Alaska. Due to its short season of availability, the fish will be offered for seven weeks. It will be served grilled over summer corn risotto with roasted asparagus, grilled red peppers, and dill mustard sauce.

What exactly is the big deal with Copper River salmon, you may ask? Is there actually a difference between Copper River salmon and salmon from other parts of Alaska? The answer to those questions might be difficult to determine, but one thing is certain: Copper River salmon has a brilliant marketing team. This marketing has led to salmon from Copper River fetching nearly twice as much as comparable salmon from 

other parts of Alaska. In many ways, that has made all the difference.

Evolution has played a part in the flavor and consistency of the salmon

as well, which has greatly contributed to the fishermen's marketing

strategy. The Copper River is the tenth largest river in the United

States. That said, it is also one of the more arduous for salmon,

running at around seven miles per hour. According to the Copper River Salmon website,

"It is up this intense river system that the salmon must travel 300

miles to reach their spawning grounds, which requires extra stores of

omega-3 fatty acids that make Copper River salmon some of the most

prized salmon in the world." These environmental factors have led the fishermen to view the salmon in a different light compared to other

commercially caught fish.

Since the fishermen of Copper River deem their fish superior to others,

they have adopted better handling practices than the industry norm. In

2010, Barry Estabrook did a piece for the Atlantic detailing

the fishing practices of the Copper River. He was astonished by what he

saw. "I'd been on salmon gillnetters before, so I had a few

preconceptions of what might happen next -- fish violently shaken from

the net onto the deck, getting kicked around and stepped on before being

tossed like so many chunks of stove wood into a plastic container,

piling on top of each other by the hundreds and with no ice to keep them

cold." Apparently, this was not the case on the boat he visited. In

this case, the female fisherman extracted each fish individually,

quickly severed the gills to ensure a clean, quick bleed, and then

placed each fish in ice water. As soon as the boats came into port, the

catch was processed, then flown fresh down to Seattle.

Whether the high prices fetched or the belief in superiority led the

fishermen to treat their fish with such respect may be up for debate.

Regardless, Copper River fishermen maintain their catch's integrity

through humane killing and sustainable catching practices. That should

be something to respect. With all of the reports of overfishing, it's

nice to know that there is at least one option that can be consumed

without a guilty conscience. Besides, it would be nice to know if there

actually is much of a difference in taste.

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Sara Ventiera