Salmo Domesticus, explained by Paul Greenburg, is a farmed salmon that is now genetically different than the salmon they originated from. They are genetically distinct from wild Salmon because they have a different genome. The farmed salmon are becoming more efficient at producing larger body mass with less nutritional input. Salmon that can become bigger with less food is desirable to salmon farmers. These salmon being farmed are not good for the wild salmon populations because they are being released at more significant quantities than the wild salmon to the open ocean and compete for available prey to consume. The farmed salmon do not have the same adaptive traits that wild salmon do, allowing wild salmon to span upstreams that farmed salmon cannot navigate.
I see the Salmo Domesticus as a blessing and a curse for different reasons. They are a blessing for many in the fisheries because they provide income for many small towns limited to the outside world. Farmed salmon have fed many people providing a healthy meal all over the world. The curse is that they compete against the wild salmon for food. Many people rely on wild salmon to return as a way of life, and they will be hurt more than financially by farmed salmon competition. The more farmed salmon there is, the more food taken from the ocean and other trophic levels. I don’t believe that we will ever know the impact of farmed salmon on wild salmon. The book says we would have to not release farmed salmon to know. I believe the economic impact is too significant to find out.
When Paul wrote, “I couldn’t help but think that in a way the future of wild salmon and the future of the Yupik people were somehow sadly parallel to each other.” It felt that an impending doom for the salmon was coming, and the Yupik people would feel the brunt of it. The salmon to the Yupik is more than a fish; they are a part of their everyday lives. The salmon returning every year is a primary source of the Yupik subsistence. When life is good for the salmon, life is good for the Yupik. When salmon numbers are hurt, the people feel it. The book talks about the elders remembering starvation, and this made me think of my friend’s dad. A Yupik friend of mine told me that when his dad was seven years old, his grandfather died. He said the community helped his family, but times were tough for everyone because of food shortages. He said many times his father didn’t eat dinner.
When the cash economy hit the Alaska natives, it was a hurdle. The Yupik found a way to be able to afford things they need to buy. In the book, they can have money by selling the salmon to the Kwik’pak.
I believe that when the wild salmon are no longer returning to the rivers, the Yupik people will leave their traditional lands. The salmon is what is keeping them there with their traditional values and way of life. The future of salmon and the Yupik people are going to need support to continue.
Paul Greenberg, as a boy, was supported by a mother that embraced his love for fishing. Close to his childhood house, he would spend most of his time on the pond fishing. One winter, the temperatures dropped below zero. Fishing was never the same on the pond after the winter and copper sulfate treatment the previous summer. Paul sought out more fishing opportunities in streams, rivers, and into the ocean. Paul was able to get a boat where he learned to fish Long Island Sound. He taught himself how to find fishes and discovered their patterns of migration. As a young man, Paul discovered he needed something more than a fish. He spent years trying to catch the right mate. Fishing the wrong waters, and having a line that kept breaking, he found himself without a catch. He received a call that brought him home. His mother had cancer, and he went home to take care of her. One day she told him he needed to go fishing to give him a break from caretaking. He discovers the fish he once knew was no longer in the abundance or patterns he had found as a boy. When his mother died, he went on a search to find the fish. Paul discovered that four fish had replaced all the markets.
I moved to Alaska to be with family after spending years in the military. Growing up my father was my hunting buddy. We recently had a health scare with him that brought an urgency to all the hunts that we haven’t had yet. This fall we’ve hunted harder and scouted more than in years. We brought the entire family so they could experience a “hunt camp.” When my wife asked me, “what I was going to be when I grew up,” my answer was a wildlife biologist. My hunting buddy taught me to love all wildlife, and I plan to do just that.
I believe Paul will be more optimistic by the end of the book. I hope at least because his views were pretty low. He does have a way of telling a story that makes you want to keep reading.