Today's Catch: The Cost of Caring
THE 12TH ANNUAL WASHINGTON TROLL salmon Lunch took place in Seattle last month. The annual affair, organized by Washington’s Makah tribe and the Coastal Trollers Association, is hosted by Lark Restaurant, now in a new location with a greatly expanded space but the same excellent food. The event celebrates the opening of the Washington troll Chinook fishing season, and is intended to introduce Washington’s troll-caught salmon to food writers, restaurateurs and others who might not be familiar with the value of Washington’s commercial salmon. Among those who received an education at the lunch was the new director of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Jim Unsworth, who spoke about his love of (recreational) fishing. He related a story of a good day fishing (recreationally) out of Sekiu, Washington with a friend. Between the two of them, he said, they landed 32 nice Chinook, but of course they only kept their limit of two and threw the rest back. If those fish had been caught commercially, they would have fed between 600 and 900 people and brought several thousands of dollars in economic benefit to the state. As it is, given the greater than 40 percent mortality of line-caught Chinook, 13 of those fish probably died when they went back in the water. We hope director Unsworth revisits his fishing practices now that he’s in charge of the fishery.
The event was a great place to talk about the care our West Coast commercial fishermen take to keep the resource productive, and to ensure their catch is handled carefully and delivered in excellent condition to the end user. One of the methods employed by the west coast fishing fleet in an effort to keep the fish in good shape and eliminate waste is onboard refrigeration. On page 22 of this magazine, Paul Ivy explains some of the issues related to changing your refrigerant, including the environmental factors that dictated the expensive shift from ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons to less damaging hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and the expensive refit to non-ozone damaging hydroflourocarbons. These, because they emit greenhouse gases, have been targeted for phasing out by the international climate community and the Kyoto Protocol, to which the US is not even a signatory.
While the US West Coast fishery works to keep their catch fresh, sustainable and environmentally sound, a new paper (tinyurl.com/lmwwjd3) published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, finds that many ecologically-sound fisheries produce lower economic and community benefits, while less ecologically-sound fisheries produce a better community return. For example, Alaska salmon earned a rating of 4.88 on a scale of 5 for ecological sustainability, while delivering an economic return of 2.86. Most US West Coast fisheries studied produced sustainability ratings of better than 4.25 with the exception of Pacific groundfish and California urchin, which were still well within the acceptable range for sustainability. By comparison, many fisheries, including those in Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Indonesia, Senegal and Peru scored below 3 – well into the “red zone” for sustainability, while scoring as high as 4.29 out of 5 for community benefit.