Carl Wassilie of the Block Corporate Salmon campaign, an entity of the National American Marine Alliance (NAMA), bakes wild salmon from the Columbia River during Farm Aid 2023 in Noblesville Indiana. Photo courtesy of NAMA

Small boat commercial fishermen collaborating with family farmers at Farm Aid 2023 in Noblesville, Indiana, have called for a global boycott of genetically engineered salmon. 

“The development and commercialization of GE salmon threatens entire ecosystems that depend on wild salmon,” said Carl Wassilie, a Yup’ik biologist from Anchorage, Alaska, and organizer with the Block Corporate Salmon campaign, which is collaborating with the North American Marine Alliance (NAMA) in calling for the global boycott. The commercialization of GE salmon “is also a flagrant affront to our way of life and wellbeing. Yet AquaBounty and the FDA have repeatedly failed to consult Tribes in their process,” Wassilie said in a statement prepared for a news conference during Farm Aid on Sept. 21. 

The annual event features nationally known musicians, including Willie Nelson. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $70 million to help family farmers. 

Farm Aid 2023 also held a salmon bake and barbeque featuring fish harvested from the Columbia River by Yakama tribal fisherman Randy Settler. 

“Our intention behind serving wild, Tribal-caught salmon from the Columbia River is to share a deeper appreciation of where our food comes from in a cultural and spiritual context,” Wassilie said. “This is in stark contrast to AquaBounty’s Frankenfish, questionably labeled as salmon.” 

Opponents of the GE Atlantic salmon produced in U.S. and Candian land-based farms include the National Family Farm Coalition. “GE salmon should concern us all, as it further entrenches the commodification and proprietary patenting of our food,” said Jim Goodman, president of the coalition. 

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Noblesville is a short drive from facilities owned by AquaBounty, the Massachusetts-based biotech company that produced and trademarked AquAdvantage salmon. AquaBounty promotes its GE salmon as the answer to a rapidly increasing global demand for high quality seafood. “We believe that environmentally responsible, science-based fish farming can change the world — improving human health, positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and protecting our precious marine ecosystem.” the company said in a statement on its website. 

Block Corporate Salmon also hosted an interactive exhibit during the festival, inviting festival goers to collaboratively envision a future food system that priorities the well-being of communities and ecosystems. 

NAMA, based in Gloucester, Massachusetts, works to resist big business control of ocean resources and empower local fishermen to establish a fair seafood system. NAMA’s active campaigns include Block Corporate Salmon, Don’t Cage Our Oceans, Catch Share Reform Coalition and Anchors in Action.  

NAMA, works with small and medium scale community fishermen to enhance the value of marine ecosystems, coastal communities, waterfronts and local and regional economies to find new approaches to managing fisheries and seafood markets. Ephraim Froehlich, a former legislative assistant to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R- Alaska, is a policy consultant for NAMA.  

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