If we continue to commercially can wild salmon at current rates Pacific salmon will soon go the way of the Atlantic cod, beaver, and buffalo.
I’ve eaten canned salmon since I was a kid, and still do and love it, but technology
now makes this old processing chestnut from the era of salting a thing of the past.
Wild salmon no longer needs to be subjected to such a high volume of over-processing when we have modern methods of getting fresh and fresh frozen salmon to consumers at an affordable price.
What food product do you know tastes good or is as healthy to eat when it comes out of a can – canned chicken, canned spaghetti, canned shrimp, canned corn? Canning depletes nutrients and often only becomes palatable when you soak it in salt. Canning salmon at current volumes also infers it is a staple. Should a living creature with such a tenuous survival rate be considered an everyday food source, or instead should it be cherished and savoured?
Canadian canning companies have little interest in developing a fresh or fresh frozen market, and instead concentrate on very high margin cans targeted for Europe. Cans are highly profitable compared to fresh wild salmon.
Canning salmon is an old world throwback that in our modern world diminishes perceived value in consumers’ minds. Thousands of fish-related jobs are also lost because less workers are needed at automated canning companies, of which there is basically only one big one in Canada.
Commercially canned salmon is a double edged sword because it not only reduces the heritage fishing fleet, it also sells short the perceived value of wild BC salmon in foreign markets.
Instead of managing wild salmon stocks respectfully, large processors feel little guilt about jamming the majestic sockeye into a can and sending it half way around the world where consumers have no idea where it came from and the important role it plays as a keystone species. Wild BC salmon doesn’t just feed people, it provides sustenance and nutrients for well over one hundred other animals and plants along the North Pacific coast and rivers.
In a good year Canadian processors jam into cans approximately 10 million pounds of wild salmon, over one third of the landed weight. If these processors canned less, and instead developed more efficient ways to promote and distribute fresh and fresh frozen, a larger portion of our wonderful BC salmon would land on summer BBQ’s and show up year round on dinner plates at a more affordable price.
Commercial fishers would make a respectable living, recreational fishers would have more access, and stocks would rebound because we could leave more salmon in the rivers to spawn.
There is a place for premium canned wild salmon, but we have to quit commercially canning so much sockeye for global markets, and instead make available more fresh and fresh frozen wild salmon for North Americans.