So, why all the fuss about fish farming – especially salmon farming? Who’s funding this and why? Is controversy over salmon farming being deliberately manufactured as part of a marketing strategy courtesy of a few wealthy US Foundations determined to discredit farm-raised salmon? Is there no better way to market Alaska salmon than to attack the competition?
U.S. based foundations such as the The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts have a combined asset total of over 21 billion dollars. These foundations have granted significant funding to British Columbia based environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) with a clear directive - to "demarket" farm-raised salmon.
How much and what for?
In 2004, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation granted the American based ENGO called SeaWeb $560,000 for "identification of antifarming audience and issues, integration of aquaculture science messages into antifarming campaign, standardization of antifarming messaging tool-kit, creation of an earned media campaign and co-ordination of media for antifarming ENGOs."
Beginning in 2000, The Packard Foundation has granted over $75 million specifically for projects that influence seafood retailers and consumers to avoid farmed salmon products. The Seafood Watch program is the most visible of these projects - a consumer pocket card of "good" and "bad" seafood choices which 'red' lists farmed salmon from all regions and 'green' lists Alaska salmon. Although referred to as "reforming" aquaculture, it is clearly "demarketing".
The Packard Foundation has also granted the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform over $1.5 million for a "Farmed and Dangerous" campaign. That campaigns directive couldn't be any clearer, given the title.
According to Vivian Krause, who has done extensive research into this subject, large foundations have gifted at least $126 million to ENGOs to create negative publicity for farmed salmon.
If people aren't buying farm-raised salmon, they are buying wild salmon and over 90% of wild salmon purchased in the U.S. is from Alaska. Since 2002, the ex-vessel value of Alaskan salmon has tripled.
Over 40% of Alaska salmon was originally born in a hatchery and raised for a part of its life in a net pen. By definition this is aquaculture (see 'salmon ranching') and does come with risks and impacts similar to salmon farming - but not a single $ has gone into "reforming" aquaculture in Alaska.