Aquarium: Avoid Calif., Ore. salmon

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) Seafood Watch program on Monday downgraded the status of California and Oregon salmon in its seafood-buying guide, which groups seafood species into three color-coded categories — best choices (green), good alternatives (yellow) and avoid (red).

California and Oregon salmon had been absent from the popular guide since July 2008, when the MAB removed the species due to the collapse of the Sacramento River chinook salmon population.

Now California and Oregon salmon is listed as “avoid.”

After being closed for the past two years, the fishery was reopened by the Pacific Fishery Management Council this year, but on only a limited basis. Many fishermen blame the chinook’s demise on climatic shifts and habitat loss due to dam construction and water diversion.

The MBA also points to overfishing: “Fisheries management has not prevented the long-term decline of many species of salmon in California, Oregon and Washington. In general, salmon populations caught in the Washington fishery are moderately healthy, while the major population targeted by both California and Oregon fisheries is severely depleted.

“The decision to open the season in 2010, despite the record low number of salmon, has made many question the effectiveness of the fishery management,” added the MBA. “In contrast, wild salmon populations in Alaska are healthy and well-managed.”

While Alaska salmon is listed as a “best choice,” Washington salmon is listed as a “good alternative.”

“It’s a huge blow to our industry. We have been off the water for two years,” Nancy Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Oregon Salmon Commission, told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Fishermen are out there, doing what they do best, and bringing back our quality salmon, and here we are being told this is an ‘avoid’ product.”

In January, the MBA upgraded U.S.-farmed coho salmon raised in closed systems to “best choice.” All other farmed salmon is categorized as “avoid.”

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