By Lucas Isakowitz
Salmon, often known as the King of Fish, was once one of the most abundant creatures in the sea, dominating the waters in the northern hemisphere. Unfortunately it’s impossible to swim upstream forever, and in recent centuries, as industrialized human development spread across much of Europe and the United States, salmon populations decreased dramatically.
The five species of salmon that reign in the Pacific Northwest are the Pink, Chum, Sockeye, Coho, and Chinook salmon. The lesser-known Masu salmon inhabits the Western Pacific, off the coast of East Asia. Together, these six species account for nearly all of the wild salmon eaten in the world.
Atlantic salmon haven’t been as fortunate as their Pacific kin. Due largely to human development in the form of dams, pollution, and overfishing, Atlantic salmon populations have plummeted in the past three centuries. The result is that a species once hundreds of millions strong is now listed as endangered. With a few small exceptions, all of the Atlantic salmon eaten today is raised in a fish farm; in fact, about 75% of the salmon eaten worldwide is farmed fish.
The myth goes that when Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas in 1492, he and his crew couldn’t sleep because of the perpetual whack of sea turtles bumping against the hull of their ship. Now, 500 years later, nearly every species of sea turtle is listed as endangered. In fact, so many plants and animals have become endangered or extinct in recent years, that researchers and environmentalists have started referring to it as the sixth mass extinction.
New fishing technologies and poor fisheries management have turned the ocean into a shadow of what it once was. By some estimates, stocks of many large oceangoing fish have been reduced by 80% to 90%; sea turtles, many species of sharks, bluefin tuna, swordfish and toothfish (sold as Chilean Seabass) are just some of the groups threatened by overfishing. While there are still millions of fish in the sea, we are killing off too many of them way too fast. But for every rule there is an exception.