Writing in the October issue of ENVIRONMENT magazine, the research team found that, since the late 1980s, worldwide production of farm salmon has increased fivefold, while the market share of wild-caught salmon from Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state has steadily declined.
"Farm salmon represents one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative segments of the global aquaculture industry," said Josh Eagle, director of the Stanford Fisheries Policy Project and co-author of the ENVIRONMENT report. "In 1980, commercial fisheries produced more than 99 percent of salmon consumed worldwide. Today, they catch less than 40 percent."
The impact has been particularly devastating in Alaska, where 10 percent of the workforce is employed in some aspect of the salmon fishing industry, noted Rosamond L. Naylor, the Julie Wrigley Senior Fellow at Stanford's Center for Environmental Science and Policy (CESP) and lead author of the report.
"Wild salmon capture historically has played an important economic role by providing employment and incomes to a vast number of Native American and non-native communities along the coast," Naylor said. However, Alaska's share of the global salmon market declined from 40 to 50 percent in the early 1980s to less than 20 percent in 2000 - mainly because of competition from salmon farms in Chile, Norway, the United Kingdom and other countries, she said.
In response, the Alaska state government recently declared a state of emergency and offered commercial salmon fishers a series of financial relief programs. In British Columbia and Washington, low fish stocks and low prices have induced some boat owners to participate in vessel buy-back programs.