A dark horizon


The Superior Fresh pitch/Superior Fresh

If you’re an Alaska commercial salmon fishermen, be forewarned; the farmers in Wisconsin are coming for you.


Dangers lurking in the future might be easy to overlook coming after another boom year for Alaska salmon, and the news that per capita incomes in the Bristol Bay Borough were the fourth highest in the country in 2018.

But who knows where those Bristol Bay sockeye salmon spent their lives. They could have been feeding in the waters off Fukushima, a place now so famous it now needs no further identification.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says not to worry. So do a host of others. 

There are so many experts saying there is no reason to worry about glow-in-the-dark salmon due to leading Fukushima radiation that some people are sure to worry. Shakespeare captured the problem here in seven words in Hamlet:

“The lady doth protest too much, methink.” 

At some point, telling people their worries are unfounded – no matter how unfounded those worries might be – only makes people more suspicious.

Enter the marketers.

A Better Ocean

“A Better Ocean in Your Backyard” is the new marketing theme of Superior Fresh, a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) farm in America’s Heartland:

“Until now, it’s been impossible to get truly fresh Atlantic salmon in the Midwest, not to mention salmon of the incredible quality that Superior Fresh offers. Healthy, delicious, and without the same contaminants you’d find in the wild. And we did it sustainably to boot.”

The word that will, or should, jump out to Alaskans there is “wild.”

“Wild” was the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s answer to the rise of farmed salmon as a market force. ASMI pitched the idea wild was better. It worked for a while.

Target, one of the biggest retailers in the country, banned farmed salmon from its stores at the start of the decade.

“Target® today announces that it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in Target stores nationwide,” said a company statement on Jan. 26, 2010. “This announcement includes Target owned brands – Archer Farms® and Market Pantry® – and national brands.  All salmon sold under Target owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon.  Additionally, sushi featuring farm-raised salmon will complete its transition to wild-caught salmon by the end of 2010.  In consultation with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Target is taking this important step to ensure that its salmon offerings are sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats.

“Many salmon farms impact the environment in numerous ways – pollution, chemicals, parasites and non-native farmed fish that escape from salmon farms all affect the natural habitat and the native salmon in the surrounding areas.  Wild-caught salmon from Alaska is considered a “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council.”

help blurb

The ban was short-lived. Farmed salmon quietly reappeared on Target shelves in 2017.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch,” which once helped lead the pushback again farmed fish, had by that time already began its move toward farmed fish. Today, six of the eight “best choice” salmon on the watch list are farmed fish.

The other two choices are pink sockeye salmon from “lift nets” in Washington state. Lift nets are a selective fishing technique with some similarities to fish traps, which are banned in Alaska.

While lift nets don’t appear to be specifically banned in Alaska as are traps and fish farms, there are no Alaska lift net fisheries. There are also no Alaska salmon on the influential Seafood Choice advisory for consumers.

Next level

Superior Fresh is now taking the marketing battle to the next level.

Over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, it announced its salmon had been certified “non-GMO” by A Greener World, a non-governmental entity (NGO) opposed to genetically modified products.

“Superior Fresh obtains non-GMO certification for farmed salmon,” headlined Seafood Source, a website for fishery news. 

The certification was a thinly veiled pitch for Superior Fresh salmon as “organic,” a hot-button marketing tag these days.

Given the “inability of the government to inspect all imported seafood, we want our customers to be confident in our brand and products,” Superior Fresh President Brandon Gottsacker told Seafood Source. “With the inability to receive USDA Organic [certification for] seafood, we want to assure our customers that we have the highest standards for our salmon.”

Superior Fresh which opened its first farm in rural Wisconsin and is now in the processing of expanding across the Midwest is all about the environmental advantages of its product. It’s web page claims:

  • “Superior Fresh Atlantic salmon and steelhead are fed an organic diet rich in fishmeal and fish oil harvested from sustainable fisheries and organically-produced grains.”
  • “The Omega-3 levels in our fish are substantially higher than the other farmed and wild salmon. ” Omega-3s have been linked to all sorts of health benefits.
  • “Conventional farming techniques use large amounts of water that often end up emptying into our precious streams and rivers.” Superior Fresh recirculates 99 percent of its water, using the fish waste that is filtered out to fertilize the lettuce in its companion greenhouse, and the wastewater to “help irrigate alfalfa and restored prairie on our family farm.”
  • Locally farmed fish taste better because they are fresh. They also eliminate the “tremendous climate footprint” of fish shipped in from far away. “And by raising salmon here, we reduce the strain on wild fish populations.”
  • And last, but not least, the fish are “contaminant free. The ocean is undergoing an environmental crisis, and sea life is bearing the brunt of the problem. Superior Fresh fish are raised in closed-systems that control what the fish eats, never uses antibiotics or pesticides, and excludes pollutants that can occur in river and ocean environments. Thus, with Superior Fresh, you are guaranteed the safest and healthiest salmon!”

None of this is good news for Alaska where salmon fishing has been a key part of the economy for more than a century.

“Superior Fresh’s primary market stretches across the upper Midwest from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Chicago, Illinois, and its salmon is sold in retailers such as Festival Foods and Metcalfe’s,” Seafood Source reported. “But the company is seeking to extend its footprint following an expansion of its fish house from 40,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet…Starting in the second quarter of 2021, Superior Fresh will be harvesting 25,000 pounds of fresh Atlantic salmon weekly, allowing it to expand throughout the Midwest.”

That production is tiny by Alaska standards, but the big danger is that Superior Fresh illustrates proof of concept for a viable, on-land, salmon farming business. That could be a game-changer along the line of microbrewed beer.

There were fewer than 1,500 craft breweries in the country in 2017, according to Statista. There are now more than 7,300.

“And craft beer continues to capture a larger portion of the overall $111 billion-plus U.S. beer industry, increasing its share to 23.4 percent in 2017, or $26.01 billion,” USA Today reported last year. “This year, it’s expected to increase slightly to 24 or 25 percent….

“Craft beer’s continued growth comes from consumers looking to spend local and connect with the people making the beer they drink where they produce it.”

Superior Fresh is trying to tap into that same market of consumers looking to spend local and connect with the people making the product. The company isn’t going to kill the Alaska salmon business. Neither are Atlantic Sapphire and other U.S.-based RAS operations working on Alaska-size production facilities.

But the cumulative impact is almost certain to constrain the price paid for Alaska salmon if not drive it down, and there is no telling how big the ripple effect of that might be.












29 replies »

  1. “The lady doth protest too much, methink.” Actually, methink, it’s Medred that doth protest too much and adds ad infinitum about the coming death to his reviled foe. I just don’t get his hardon. Perhaps some day he will glory over something when it actually happens or be confined to misery when it doesn’t.

    • Perhaps someday monkfelonious will regale us with the putative point of his obligatory spitwad. Meanwhile, delight in the spitwad appears to be its point portentous.

  2. I’ve read that farmed salmon lack omega 3 whereas Bristol Bay salmon do. This could be a significant marketing edge

    • “The Omega-3 levels in our fish are substantially higher than the other farmed and wild salmon. ” Omega-3s have been linked to all sorts of health benefits.”

      • The truth is Vitamin and Mineral intact is much more important to sustain a healthy life and a simple head of lettuce has more “antioxidants” than a filet of salmon.

  3. Steve S, I know, I know “the Chinese”, yadda. I realize this is about Salmon but, we have already seen the repackaging of Alaskan salmon by the Chinese.. Steve, say the Chinese government elites buy a 5,000 acre cattle farm (and they do) in say Nebraska. Have 40 illegals working there while paying them minimal. They butcher the animals at minimal costs, send them to China, rebrand and package it as USDA approved, and then sell it back to the US at a huge mark-up. Since the US has halted imports of Chinese farmed raised fish due to contaminates, what do you think is coming and where do you think it is ripe for picking? I know “if you fear the Chinese so much…yadda”. These are some big players out there and they DO NOT CARE ABOUT SOME SILLY LIE CALLED “CLIMATE CHANGE”. They just care about the profit from the image.

      • Bryan,
        I know you do not fully understand my position on the military, but our “cyber defense” way of life is changing.
        Boots on the ground will soon mean little in this nuclear world of remote detonation and malware within key infrastructure.
        Putin even agrees the next world war will be fought in “cyber space”…this is probably why he welcomes Ed Snowden in Russia for the long term.
        Just like everything we see these days, America is slow to embrace our changing environments of “war”.

      • Steve S, did you purposely not read or miss the part where China can only use 11% of it’s land to produce food for 1.6 billion people or the foreign buying of farms in land mass the size of Ohio?
        I do agree with you on the whole AI/Cyber Warefare. That is the given but, the whole Chinese buying up the “Heartland”, poulty or pork industries should concern you..Please don’t go on a rant about “but they only own this much”. Please read deeper into my point. Alaska has a “For Sale” sign on it. They just aren’t buying it yet.

      • Bryan,
        What can I do about China?
        Honestly , Americans have made their beds with years of credit card debt, mortgage foreclosures and lack of accountability with rampant government spending.
        Alaska is always for sale, just ask the Russians.
        The problem is that American’s acceptance of the global economy has put the “one world government” ball in motion.
        Back in PA for example the politicians came up with a bird brain idea…they let wealthy Chinese buy U.S. citizenship for $500,000 dollars per family.
        This money was used to shore up funds to maintain the PA Turnpike which is officially an NGO…
        All these wealthy Chinese Oligarchs who moved their families to the Poconos then decided to snatch up family owned businesses across the state.
        No one in PA has questioned the Chinese Government’s involvement in these wide sread buy outs accross the country.
        Americans have their heads in a cellphone and our country is being liquidated right before our eyes.
        Congress is neutered and deaf….what can I do?
        Most discussion these days turns into partisan battles…either we hang together or we will hang one by one!

      • Welcome to the NWO…

        “The investors, expected to be primarily from China, could get green cards for themselves and their families to live in the United States in exchange for their money. 
        The complex deal is being brokered by officers of a prominent and politically connected Philadelphia investment management company.”

      • Steve, your post was enlightening if true. Let us take PA since you brought it up. If what you say is true about the $500k, then add mountains of meth, corrupt government, dismal state education, inner city drugs and crime, a dumbing down of the younger generation, foreign land ownership/food sectors by a tyrannous government and what do you have nationwide? The Chinese will not participate in any “One World Government”, unless it is theirs.

  4. Funny how the Canadians have been seeing contaminated Salmon returning for years after Fukushima, but our DEC says “nothing to worry about…not even an issue”.
    This is the same DEC that allowed oil and gas producers to dump an additional Billion gallons of carcinogens into the Cook Inlet from waste water off drilling platforms.
    They say it is No concern to the Environment.
    This goes on while Cancer rates in Alaska continue to Skyrocket.
    Luckily, there is a safer alternative food source based on plant based diets.
    Firefighters from NYC to Austin, Texas have made the change of “forks over knives” and the documented positive health changes are amazing.
    Cholesterol and blood pressure is dropping.
    Diabetes is curing itself.
    Cancer growth has even gone into remission or greatly shrunk…
    Don’t forget…plant based diets contain No Cholesterol and our body’s response to high fiber and increased antioxidants through berries and fruits is amazing.
    Many forget Hippocrates words from 2,000 years ago: “Let food be your medicine”
    That food should be organic in nature and arrive from a secured source.
    The contaminated Pacific Ocean is neither these days….this is why there will be a huge market for all organic “farmed” products going forward.

    • Steve Stine said,

      Funny how the Canadians have been seeing contaminated Salmon returning for years after Fukushima…

      BC Bud. Like good ol’ Brylcreem, it just doesn’t take very darn much.

      20,000 dead from the waves, but what some folks anguish over is the radiation release, which perceptibly injured no one. Kinda some kinky ca-ca going on there.

    • “This is the same DEC that allowed oil and gas producers to dump an additional Billion gallons of carcinogens into the Cook Inlet”

      An additional Billion gallons of carcinogens? How many Billions of gallons of carcinogens are being dumped currently? Are you sure it isn’t water they are dumping and you are just having a hysterical overreaction and thinking that they are dumping Billions of gallons of carcinogens?

      • Maybe you should research exactly what is in “wastewater” from oil and gas drilling operations…especially when Fracking is involved (like in the Cook Inlet).

        “During oil and natural gas production, so-called “produced water” comprises the largest byproduct stream.
        In addition, many oil and gas operations are augmented via injection of hydraulic fracturing (HF) fluids into the formation.
        Both produced water and HF fluids may contain hundreds of individual chemicals, some known to be detrimental to public health and the environment.”

        “…produced water contains heavy metals such as mercury and lead, as well as metalloids such as arsenic, in varied concentrations depending on formation geology and age of the well.”

      • So they aren’t dumping Billions and Billions of gallons of carcinogens into Cook Inlet, right Steve?

      • They are dumping a billion gallons extra of waste water every year now into the Cook Inlet and Yes this “wastewater” has been found to be full of heavy metals that are documented to cause cancer (i.e. carcinogens)…
        Have you never heard of the “Texon Scar”?
        These waster waters are extremely toxic to life on earth.
        After nearly 100 years, nothing grows in the area in Texas where these waters were released in the 1920’s…before we knew better.
        “Case-in-point, in the 1920s oilfield wastewater was managed by releasing it directly onto West Texas soil, before the industry and regulators fully realized the negative consequences of this practice.
        It created the Texon Scar, a patch of dead earth so large it can be seen from space.”

      • Steve,

        I’m glad you can agree that nobody is dumping Billions and Billions of gallons of carcinogens into Cook Inlet.

        You would be much better served to deal with facts instead of emotionally hysterical ranting and raving. Wanting to punish a company in Alaska in 2019 for something a completely different company did in Texas in the 1920’s makes as much sense as having you pay my speeding ticket.

      • Steve O,
        I still hold my position that the entire lot of the billions of gallons of waste water is filled with Carcinogens…this is not a rant, but pure scientific fact…something that you have no comprehension for.
        “Beyond salt, this waste can contain any number of nearly 1,600 chemicals that are either present in groundwater or known to be used in the well construction process – chemicals ranging from ethylene glycol (antifreeze) to hydrochloric acid. And yet, regulator-approved chemical detection methods only exist for about a quarter of them. This means that we can’t know if certain toxic chemicals are present, and the energy companies can’t say they aren’t.”
        There is no reason other than blatant disregard for science that dumping this into a salmon fishery is allowed.
        Someone needs to take this to court before the entire marine population is dead…just like the trees and plant life in the “Texon Scar” – same toxicity!

      • Steve,

        You can’t talk to me about my comprehension for science when you say things like “This is the same DEC that allowed oil and gas producers to dump an additional Billion gallons of carcinogens into the Cook Inlet” and when you refuse to acknowledge that nobody is dumping Billions and Billions of gallons of carcinogens into Cook Inlet. Your comments are not scientific, you are not a scientists and your overly emotional comments illustrate that fact. You continually disregard scientific fact and substitute your opinion or other people’s opinions for your own and try to play that off as science.

        Nobody is dumping Billions and Billions of gallons of carcinogens into Cook Inlet, nobody.

      • Steve O…
        Instead of your predictable attacks on the messenger, maybe you can enlighten all of us on how dumping an additional billion gallons of fracking waste water into the Cook Inlet year after year will be beneficial to marine and aquatic life in the water?
        Feel free to cite any references that may support your “state sponsored” beliefs.

      • Steve Stine,

        What, Inletkeeper losing ground in their propaganda campaign these days?

        Corporate left-wing Alaska media too busy trying to stay afloat themselves to throw yet-another free publicity lifeline their way?

        Looks pretty desperate on the yellow-journalism activist pages, alright.

      • Steve,

        Who is saying “how dumping an additional billion gallons of fracking waste water into the Cook Inlet year after year will be beneficial to marine and aquatic life in the water”? Certainly not me. You are suggesting that Billions and Billions of gallons of carcinogens are being dumped in Cook Inlet, that is just ignorant nonsense.

        The point that you are so clearly missing is that when you write total nonsense you should expect to be called out for it. Nobody is dumping Billions and Billions of gallons of carcinogens in Cook Inlet. Baby salmon and belugas are not swimming in oil. If you continue to post your silly nonsense then I will continue to challenge you, if you inform yourself then great. Have you ever been to, on, or under Cook Inlet?

        I am really enjoying your conspiracy theories also, now I am state sponsored…any proof of that Steve or did they just spray too many chemtrails up your way lately? Your really losing it now.

      • The only “conspiracy” is that news sites like ADN and Medred say nothing about the toxic waste water (filled with Carcinogens) that is dumped annually at about 2 Billion gallons a year.
        This is a blatant disregard for our health and the health of the marine life that lives in the sea.

        “..all other coastal oil and gas facilities in the nation – meaning those facilities had to reinject or otherwise not dump their wastes – Cook Inlet operators got a free pass to keep dumping.   

        And the pollution is substantial: every year Hilcorp and the other oil and gas companies dump more than 2 billion gallons of toxic waste into Cook Inlet’s rich and productive fisheries.”

  5. The hand writing has been on the wall for some time. But in the past neither the State or the commercial sector have been able to read it. The outdated commercial salmon fisheries in many places in Alaska are slowly failing. Sure, some have had a couple good years. But the long term trend is not good and very unlikely to Improve.
    Hopefully the current administration including the new leadership in ADF&G will get it and understand the economics between salmon caught in a seine or gill net vs salmon caught by an angler or dip netter. Hopefully the Alaska Board of Fisheries with its new members will understand this economic truth as well.
    We will soon find out. The Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries regulatory meeting happens early in 2020. It happens in Anchorage where many can attend and have their voices heard. Hopefully it will be there that the economics and the needs of everyday Alaskans will finally be recognized and dealt with appropriately.
    Salmon have to be taken from the Cook Inlet gill nets and distributed in a manner that puts fish in everyday Alaskan’s freezers and provides the maximum economic benefit to the State.

    • You must not have read the part about the Bristol bay borough and the per capita income? You do that and I’ll keep picking up all the freezer burnt cook Inlet salmon I want to feed my dogs.

      Oh. Also change your name to urban Alaskans first.

      • Carp, In case you missed it, I did read the part about B.B. enjoying a good year and acknowledged that fact. . But I also said that the long term trend is not good.

        I recognize the tone of your unpleasant and unnecessary name change suggestion. And because of your unkind reply, I was going to suggest a name change for you but decided I like the implications associated with your name. Aren’t Carp considered to be bottom feeders with little value.

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