Wild Salmon for Better Taste and Health: Neapolitan Julie Lappetito Practices Sustainable Fishing
Oct 31, 2011 09:39AM
● By Linda Sechrist
Julie Lappetito, owner of Get Wild Seafood, silently looked on as the shopper in front of her contemplated several choices of salmon in the market’s seafood department: fresh Atlantic salmon, fresh-frozen Alaskan wild salmon, wild sockeye salmon and coho. “It was obvious to me that the woman was dealing with some kind of health challenge and believed she was getting something healthy when she ordered the fresh Atlantic salmon. But that is only another term for farm-raised—and few people know about the unhealthy environment of salmon farms,” says Lappetito, who spends her spring and summer months in Alaska, fishing for salmon and halibut with her husband, Todd, a licensed commercial fisherman with 28 years of experience.
Lappetito, a native Neapolitan, met her husband at Unity of Naples in 1995, while he was visiting his parents during the winter months. The following summer, she visited him in Alaska and fell in love again, this time with the unrivaled beauty of the scenery in “the frontier state” and the commercial fishing business. Since then, the couple has resided in Naples during the fall and winter, heading to Alaska for the months of May though September to enjoy the vibrant community life in Petersburg and the exhilaration of commercial fishing.
“I was pleasantly surprised to discover that fishing and living in a close community where everyone knows their neighbors was very congruent with who I am,” enthuses Lappetito, who is proud of Alaska’s 100 percent sustainable approach to its wild salmon fisheries management system, which has been in place for nearly four decades. “The mandate for sustainable fishing is actually written into the state’s constitution,” she adds, emphasizing that commercial fishermen in Alaska believe they are stewards of the sea.
“The Alaska Board of Fisheries sets harvest policies, regulations and allocations, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) conducts biological research and enforces the board’s decisions,” explains Lappetito, who regularly sells her wild salmon to Food & Thought 100% Organic Farm Market, in Naples, where it is offered regularly at the café. She says the board’s primary goal is the harvest policy known as “fixed escapement,” a first priority which ensures that sufficient numbers of adult spawning wild salmon escape capture in the fishery and are allowed to spawn in the rivers, thus maintaining the long-term health of the stocks.
Wild Alaska salmon contain no artificial coloring, preservatives, pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms. In comparison, the floating net cages used for farm-raised salmon are breeding grounds for disease, and the fish are generally fed fish pellets and grain, rather than the typical wild salmon diet of algae rich in EPA and DHA, the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
“Salmon are carnivores,” Lappetito advises. “To raise one pound of fish in captivity requires nearly four pounds of mackerel, sardines and other feed sources.” She notes that farmed fish swim in their own excrement, which can lead to an infestation of parasites and also pollute surrounding habitats. Additionally, the color of wild salmon reflects their diet, particularly krill. Farmed fish get their color from dye. “Without the dye, the fish is a pale grey,” Lappetito observes, adding that she handpicks every wild salmon for her client, according to scales and bright color.
“Before bleeding and dressing them, Todd and I give thanks to the fish for their life-giving food,” notes Lappetito, who admits to being transformed by her fishing experience. “It’s fun to be so passionate about sustainable fishing, and I thoroughly enjoy any opportunity to educate the public about the subject,” says this ecopreneur, whose multiple talents extend to running Wind & Water Design, her interior design business, and creating fish watercolors that she sells at local farmers’ markets in Alaska.
Lappetito will offer a talk and slide show presentation on fishing for wild Alaskan salmon at 5 p.m., Dec. 6, at Food & Thought 100% Organic Farm Market, 2132 Tamami Trail N., in Naples. For more information, call 239-213-2222 or visit FoodAndThought.com. Also visit GetWildSeafood.com.