Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fish - Organic, Local, & in Season Part 4

Even More Wild Sustainable Fish

Pollock &  Cod are often cited as the gold standard of sustainable fishing, which they really are.  The harvest limits for pollack are set as a percentage of the population, between 2-5%, and in banner years instead of increasing the harvest there is a maximum tonnage that can be harvested even if it does not reach the estimated percentage of the population.  The problem lies in by catch, most pollack is harvested in the Bering Sea, where the crab are caught in deadliest catch, which is where Yukon king salmon grow thru adulthood before returning to spawn.  In terms of the millions of tons of Pollack the 50-100 thousand king salmon caught seem trivial.  But considering that the total return of salmon in a given year may only be 200,000-300,000 fish which need to feed those living in Alaska's interior, spawn in the Alaskan tributaries of the Yukon, and meet The minimum number of salmon that get to pass to Canada (25,000-35,000).  So that many fish being caught yearly drastically impacts the fish available.  Regulators made a good intentioned, but poorly chosen cap on the number of king salmon caught in the pollack before the fishery gets shut down.  I forget the actual number but it is somewhere in the 40,000 to 60,000 fish range.  This sounds good till you realize that these numbers have only been exceeded in the last decade, when escapement problems have been the worst.  Because of this locals have been encouraged to catch and eat more Chum salmon.  The problem with this lies in the chum's history.  It is called a Dog salmon by many, because it has been traditionally used to feed dogs.  When it reaches them it still has high fat content, but low meat quality.  This makes it nutritious to feed to dogs, but not appetizing to feed to people. How would you like it if some regulator told you that your steak needed to be sent to people thousands of miles away, but it was ok because you could eat this low quality beef that is usually used to make dog food?  They don't like it either.

Probably better to eat locally.
As you can see even with the most sustainable populations of fish we still have major problems.  I focus on Alaska's sea food for many reasons: first I am very familiar with fishing in Alaska, Alaska is held up as the gold standard of sustainable fishing, and I think we should not import fish from asia, europe, and South America to feed Americans. Those countries have their own need for affordable food, which fish was before large fleets of commercial ships that had devastated their local fisheries moved in and started catching fish and shipping the fish to high paying locales.  If you must eat seafood then: demand wild caught, try to get it from as local to you as possible and from this country at a minimum, also focus on species that are small, short lived, and/or that live in waters that are shallow or near shore.

So go relax, take a day off and go fishing. No need to buy into the hype of big bass fishing.  Just buy a simple pole, a hook, some bobbers, sinkers and a few worms or crickets.  Find a shady spot on the bank of a pond, lake, or river and lounge in the shade, read a book and maybe catch a few fish.  Those locations of fish are probably the healthiest in ponds and small streams and creeks and more polluted the bigger the body of water they come from.  Don't forget those tasty non game fish that seem to bite when you are fishing for bass or trout they are tasty too.   Even the salt water has it's "Garbage Fish", visit to find out more about these tasty fish.

Who is ready to grab a pole and go fishing?

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