Saturday, June 07, 2008

Heading Upstream, Jumping Ever Higher

Well hello, blogfish readers! After Mark's kind introduction, I had hoped to jump in with my first post right away but the world intervened a little. I left NRDC only a week ago, after eight lovely years, and that week has been filled more with learning Quickbooks and California tax law than thinking about fish. Starting your own consulting firm does increase your empathy for the paperwork burden of small business owners like fishermen, who get their very own box on the 1099-MISC.

I needed a break from configuring software, so I picked up the latest Saveur magazine with its promise of great fried chicken only to find a stealth pair of articles on salmon. These two pieces are so undercover they don't even appear in the online table of contents for some reason, which is a shame because they're both quite good.

Molly O'Neill writes about the Yup'ik eskimo fishing cooperative in Alaska and their work to market Yukon river king salmon. The article is accompanied by a photo guide to "know your salmon" and map of the West Coast's major salmon rivers (pointing out that some are bereft of salmon these days). According to the article, the cooperative grew from a disastrous 1999 summer when no fish came back to the Yukon and the local fishing industry collapsed. Some of the Yup'ik decided that if and when the fish came back the solution lay in making Yukon fish a high end product, garnering more money per fish as fishermen on the Copper River had done. I wish the author had mentioned the current status of the Yukon fish populations, since we know that when fish get valuable there's pressure to take more, but overall I think it's a fantastic piece, especially for a food audience.

Nancy Harmon Jenkins takes on a much more controversial topic: salmon aquaculture. She notes that "many environmentalists insist that salmon aquaculture is downright dangerous," as do many salmon fishermen, as demonstrated by the booths at last weekend's SalmonAid. Still, she concludes there is a "growing, if inchoate, movement toward farming salmon responsibly" and goes on to profile Loch Duart and Cooke Aquaculture. I like that she lays out many of the concerns with aquaculture and how each of the farms is or is not addressing them. She also reminds readers that "organic" is a meaningless term when it comes to fish because there are no standards for the term, and this is a question I get asked alot. So, I'm glad this information is getting out there alongside nice photos and, of course, more recipes.

I hope your summer barbecues are going well. Time to turn of the computer for a while and go see that shiny sun thing in person.

5 comments:

Mark Powell said...

Thanks Kate, for diving in!

Dale Powell (older brother) said...

Kate: You were wondering what the current state of the Yukon River King Salmon run? It's not what it used to be. I live in Fairbanks, and my job takes me all over rural Alaska, mostly the northern part of the state. I spend quite a bit of time on the Yukon, but quite a bit upstream from the Yupik Villages. Mostly Kaltag, Nulato, Galena, Tanana. These are Athabascan villages. Our local paper ran a piece 2 days ago about this very subject and it can be read here: http://www.newsminer.com/news/
2008/jun/07/biologists-brace-
dismal-yukon-river-king-salmon-ru/
When I talk to locals in the villages about the Kings, you find out how much the villages have been impacted by the reduced number of fish coming through. Gone are the days when most of the villages were able to make a modest living fishing. And if I may say so, I have never tasted fish as good as the unique Yukon Kings. Very prized, dripping with oil. I like to cold smoke them over about a weeks time with my secret recipe, cut into strips as they do in the villages. Hopefully the Kings will arrive in good numbers this season, only time will tell.

Pepijn said...

Well hello Kate Wing! It seems I now have two reasons to read Blogfish!

Mark Powell said...

Sad news from brother Dale on the Yukon River kings. But I agree that they taste great when you can find them.

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