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Will Lab-Grown Fish Save Alaska’s Wild Salmon Stocks?

Although wild salmon remains one of Alaska’s most lucrative seafood industries, it’s also one of the state’s most vulnerable, as climate change and population growth increase pressure on the world’s oceans. As it looks more and more likely that demand will eventually outstrip the productivity of salmon and other wild seafood stocks, researchers have turned to another method for producing protein from fish by culturing it in a lab.

It’s a typical overcast morning in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood when I arrive at the headquarters of the biotech company Wildtype. In a city known for tech, Wildtype isn’t an anomaly, but in the world of sustainable seafood they’re making waves.

KCAW: Hey, how are you doing?

Dalton Thomas: Nice to meet you. I’m Dalton.

KCAW: Nice to meet you.

Inside the Wildtype offices, a group of young scientists mills around in sneakers, and graphic-t’s obscured by white lab coats. Dalton Thomas, the company’s head of food service sales, seats me at a kitchen bar. Behind it, an in-house sushi chef prepares me a plate of their product before it hits the US market – lab grown salmon.

It’s a square block of marbled pink flesh, almost indistinguishable from traditional salmon – except this fish has never touched the ocean.

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