The Sneaky Marketing Of Salmon

Got my first-of-the-year pieces of Copper River salmon last week. At a small store with few customers and impressive disinfecting protocols.

For many years, come fresh salmon harvesting in Alaska and I’m dashing to buy my $20-per-pound Copper River fillet.

Gotta have it! It’s the best. People say so. Frankly, to me it tastes like, well, like salmon but not that metallic, farmed Atlantic kind. But looks really red!


Then an old newspaper colleague posted on Facebook that Copper River salmon was just plain old King, Sockeye, Coho, or maybe even Chum found in the other Alaska rivers but much more smartly marketed to us know-nothings in Hawaii.

Can that be? I’d recently driven along the Copper River. Nothing special for Alaska. Bears poop in it. Fishermen pee in it. A Ukrainian dude was surfing in it on a board secured by rope to a steel post set in wave-producing rapids. 

The salmon race past, head upriver to lay eggs or fertilize those eggs and then die. They get red meat from their diet rich in carotenoids, the pigment that gives un-GMO’d carrots their color.

So was I being had for maybe $30 for a chunk of fish I could have here at one-third the price? After all, I don’t buy my sashimi based on whether the ahi had been caught in this fishing spot or that.

I hit the research road.

You probably know that salmon go to spawn at precisely the upriver pool where they were born. The sense the chemical makeup of the water. Copper River runs 300 miles. So a salmon going way up needs to eat greedily before starting. They need fat because they stop eating as soon as they enter fresh water.

But a lot of other rivers’ salmon are just as fatty. That’s where the fishermen and women come into the story.

Most always netted and roughly unloaded their salmon and were casual about icing them. But in the 80s some Copper River fishers tired of the low prices they were getting convinced the others to frequently unload nets, handle the salmon carefully and quickly toss them in any icy slurry. Then they promoted this to restaurants for chefs to tell the diners.

The professional marketers took over from there. Copper River salmon tend to spawn earlier than most others, so diners were told they’re also getting the first salmon of the season. Doesn’t that make your fillet worth $60?

So yes, it is good fish but it’s just King or Sockeye, very red, very fatty, and from that magical place Copper River.

Finally, There can be no denying that among seafood lovers, Copper River is now a brand name meaning yummy. Those fishermen earn nearly twice as much money for their salmon than for those caught elsewhere in Alaska, even though they are catching the same species, born in the same rivers and fattened in the same cold Pacific waters.


Elizabeth Versus The Donald: I’ll Take Liz

I’ve never been a fan of kings and queens, even the British form of monarchy which leaves affairs of state nationally and internationally in the hands of a parliament and a prime minister.

Monarchies strike me as pretentious, expensive and unnecessary. They perpetuate the perception of an elite leadership staffed by people of ancestral heritage rather than self-directed accomplishments.

But I confess to being moved by Queen Elizabeth’s recent public talks, which one newspaper writer called “ambitious words to reassure and inspire.”

I’d take Elizabeth Rex over Donald Trump for reassurance and inspiration in a heartbeat!

It was exactly what her people needed at the moment. And me, too. It doesn’t reassure or inspire me to hear Trump telling me that his news conferences do better ratings that most TV shows and how much people love him.

In a recent Bob Jones Report, I mentioned how much we need inspiration locally — not just about the virus control but about our ability to regain our footing and move ahead. Neither Gov. Ige nor Mayor Caldwell inspire me. One drones on with facts like the technician he is, and the other seems to be mostly trying to corral votes.

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I need some reassurance after reading Denby Fawcett’s excellent piece of reporting in today’s Honolulu Civil Beat.

Civil Beat

Health Director Bruce Anderson, who’s also an epidemiologist, says we’re probably doomed to this lockdown until June. And no promise after that, either.

The experts also aren’t promising that even if COVID-19 withers for lack of non-immune victims, it or a changed version of it could pop up again at any time. Like this winter when we normally get a flu attack.

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I suspect this is the end for a long time of ocean and river cruises by ships and boats. I know I’m not going to sign up on any.

I cannot imagine a place more likely to breed a new infection than aboard a vessel with people living long periods in very close contact and sharing many facilities.

Viking, Avalon, NCL, Holland-American — they might as well mothball right now. I feel very, very sorry for all those poor-country people who work those vessels, mainly for the tips. These will be tough times for their families.

After This Virus

When (and if) this episode of the Covid-19 virus passes, will the Hawaii economy be left in hopeless tatters?

That’s a fair question in light of nearly 20% of our state GDP coming from tourism, and the likelihood that many mainland and overseas people will be too financially shocked to consider a Hawaii vacation.

There’s also the fear that as cooler weather comes in fall and winter, the virus could resurrect itself. In that aspect, it is much like other flu organisms.

The U.S. government is much more capable of a quick economic recovery because the Treasury can print money to buy bonds. We cannot.

But we can start up an ambitious, funded-by-wealthy-investors construction program, including doing what we should have done many years ago — build truly affordable high-rise housing for low income residents and give units out on either a buy-in basis or a rent-to-own basis. It’s often called the Singapore Model.

And housing projects should be geared toward putting people closer to where they work. It’s exciting that the Navy is doing planning on a residential and retail community adjacent to Pearl Harbor and the shipyard.

It’s silly for us to have housing in Kapolei for people who work in downtown Honolulu. But we do that because most cannot afford downtown housing. It’s priced for money-parking by foreigners. We blew it with Kakaako!

The transit train will also be a major recovery project. Yes, some of the hard-core naysayers will continue to badmouth it, but I suspect the general public will see it as both the worthy public works project and necessary transportation asset that it is or at least will be.

There are some good signs already on the national level. Even as the spread of COVID-19 accelerates in many regions, institutional investors are becoming ever more bullish about the prospects for the stock market. That’s according to a survey by RBC Capital Markets.

“Our respondents are highly bullish on stocks, the most optimistic they’ve been since we started our survey in the first quarter of 2018,” wrote Lori Calvasina, head of U.S. equity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

So don’t just cry “woe is me.”

Look for some opportunities.


We Need To Get Tougher

The photo below by the Star-Advertiser’s Dennis Oda was at Ehukai Beach Park. Social non-distancing. It matches what I saw yesterday on a moped ride past Queen’s Beach enroute to Makapuu and back for some fresh air. Many dozens of cars, people under canopies grilling and picnicking, beach groups. Like a normal Sunday.

I saw one police car, but it was sitting mauka of the highway near Sandy’s

My daughter is a diplomat in Australia and sent me this notice of how strict the police there have become about the stay-at-home order. Now you can’t even go for a drive:

Top cop says Australians will be fined for ‘blatantly’ being on the road in coronavirus lockdown even if they don’t set foot outside

  • Queensland police warned anyone just going for a drive could be fined
  • Even if you don’t leave the car, it breaks coronvirus lockdown rules that the state
  • Other states cracking down too as Victorian teen on driving lesson got $1,652
  • A couple were fined $2,000 for sitting in their car in the NSW Hunter Region.

I’m shocked at our state’s casual stay-at-home approach. Also, if we have to allow tourists in from other states because of the Constitution, why don’t we have mandated, supervised quarantine rather than the current “self-quarantine” rule? That’s asking for viral exposure!

We need more workers in some critical positions but Gov. Ige is afraid of offending the public worker unions by assigning them new jobs instead of furloughing them with pay — something you sure don’t get if you’re a laid-off restaurant worker or barista.

We won’t beat this thing with half-assed measures.

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