I’ve made it already, and it’s one I can — and will — keep.
by Noni Mausa
For me, salmon and tuna have always been at opposite ends of my food spectrum — cheap staple versus delicacy.
I’m a boomer, and I am sure I’m not alone in having a mother who used tuna as a tasty way to feed seven or more of us on a budget. Make a cream sauce, open 3 cans of tuna and a tin of green peas, and pour it over toast — that was the comfort food of my childhood and adulthood too.
And heaped up tuna sandwiches with mayonnaise and little chopped gherkins … pasta salad with cheese, peas and more gherkins … tuna casserole with onion rings on top … well, you can tell I grew up in Minnesota.
I miss them already, and it’s only been a few weeks.
At my parent’s table tuna was the rule, not the exception. We must have eaten a school of tunas in my school years. Oh, tinned salmon showed up now and then also, but I never got to know the delights of broiled salmon till I grew up.
But this autumn I decided I couldn’t have either of them anymore.
Eating a tuna isn’t like eating a cow. Cows are grazing animals, but tuna, silvery streamlined and one of the fastest fish in the sea, is a peak predator. Eating tuna is like eating cheetahs — yummy, endangered carnivores, in cream sauce.
At the other end of my delicacy spectrum we have the beautiful wild ocean relative of the trout, the salmon. The wild ones, as are tuna, are endangered.
But I can’t eat the farmed salmon either — it’s now certain they act as a reservoir for disease and parasites for the wild ones, and there are other problems too numerous to detail here.
So earlier this autumn I had my last tin of tuna (creamed with a sprinkle of curry powder – very un-Minnesotan) and my last tin of salmon (can’t remember what I did with that.) There is a single salmon steak still in the freezer. Then that’s it. Those last two tins hang from my cedar tree now, clinking gently in the wind, to remind me. But so far I haven’t been tempted at all.
Maybe someone else will eat the last tuna, or the last salmon. But it won’t be me.
Canned tuna really isn’t the problem, its blue fin, yellow fin etc.
NI don’t understand what you’re talking about when you say blue fin, yellow fin, e tc. why does fin color make a difference?
I know that Tuina are overfished merely by buying cans of tuna. The quality today is very much less than in earlier and happier times. Even if I pay top price. opm ti,ems. yeaonly a, becu.
I resolve to continue drinking wine in 2010
I’m right with you there. In fact … BRB…
Those are different species of tuna. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuna
The larger species are more valued for consumption as steaks or sushi and are the most endangered, the tuna species cheap enough to be sold in cans are overfished but not endangered in the way blue fin and yellow fin are. I think giving up canned tuna is an overreaction, it is not going to keep Japanese fisherman from going after the bigger more valuable fish.
thanks for the recipes. we never had such delicacies where i grew up.
alas, it is, as you say, too late.
there was a good run of coho this year. me, i’d wait until there was ten years good run. but the American motto is you can’t have too much of a good thing.
Well I had two long posts disappear.
First. Go ahead and boycott tuna steak and sushi. They come from the larger (in size) and most endangered species. Moreover they have extended life-spans, not fishing them means the population rebuilds naturally.
Second. Go ahead and boycott Atlantic salmon. The natural runs have collapsed, never compared with Pacific runs to start with, and eating a fish now largely raised in ocean pens and fed with pellets is not really eating at all.
Third. Boycotting canned tuna? A little more doubtful, the species used though overfished are not necessarily endangered as such, and the health benefits of eating any kind of fish should not just be overlooked.
Fourth. Boycotting canned salmon? I don’t see it. These days most of that comes out of Alaska and from salmon species that are not particularly endangered, especially up north. And mostly those fish are harvested on the way into the rivers to spawn and die, as long as enough make it up river for the grizzly bears to catch on the way up and for the bald eagles to feast on the spawned our carcasses I don’t see the problem. Now Oregon and Washington Coho runs are a different story then again I don’t think their even exists a commercial salmon cannery in these two states. At least Google searches only came up with 19th century references plus a couple of custom canneries for sportsmen.
Fifth. Boycotting salmon filets and whole fish? I don’t see this at all. The problem with salmon populations is not taking salmon on the way in to their spawning grounds, they are at that point doomed to die anyway, the problem is that the spawning habitat is degraded or physically blocked and worse that the habitat that used to shelter the salmon fry downstream as they grew big enough to enter the ocean has been filled, diked, channelized or had stream side shading trees cut down.
The key to salmon restoration is habitat protection/restoration and the big key to that is continuing demand for adult salmon from the commercial, recreational and tribal fisheries. The various runs are managed in a way as to minimize the take of ‘wild’ salmon as compared to hatchery salmon, most of the fish taken are not really a factor for species survival in the wild.
Obviously its a balancing process, but you are not going to fix the nearly collapsed salmon runs of California nor the weakened ones of Oregon and Southern Washington by boycotting salmon coming out of the Frasier River in Canada and points north up through Alaska. If you have to boycott Alaska try avoiding various bottom fish from the Bering Sea who are truly endangered. Meanwhile enjoy your Alaska King or Washington Chinook (same thing) in relative ease.
Eat a salmon, save a river. Or just go ahead and save that river and that forest for their own sakes and the salmon fill follow. It is not like open water species like bluefin and swordfish where the cause of population collapse is clearly over fishing of breeding or pre-breeding stocks, that salmon in your higher end fish store is that red and that meaty because he or she was on a one way run up their home river and needed a whole bunch of stored up nutrients. In the case of salmon a smaller number for fisherman to catch is a symptom of a cause that is mostly pretty far removed from that hook or gill-net.
And collectively we could probably do more for the environment by avoiding MacDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, or Subway’s Seafood Salad or that Krab Salad in the grocery store. They are all made from Alaska Pollock which while still one of the biggest fisheries in the world shows alarming signs of collapsing.
We can open and restore Salmon habitat, unblock a culvert here, install an oil/gas separator there, upgrade septic systems close to rivers and bays. But once you scrape the bottom of the Bering Sea clean it is kind of game over.
Thanks Bruce, for all the intelligent details. I am a bit hampered in this balancing act in that the tin in the store seldom says “contains tuna from smaller species not in any way endangered.” but perhaps I can shop around and see if there’s some guilt-free tuna I can buy.
Anyone who wants the recipe for my mother’s cold tuna salad with cheese and peas and pickles, drop me a line. In the summer it’s a meal in itself.
As for “the health benefits of eating any kind of fish should not just be overlooked” if anything I am adding more, not less fish to my diet. I keep pickled herring and “seafood snacks” around, and am really enjoying a farmed species called tilapia, a mild white fleshed fish quite a lot like sole.
But never, ever lutefisk. I may be Minnesotan, but I’m not crazy.
For an increasing period of almost 35 years, I kept having untraceable food reactions. On the traceable allergies, I appartently set a record for the number of things that I am allergic to. There is a type of grease in cans called WD40. In 1992, the state workers protection board admitted that I was one of 4 people in the US who were allergic.
The foods that I could eat dropped like a rock. Canned, processed, any food that had been exposed to chemicals nailed my guts. Switched to organic as much as possible. Little secret:
you soak the ground in chemicals for 80 years, it is not organic. It is just poisoned one less dose. Understand? Unless the land has never been farmed and the water used on the farm checked for chemicals it is not and never will be organic.
I can not drink water in the US. Not tap, not bottled, only distilled and some of those suckers lie.
5 years ago, I moved to the driest desert in the world. Farmers can get three crops a year. Work incredibly. Food in farm one day, no chemicals, no fertilizers, used to grow. Picked in the evening and in the mercado the next day. Miracle. Total miracle. As long as I eat local, I have no problems, none, nada, zero. The reason I’m saying this is that a lot of northern hemisphere food appeared on the shelves. I went on a binge of sweet pickles, Kraft mayo, Spam, M & Ms, canned Danish ham, Kellogs corn flakes. I have had the worst gut pain that I have ever had.
The single local dietary staple that I cannot touch is fish.
People you eat fish, you will die younger and you will destroy your genes. The oceans have been poisoned. But then again if the Food and Drug administration were totally destroyed as an agency and all food companies opened up to full class action law suits, you’d only have two or three companies left.
I see autistic children diagnosed as 1 per cent. That is possibly one quarter. I had doctors tell me that I couldn’t have the food allergies that I had. Those Attention Deficiet Disorder kids – 7 per cent diagnosed in the northern hemisphere. I never even heard of these disorders 60 years ago. Your children are poisoned by the chemicals. Monsanto should be burned to the ground and totally destroyed. Dow, Heinz, Dupont, ditto. I didn’t have kids, I know I’m a mess. I am so glad.
Alaska salmon are sustainably managed on a scientific basis required by the Alaska State Constitution. The abundance of wild salmon in Alaska has been restored since the lows of the 1950’s to the historical high sustained yield of the late 1800’s when salmon were first commercially harvested by Americans moving north.
So you should go back to eating wild Alaska salmon and help sustain the commercial fishermen that count on consumers to support this industry.
To verify you can check the Alaska department of fish and game and many other sources.
Thanks Terry. I’ll head over to our local fish store and see about guilt free salmon too.
But I am quite glad to see the response here. It matters what all 7 billion of us eat, and the least important factor is our health (here in NA anyway — other countries, other problems.)
Humans living in “the wild” whatever that was, must have had very limited diets most of the time, and pretty short lives. Now we read about the moderate effect of fish oils increasing lifespan or intelligence by a few percentage points, and in response we rush out to eat some more canned cheetah … sorry, tuna. Sort of a milder version of rich Chinese men buying rhino horns (if the rhino horns worked.) Or we fall in love with delicacies. I have a lovely container of home-grown raspberries just waiting to be thawed out and served with cream for a party on one of the nastiest midwinter days. What do I pay in electric bills so fresh raspberries and sweet corn and tilapia are there waiting for me? (Ans: about $900 per year.) But maybe the cost would be higher, though externalized, if I bought canned goods instead.
Two big questions are: what is the carrying capacity of our planet? and at various break points of population what price do we pay to support our huge numbers? I hate the fact that there are places where people kill and eat chimpanzees and gorillas. But that appears to be a predictable result of poverty in proximity to wild lands that cannot be successfully guarded.
As an erstwhile reporter, one of the first thing I learned is that we are very predictable creatures, in the aggregate. A lot of my stories could have been written ahead of time and used over and over like boilerplate without sacrificing accuracy.
Predicting and avoiding the bushmeat trade, war crimes, and stupid popular responses like people giving up pork because of the swine flu should become part of the standard political toolbox in this next century.
When I take new people out on my commercial salmon boat I always take a herring (which we use for bait) place it on the deck, and then step on it. Then I point at it and ask the person what it is. When they say they don’t know, I answer:
It’s a herring impaired.
ps California king salmon populations fluctuate more than others because they live at the southern edge of their range. The low population levels right now are due to poor water conditions in the ocean, according to biologists with CDFG, although fry survival in the Sac River Delta is an issue. They’ll be back in a few years, just wait and see. Silvers (coho) spawn in coastal rivers and streams which have been screwed up by logging and development. They’re pretty much history now. Alaska has too many salmon. The more we eat the better. Farmed salmon (Atlantic salmon) aren’t salmon. They are in a different genus, more like trout. They are just maketed as salmon.
Actually, just to correct the record, the Fraser River salmon run is collapsing. Maybe Alaskan salmon is doing ok, BC salmon is not.
“the tuna species cheap enough to be sold in cans are overfished but not endangered in the way blue fin and yellow fin are. I think giving up canned tuna is an overreaction, it is not going to keep Japanese fisherman from going after the bigger more valuable fish.”
There is canned yellowfin tuna. And even cat food– at least that’s what they claim it contains. There used to be canned bluefin tuna – the Japanese high end market didn’t single handedly drive it to the brink of extinction. Also, I’m a little puzzled by your assertion that it’s an “overreaction” to limit consumption of fish stocks that are overfished. That would be the best time to do it, and not wait until they are critically endangered.
“The various runs are managed in a way as to minimize the take of ‘wild’ salmon as compared to hatchery salmon, most of the fish taken are not really a factor for species survival in the wild.”
And the hatchery supplementation is necessary because the fishing pressure is too great for the natural production to handle – if the number of fish taken were unimportant, why would they release hatchery fish in Alaska, where the spawning habitat is still in pretty good shape? It’s true that other factors are often more important for disappearing salmon stocks – the Yukon king salmon fishery has declined for unknown reasons, but the fishing pressure on top of that does not necessarily help. Maybe the Alaska salmon fishery management is as good as it gets, but hatchery supplementation may have unpredictable effects on the genetics of wild stocks in the long run.
“It is not like open water species like bluefin and swordfish where the cause of population collapse is clearly over fishing of breeding or pre-breeding stocks, that salmon in your higher end fish store is that red and that meaty because he or she was on a one way run up their home river and needed a whole bunch of stored up nutrients.”
They’re still pre-breeding stock and those nutrients would go to feeding the river ecosystem in the natural state. The fish dying after spawning is not really relevant to how much you can take pre-spawning, it’s that because the fish compete for habitat space, it may be possible to remove some of the spawners before limiting recruitment. Tuna and swordfish produce millions of eggs compared to a salmon’s hundreds or thousands, so I would be careful of claiming that the removal of the breeding stock is unimportant in the latter case.
“Farmed salmon (Atlantic salmon) aren’t salmon. They are in a different genus, more like trout. They are just maketed as salmon.”
Atlantic salmon is what the word originally referred to, so this must be a pretty old marketing ploy.
You should try canned mackerel. It can be used in place of tuna and is better for you because of the higher level of omega-3 oil.
Well I’ll defer somewhat to Windy who is clearly better informed than me. But.
As to canned Yellowfin I dare say there are. Just as I was shopping today in a high end grocery store and saw some canned smoked Alaska King/NW Chinook. But the prices were such that it would not be likely to be used in some salmon/noodle/pea casserole. On the other hand the cheapest canned pink salmon came from Thailand where I have no idea about fishing pressure. I still maintain that buying Alaska canned salmon shouldn’t make anyone guilty. Still obviously details matter.
As to hatchery supplementation in Alaska. I’ll have to think about it but on first blush think the argument is circular. That there is not enough of any given citrus fruit the the wild to supply the needsof some six billion humans does not mean that those citrus speicies are somehow threatened in a bio-diversity sense, just that absent some outside cultivation they would be at risk. The problem comes in where monoculture displaces diversityanf the relative abundance of the crop is used as an argument against preserving the natural range and diversity of the original natural resource.
We could go on sparing about details but the larger point remains. Where Bald Eagles ever really at risk of going extinct? No, the odds that DDT contamination would kill off the Alaska population being pretty much non-existent. Are the Northern Spotted Owl REALLY so distinct fro
the Southern Spotted Owl that we can talk about species extinction? Well maybe not. But whether you call it a species, sub-spieces or population is it important if it vanishes across a historical range? Damn skippy, because ot l takings are created equal.
My point, Windy, is that when you eat an Atlantic “salmon” you are eating a fish that is more closely related to a brown trout than to any of the seven species of “true” Pacific salmon. It’s confusing because the generic name of the Atlantic is “Salmo.” Even a rainbow trout is more closely related to a “true” salmon than an Atlantic salmon is. See below. All direct quotes. What I should have said is that the Atlantic salmon is not in the same genus as the seven other species of salmon, and it is more closely related to a brown trout, even though it is called a salmon. So there.
“True” trouts and Pacific salmon have latin names that begin with the genus name Oncorhynchus, while some other trouts and salmons have the genus name Salmo (brown trout and Atlantic salmon), Salvelinus (the chars), and Coregonus (whitefish and ciscos).
What is the difference between the Atlantic salmon and the Pacific salmon?
The Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) is actually one species within the genus Salmo. Pacific salmon are represented by seven different species, see question above, and belong to the genus Oncorhynchus. The seven Pacific salmon species have life histories that are extremely complex and vary widely within and between species. However, all the Pacific salmon die shortly after spawning. Atlantic salmon have a much less variable range of life history strategies across the species and have high post spawning mortality but are capable of surviving and spawning again.
Are steelhead (rainbow trout) trout or salmon?
Until 1988, steelhead (the anadromous form of rainbow trout) was classified in the genus Salmo along with Atlantic salmon, brown trout, and several western trout species. With additional osteology and biochemistry data, biologists have now reclassified steelhead as members of the genus Oncorhynchus. The reason for this is that new information suggested that steelhead are more closely related to Pacific salmon than to brown trout and Atlantic salmon.
1.”The various runs are managed in a way as to minimize the take of ‘wild’ salmon as compared to hatchery salmon, most of the fish taken are not really a factor for species survival in the wild.”
2. “And the hatchery supplementation is necessary because the fishing pressure is too great for the natural production to handle…”
Quote number one is drivel. Say a hatchery fish with a clipped adipose fin swims back to a stream to spawn. Rather than being canned, it fertilizes the eggs of a wild fish. The eggs hatch and hundreds of little salmon WITHOUT clipped fins – that are in really genitically 50% “hatchery”- swim back to the ocean to grow up. Then these fish return in a few years without clipped fins and the bioligists count them as “wild” fish. Silly.
Quote number 2? There’s something circular about that statement, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. But it’s true that while Alaska doesn’t allow salmon “farming” they have some huge hatchery programs that are probably screwing up the genetics of Alaskan salmon runs. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that escaped Atlantics have been found spawing in every major river in BC and southeast Alaska (where they don’t occur naturally). Reason enough to evict the stinking carp-like lamprayesque disease ridden buggers.