Diet Changes

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“I haven't eaten FISH in over 10 years. I loved fish but stopped after reading the label on a $7.00 can of tuna - "Only minimal amounts of mercury." Minimal mercury?”

What a great comment by my friend Sharon on my “Who’s Eating Who?” blog. By sharing her personal decision, she motivates me to get clearer about how and why I’m eating fish.

I realize that one of my pleasures in eating salmon is tied to my identity as a Northwester. Many in our local towns make their living from their fishing fleets in Alaska. At any potluck, fisherman wear the evidence of their work in leathered faces and often a shortened finger or two. The same way that eating lobster was part of being a New Englander in my childhood, salmon and its seasons is part of my community now.

Salish Sea Salmon Seasons

Salish Sea Salmon Seasons

I’ve been focusing on eating salmon because it’s very likely that Northwest Orcas are dying because of a lack of their preferred diet of King salmon. I want to know ─ have I been competing with them? After a bit of checking I’m happy to learn that my local markets have been limited to wild Alaska Coho and Sockeye salmon, not the King variety. I still have to look up the five major types of salmon; their complicated seasons of fishing regulations are still beyond me. 

None of the usual constraints of habitat or geography seem to check them. They cross rivers, plateaus, mountain ranges. In coastal regions, they gather shellfish; farther inland, they hunt mammals. Everywhere they settle, they adapt and innovate.
— Elizabeth Kolbert describing the emergence of Homo Sapiens in The Sixth Extinction (2014)

Even if our resident Orcas can shift to a different salmon type, it certainly is easier for me to change what I eat. We humans are the ones who have survived extinction by our adaptability (so far). We, way more than wildlife, can shift both what we eat and where it comes from more easily than any wildlife can.

It looks like the highly regulated Alaska fisheries are pretty sustainable. I’m aware that the widely held guideline of ‘eating fresh and local’ doesn’t match having Alaska salmon frozen and shipped in, but my current focus is on the Orcas.

I’m not so sure I’ll stay willing to change what I eat though. Chime in with comments about foods that you’d be willing to change and those not so much.