Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dining in Salmon Nation

No plans yet for celebrating Earth Day this Saturday, April 22? No worries!

One simple but meaningful way to mark the day is by having an Earth Dinner: a meal of local, sustainably grown foods. A deck of cards from Organic Valley forms the basis of a dinner game in which participants learn the story of the food: how it was produced, where and by whom -- as well as the role food has played in the lives of everyone gathered around the table.

[Digression #1: I like the sample "Fun Facts" card which tells about rice and asks, "How do you prepare rice?" Most devoted users of the More-with-Less Cookbook -- the first in the series of which Simply in Season is a part -- will remember the rule of thumb (or rather, rule of forefinger) for adding water to the rice without a measuring cup: Use enough to immerse your index finger from "tip to middle of first knuckle."]

[Digression #2: Note that Organic Valley is not on this fascinating chart showing corporate ownership of many familiar organic brands. Did you know that Morningstar Farms is owned by Kellogg, Boca by Kraft, and Odwalla by Coca Cola, to name a few?]

[Cool map, eh? Listen to the NPR story about RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions) coalition's map of North America based on food traditions.]

For those of us living in Salmon Nation, a delightful Earth Day celebration meal could center on the Simply in Season recipe of the week, Asian Grilled Salmon – but drat it, the spring salmon run has been extremely low this year. And we really can’t blame the entire problem on that Einstein of a sea lion that’s been chowing down at the fish ladders of the Bonneville Dam.

Simply in Season notes that a number of organizations create lists of best/worst picks for seafood, based on which species are currently most abundant and well-managed. See samples from Environmental Defense and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Recommendations can vary somewhat, but wild salmon tends to go on the "best picks" list while Atlantic or farmed salmon ("Atlantic" salmon can be raised in the Pacific Ocean, too) goes on the "worst picks" side.

For a quick rundown on issues related to salmon farming, go to the slide show at the Salmon Nation website: at the top of the page under "The Fish," select "Just ask: Is it wild?" Among its charges:

– The fish poop generated in densely stocked fish pens flows directly into the surrounding waters, creating an enormous pollution problem.

– Despite high use of antibiotics diseases spread rapidly, infecting wild fish that swim past the pens. A recent study in the Jan. 5 edition of The North American Journal of Fisheries Management provides more evidence that sea lice from fish farms are killing wild salmon.

– When farm-raised Atlantic salmon escape their pens, they compete for habitat with wild fish.

It’s great to see, though, at least one way of farming salmon that addresses all of these concerns. The 100-Mile Diet folks report on an innovative farmer who raises coho salmon in land-based – or to be more precise, barn-based – pens. Rather than fish waste going into the ocean, at this farm it fertilizes wasabi plants. "That's a sushi meal ready to go" – no complaints here.

Environmental Defense has also announced a new partnership intended to address problems with salmon farming. From their press release:

"In partnership with Environmental Defense, two major food purveyors have unveiled a new purchasing policy for farm-raised salmon that requires suppliers to meet tough health and environmental standards. . . . This collaboration marks the first time that two major seafood purchasers have partnered with an environmental organization and agreed on production standards for farmed salmon. . . . Among other changes, producers must meet a stringent health standard for PCBs and other toxic contaminants, take unprecedented steps to reduce potential impacts on wild salmon, use innovative production systems that do not discharge chemicals and metals into the ocean, and reduce their dependence on wild fish for salmon feed (conventional salmon farming consumes large amounts of wild fish)."

Whatever you choose, just don’t spoil your seafood dinner with the wrong wine. If you select a Northwest vintage, check the bottle for a "Salmon-Safe" certification label:

"Erosion and runoff from hill side vineyards can bring silt into streams, reducing the ability of native salmon to spawn and thrive. . . . Salmon-Safe helps vineyards protect and restore salmon habitat by planting trees on streams, growing cover crops to control run-off, and apply natural methods to control weeds and pests. . . . Look for the Salmon-Safe label . . . and get the satisfaction of knowing that your purchase is helping keep our rivers safe for salmon."

[Oh -- and please don't miss this whale of a poem. Them's good eatin'.]


At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

Well-documented work Cathy. And I love the poem!

Joe, Salmon-Nation Salmon Biologist


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