More than thirty years ago, Randy Hartnell paid his way through college by fishing in the Alaskan seas. Hartnell skipped grad school, bought a boat and spent the next twenty years fishing for salmon, herring and other regional species in Alaska. After noticing that industrial scale farming was taking over wild salmon harvesting and fisherfolk were not able to support their families, Hartnell knew he had to do something about it. That was when he conceived Vital Choice Seafood.
The Washington State Department of Health reports that salmon farms present both environmental and health risks for salmon and humans alike. Farmed salmon transfer disease by contaminated eggs, densely packed fish can contribute to disease outbreak, and fish excrements and uneaten food pollutes pens-leading to contamination. Sea lice found in farmed fish can infect wild salmon. Strict regulations in the United States and British Columbia require monthly monitoring of lice per fish. Salmon, which is an oily fish, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Washington State Department of Health, farmed salmon contain more grams of omega-3 fatty acids because they are fattier than wild salmon.
Vital Choice Seafood aims to provide an alternative to conventionally raised farm salmon. All of their seafood is from well-managed by sustainable wild fisheries that are certified by the State of Alaska, the Marine Stewardship Council, and other independent organizations. Their seafood is free of antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The seafood is regularly tested-by independent labs for mercury and other contaminants.
According to the Vital Choice website, wild Alaskan salmon “live their entire lives free to roam the open ocean” and are harvested at the end of their four-year life cycle. Hartnell has made it his mission to support local community organizations such as Raincoast Research, which helps protect Canada’s wild Pacific salmon from stress caused by nearby salmon farms and a portion of their profits help fund advocacy organizations.
Hartnell states, “when you choose sustainably harvested wild salmon, you are choosing much more than just a fine meal. You are promoting your health, the health of coastal fishing communities, the environment, and the precious wild salmon it sustains.”
Businesses that uphold sustainable practices in how they source, produce, and serve or sell food play a crucial role in transforming the food system. Food Tank will regularly feature businesses that are providing food to their customers in environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable ways.