Alaska Gov. Bill Walker got most of the Hatfields and some of the McCoys of Cook Inlet salmon fishing together for a sitdown in Anchorage on Friday, and Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten pronounced it a good thing.
It is always positive for warring parties to talk to each other, said Cotten, a smooth-talking, former state legislator from Eagle River.
No doubt about that, but there is a legitimate question to be asked about who pays for a feel-good get-together of no value at a time when the state is cash strapped. Craigmedred.news has been asking Fish and Game for weeks what the governor’s Cook Inlet Task Force is costing.
As yet, no answer, though Cotten admitted the state is paying the mediators, and clearly the many members of the agency’s regional staff attending the Friday gathering had better things to do with their time Friday than explain the basics of fisheries management to several dozen people at the Egan Center.
There is no doubt there would be merit to the Walker administration trying to mediate the long-running Cook Inlet fish war if the governor had any authority over fisheries regulations in the state of Alaska – he doesn’t – and if the governor had the trust of all parties involved – he doesn’t.
Walker is seen as closely aligned with the United Cook Inlet Drifters Association (UCIDA), the region’s most powerful commercial organization. He has met regularly with the organization since becoming governor. He appointed longtime UCIDA executive director Roland Maw to the Board of Fisheries only to have the appointment go south.
Maw withdrew from the Board before being confirmed because the state had begun an investigation that would eventually lead to felony charges accusing Maw of stealing from the state’s Permanent Fund. After Maw was busted, a smiling Walker happily posed for a group photo with UCIDA board members and Maw, and the governor has continued to fraternize with Maw as he drags his case out with procedural efforts to avoid a trial.
Against this backdrop, Walker offering to mediate the Inlet fish war is like Vladimir Putin hosting talks on the resolving the Ukraine Crisis.
The Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA), the most active sport fishing group in the state, labeled the Walker task force a sham and refused to participate. Walker made no effort to bring the organization to the table, made no calls to the KRSA executive director or board members to try to lobby them into attending.
How does one negotiate peace with warring parties without getting all of the warring parties at the negotiating table?
But that is in some ways the smaller of the problems this show faces.
No legal authority
The bigger problem is that even if Cotten and Walker could negotiate peace between the Hatfields and McCoys (more on that below), the governor has no authority to institute a peace plan.
By law, the state Boards of Fisheries and Game rule over fish and wildlife management in the 49th state, and the Boards are under no obligation to listen to any governor.
Some board members have in the past put their positions above their principles and bent to the wishes of governors in order maintain seats on the board, but others have bucked efforts to be ordered around by the chief executive.
The Alaska system of fish and wildlife management was set up to encourage them to do so. Legally, the governor can try to coerce the boards into action, but he can’t tell the boards what to do.
All of this dates back to the very first Alaska legislature creating the very first Alaska Board of Fish and Game just after Statehood. State law was later amended to split that board into two – the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game – but the boards remained firmly rooted in the intent of the state’s founders.
The intent was create an independent entity to provide a more judicial than political setting in which to mediate the allocation of fish between gear groups. The original dueling entities of the day were primarily commercial – purse seiners, drift netters, trollers, and set netters – but the disputes between them were no different from those today between commercial and non-commerical fishermen in Cook Inlet.
Everyone always wants a bigger share of the catch. Humans are like coastal Alaska bears; they all want to get fat on salmon.
From the Southeast Alaska purse seiner grossing six-figures per summer to the frugal Kenai River personal-use dipnetter working to stuff a freezer with sockeye salmon caught at the cost of less than $1 per pound to the fishing guide earning five-figures steering tourist anglers around Alaska, the biggest issue driving allocation is economics.
Yes, there are some who fish for fun. They are catch-and-release fishermen who are regularly disparaged by all other fishermen. Cotten on Friday made a point of how much he personally enjoys chasing after salmon with rod and reel, and he believes there are plenty of sport fishing opportunities for anyone who wants to catch fish that way.
He also has a pricey riverboat and a six-figure income that makes it easy to move around the region to find the fish, and there are usually salmon to be found somewhere. Expensive toys are great for Alaska recreation. If you live in Anchorage at the head of Cook Inlet and own your own helicopter, for instance, it’s not hard to find a place to catch salmon most days in the summer no matter how spotty the salmon returns.
Most rod and reel fishermen don’t have helicopters, however, or for that matter boats. They’re constrained to roadside streams, and how many salmon make it back into those streams is heavily influenced by how many salmon are intercepted – or not – by the commercial fishery in Cook Inlet.
Heart of the issue
The “curtain of death” some have accused commercial gillnetters of hanging in the Inlet is at the heart of the fish war. Commercial fishermen want as many salmon as possible hung by their gills in that monofilament web so they can make money. Non-commercial fishermen want as many salmon as possible to escape the nets to make it back into rivers and streams where they can be caught with dipnets or fish wheels or rod and reel.
Non-commercial fishermen are generally happy when the streams and rivers are plugged with salmon, but that seldom happens. Commercial fishermen are almost never happy with how many salmon they’ve caught because they always see some way in which they could have caught more.
And they get downright angry at being expected to share with the unwashed masses a larger portion of what they see as their historic, harvest entitlement. The problem, they argue, is not that they catch too many fish; it is that the state that has doubled in population since 1975 with most of the newcomers settling in the Anchorage Metropolitan Area.
Most of the newcomers are non-commercial fishermen, many of whon want to catch salmon in the dozens of streams and rivers of the Kenai Peninsula or the vast Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and salmon numbers in all of these waterways are dependent in parts large and small on how many salmon are intercepted in the Inlet.
Long ago, the Legislature wrote into law some pretty good criteria to guide the allocation of these fish among the various fishermen who want them. The criteria have been largely ignored by the Board of Fisheries over the decades, and they weren’t even mentioned Friday at the Walker-sponsored Anchorage meeting.
But as written into the law, they “include factors such as:
“(1) the history of each personal use, sport, guided sport, and commercial fishery;
“(2) the number of residents and nonresidents who have participated in each fishery in the past and the number of residents and nonresidents who can reasonably be expected to participate in the future;
“(3) the importance of each fishery for providing residents the opportunity to obtain fish for personal and family consumption;
“(4) the availability of alternative fisheries resources;
“(5) the importance of each fishery to the economy of the state;
“(6) the importance of each fishery to the economy of the region and local area in which the fishery is located;
“(7) the importance of each fishery in providing recreational opportunities for residents and nonresidents.”
Early Alaska legislators don’t get the credit they deserve for suggesting allocation standards to encourage the Board of Fisheries to evolve salmon harvests over time. Unfortunately, there has been little evolution in Cook Inlet.
For two decades, the allocation issue has been high centered on “history” with commercial fishing interests bemoaning the loss of the “commercial fishing lifestyle” or the loss of “fishing time” even as they became steadily more efficient at catching more fish during shorter fishing periods.
The commercial fishing lobby has been hugely successful in hanging onto the lion’s share of the harvest by employing this tactic as the population of the Anchorage Metropolitan Area has steadily climbed to a modern-day population of more than 400,000 people.
The image of commercial fisherman as the good guys in the white rain gear is strong in Alaska. Even as limited entry permits in the Inlet steadily shift toward the hands of hobbyists looking to make some extra money in the summer, the image remains of the hard-working Old Man of the Sea headed down to the shore to fish as he has for all of his life like his father before him and his father before him.
Only it doesn’t work that way.
The state originally gave permits to Inlet fishermen in the 1970s. The permits became the property of the original recipients. Most of the original owners sold their permits long ago. Some of the permits have changed hands many, many times.
People sell them because they get tired of fishing. People buy them because they want to try commercial fishing, which indeed is something of a seasonal lifestyle. But almost every small business owner can say the same of his business on a yearly basis. Work defines people’s lives.
Lifestyle is the least of the criteria the Board should be looking at. In the interest of the state’s floundering economy – “the number of residents and nonresidents who can reasonably be expected to participate in the future,” “the importance of each fishery to the economy of the state,” and “the importance of each fishery to the economy of the region and local area in which the fishery is located” – should be at the top of the allocation list, but these standards have been ignored for years.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has no economist. The agency provides the Board no economic information to guide allocation decisions. And the Board has rarely asked for that sort of information.
No attempt has ever been made to quantify “the number of residents and nonresidents who can reasonably be expected to participate in the future,” although the number of nonresidents that could be enticed to come north would be nice to know. Tourism is one state industry with growth potential.
Commercial fishing in the Inlet, on the other hand, is a business in need of downsizing. Even most of the commercial fishermen involved now agree that there are too few fish returning and too many permits for anyone to expect to make a living off the Inlet anymore.
The good old days of commercial sockeye catches averaging near 4 million per year are over. The Inlet appears to be headed back toward the less than 1.5 million average of the 1960s and 1970s. It didn’t even come close to getting that this year.
As for “the importance of each fishery for providing residents the opportunity to obtain fish for personal and family consumption,” the state has never tried to quantify the directive. Fish and Game barely knows how many salmon Alaskans catch for this purpose on the Kenai.
And commercial fishermen involved in Inlet fisheries insist the catch is already too big no matter its size. They rail against unidentified dipnetters who overstuff their freezers with sockeye only to later throw fish away.
“Why do they think they deserve to catch the fish (and) not use ’em,” as one fisherman wrote in a letter to the Legislature. “I see them rotting in garbage dumps in the spring time. After sitting in the freezer not being used , they just get the thrill of catching but not using any of it.”
Does some dipnetted salmon get wasted?
“In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Even if the effort required of dipnetters to harvest salmon makes them more conscious of food waste than the average America, they are sure to waste a lot.
With catches sometimes near 400,000 sockeye in the dipnet fishery, the waste could approach 80,000 sockeye per year even if the dipnetters are twice as concerned as the average American about avoiding waste.
But if the national figures on waste are applied to the commercial fishery, it is responsible for far more waste. In America’s pile of wasted food, seafood waste is particularly high, researchers from John Hopkins University reported in a 2015 study published in the journal Global Environmental Change.
“We estimate that 40 to 47 percent of the edible U.S. seafood supply went uneaten in this period,” the wrote. “The greatest portions of this loss occurred at the levels of consumers (in and out of home) (51–63% of loss attributed to consumption).”
At that rate, about 20 to 30 percent of the commercially caught Cook Inlet salmon shipped south are being wasted after they reach market. With the 10-year-average catch of sockeye at 3.5 million, that would amount to 700,000 to more than 1 million sockeye being sent to landfills in the Lower 48.
At a catch of 2 million, the commercial waste would still dwarf any dipnet waste. But the waste issue is a red herring.
Most commercial fishermen don’t really care about it anymore than most dipnetters or anglers. It’s simply a political talking point with which to try to smear the opposition.
Non-commercial fishermen resort to similar propaganda when they contend that to prevent overfishing commercial fishermen need be kept out of the Inlet until spawning needs are met in the many rivers along the waterway.
Cotten was upset the local newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, recently ran a letter to the editor claiming this is the way the fisheries were managed in the past, and the way they should be managed now.
The first never happened, and the latter is not only impractical, it’s biological foolishness. Classically, salmon returns form a bell curve; they start low, build to a high and then taper off.
To maintain natural runs, fisheries managers try to control harvests so they generally conform to the shape of the bell. If they don’t manage that way, they can distort the shape of a natural return and/or risk grossly exceeding in-river goals for spawners, which generally leads to lower production per spawner in future years.
Some Alaska rivers already have chronic problems with over-escapement. A 2007 Fish and Game study found over-escapement a regular occurrence in Bristol Bay, the state’s biggest sockeye fishery. The problem has only grown in the Bay since then, but there is no evidence it has suppressed overall salmon returns.
Some Cook Inlet streams, meanwhile, now end up choked with unwanted pink and chum salmon.
When commercial fishermen Dave Martin and others rant about the need for “abundance-based management” as some did Saturday, they have a good point. But there is no practical, legal way to make that work using indiscriminate gillnet fisheries, and no reason for subsistence, personal-use and sport fishermen waiting for fish behind the commercial nets to believe commercial fishermen wouldn’t take advantage of special fisheries for under-harvested pinks and chums.
It’s simple economics. If pinks are going for 25 cents per pound and sockeye and coho are at a dollar or more, what commercial fishermen would be so foolish as to focus on pinks when he could use a pink-opening as an excuse to land a lot of sockeye or coho as “accidental” catch?
Larry Engel, a former state sport fish biologist and Susitna Valley angler attending the Walker meeting, said he’d be fine with a fish trap at the mouth of the Little Susitna River to take out a bunch of the excess chum and pink salmon that have returned there in recent years.
But state law would have to be amended to let someone run such a trap, which could allow sockeye, coho and Chinook salmon to pass upriver unharmed with chums and pinks removed for processing. And any attempt at ending the ban on traps would run into strong opposition from commercial fishermen dead set against any competition in the marketplace and worried about the history.
One of the first acts of the Legislature after Statehood was to ban traps because most of them were owned by Seattle-based fishing interests that dictated how the fishing business was run in Alaska. Now nearly the whole Alaska fishing business is owned by Seattle-based fishing interests, some of which are owned in turn by Japanese fish companies that help determine how the business runs.
And the more the salmon fishing business overall shifts from wild-caught to farmed fish, the more leverage those companies have over Alaska fishermen. Farms (not counting more than 100 million Alaska, Japanese and Russian ranched, hatchery fish) already produce 75 percent of the salmon eaten in the world today, and the volume of farmed salmon caps the price of wild-caught Alaska fish.
Real economic dangers
Alaska commercial fishermen still get a bit of a premium on their fish from the sea, but the premium only goes so far above the base set by increasingly efficient farms. Commercial fishermen in the 49th state have long relished their self-vision as the cowboys of the sea.
Unfortunately, they are looking more and more like they are destined go the way of the cowboys.
They are on the wrong side of the technology curve. Norwegian fish farmers are now experimenting with facial recognition hardware to identify each fish in their pens and monitor fish health weekly.
“If the fish shows signs of a problem, it is then guided into a holding pen for individual treatment,” writes Jason Daley at Smithsonian Magazine. “The iFarm tool is especially helpful in dealing with sea lice, a parasite which has become huge problem in the salmon industry, infecting fish farms in Norway, the U.S., Canada, Chile and Scotland. The lice, which are a type of crustacean, cost the salmon farming industry $1 billion per year.”
A $1 billion per year cost cut would enable salmon farmers in a highly competitive market to ratchet their prices down a little more. Alaska salmon prices would inevitably drop in response. Commercially caught Alaska salmon appear destined to steadily devalue as the efficiency of salmon farms steadily grows.
Alaska commercial fishermen face bigger problems in the near future than Inlet salmon allocation, but they are not going to yield a single Inlet fish to feed tourism or residents fisheries which might produce a bigger economic bang per fish. Why would they?
Since not long after Europeans showed up in the north and started fishing commercially, commercial fishermen have caught most of the fish in the Inlet. Thirteen hundred permit holders continue to catch the vast majority of salmon in the Inlet while tens of thousands of dipnetters and anglers make do with what is leftover.
The inevitable end result is a classic battle between the haves and have-nots. That’s not going to end until the state comes up with a reasonable and equitable way to begin phasing fishermen out of the commercial fishery with the idea of transitioning some of the commercial allocation to other fisheries in recognition of the social and economic realities of the day.
But few want to dig down into that difficult issue. Too many are emotionally locked into protecting their economic interests of the moment.
And the Walker administration, so far, seems most interested in pandering to those emotions than talking about how to solve the real problems going forward.
Categories: Commentary, News, Outdoors
Saw a wire service story here in MO that Walker was not in favor of the new building/structural requirements brought into being after the 64 quake. Now he’s changed his tune. It is great to see a state making progress like this!
A sweet irony if these closed loop fish farms save the Cook Inlet Kings.
Commercial fisherman are the dregs of a civil society. Farmers on the other hand are noble bedrocks of any society.
What a load of BS! Go back in your hole in the ground!
Paul, you must be another arrogant, narcissistic & bigot! Thanks to God, your kind is vast and far between,
May God strike you in your blasphemous histrionics!
If Medred had his way, all the gold mined in Alaska would be distributed more ‘fairly’. After all, according to the states constitution, the gold belongs to all of us. I’ve never been able to understand his hard on for commercial fishing, especially re the Kenai.
And as far as those horrible hatcheries are concerned, nary a peep about those evasive/invasive (and awful tasting, don’t even THINK about targeting them!) Canadian kings that I’ve been living on for the last month.
Then, we are led to believe that Alaska caught salmon commercially is a dead end, soon to be swallowed by technology, thus more or less a worthless endeavor. In the end it’s over with anyway, right? He may be right. It could be a lot like journalism. Hopefully his brand.
the journalism parallel is a good one, Monk. newspapers were convinced the digital age wasn’t going to affect them much, and if it did, they’d just take over digital news and get rich on that.
look how well that worked out.
if Medred had his way, the gold in Alaska would be treated like the oil in Alaska and Alaska would get a reasonable share of the profit. miners now pay nothing on a net income of $40,000 or less; 3% over $40,000; $1,500 plus 5% over $50,000; and $4,000 plus 7% over $100,000.
they ponied up more than $41 million last year: http://tax.alaska.gov/programs/programs/reports/Annual.aspx?60610&Year=2017
we certainly don’t get as much out of mining as we do out of oil, but we get more than out of fishing and do way better on the net. should the rate on the big mines be higher? probably. would we better off if someone would find a big gold deposit on state lands, and we could get a royalty out of the deal as well as taxes.
and i don’t have a hard on for commercial fishing or any kind of fishing for that matter. i believe the state should manage all of its resources for maximum value for Alaskans as the authors of the state Constitution intended.
in many places – Bristol Bay, most of the Kodiak and PWS areas, most of Southeast – that is happening now. around Cook Inlet, however, there is sometimes more value per pound in sport-caught fish than in commercial caught fish and yet from June 15 to August 15 the state is managing for commercial catch as the priority.
it should be managing for the greatest economic input to the regional economy. it’s foolishness to hamstring segments of the economy that could grow to try to maintain parts of the economy that are running counter to market forces.
just think where we’d be if the state had decided to protect newspapers from the digital age by putting up a whole host of barriers to internet connectivity instead of pushing it. commercial fishing in the Inlet is that old, fading economy. tourism is the new, growing economy.
we should be talking about a fair and equitable way to ease people out of the fishing business to provide room for the tourist business to grow before the market for wild salmon crashes. it’s not going fade as quickly or as totally as our whale and herring oil markets did, but it’s going in that direction.
my biggest concern for the future is that these on-land salmon farms offering fish raised in filtered water and fed FDA approved “organic feed” and grown locally catch on. it’s not hard to envision a whole lot of Americans deciding it’s better to eat those fish than salmon from the dirty ocean where they feed on who knows what?
that would be a disaster. fish are all some rural economies have now or had. the hatcheries did a great job of stealing the Yukon River chum fishery from rural Alaskans. and if hatchery production is now leading us to trade sockeye and Chinook for more pinks, i’m guessing there are a lot of Alaskans who’d see that as a bad deal.
maybe it’s time to take the blinders off. on the fisheries front we have a lot of issues.
Really well said !!!! Though I think commercial wild caught salmon will always have a nich and perhaps it should be managed with foresight so it can go on at some level . It brings a flavor of culture to our society that would be truly sad to loose . Other wise I am blown away with your analytical accurate informative forward thinking reply to a sour comment. Good information!!!!
I think you are right and we will see a shift to on land sustainable farming of salmon…
The water is filtered (no mercury) food source is secured (no plastic pellets) and less young fish are dying (than hatchery ocean ranching or off shore pens).
China is building the newest facility in Scotland right now.
“There are some compelling pluses to indoor fish farming, even if your chief concern is profit. Fish grow faster indoors, proponents say, and fewer die. There is less need, if any, for vaccinations and antibiotics, and you can reduce feed costs. There are also collateral benefits, such as using fish waste compost to grow vegetables or generate electricity. “I’m not a tree-hugger,” Bill Martin, president of indoor fish farm Blue Ridge Aquaculture in Virginia told me. “I’m a capitalist. I’m an environmentalist because it’s good business.”
Consumers are starting to look for “green” producers who strive for Organic certification.
Nice opinion, Craig but I’m also of the opinion that you’ve had a hard on for all types of commercial fishermen and I’ve followed your writings for about 30 years.
Good luck with your plans to get rid of commercial fishing.
get over it, Bill.
i don’t like the idea of anyone stuffing their pockets full of cash made on Alaska resources and hauling the money south with little or no contribution to the Alaska economy. and i believe state policy ought to maximize the use of Alaska resources to build a solid Alaska economy.
i happily plead guilty to being an Alaska firster.
if there are commercial fishermen who fit the definition, in a resource sense, of “rape and run” businessmen, i’d certainly not favor them. i don’t know of any such fishermen in Cook Inlet at the moment, however.
there are a few, a very few, who actually still making a living off that fishery, and i’ve generally found them the most thoughtful and most willing to talk about how to maintain it as an economic activity going forward.
Craig, I’ve been in favor of an income tax that will get those Washington commercial fishermen who now pay no taxes (either to Alaska or WA). That’s how its been since Alaska lost its individual income tax law back around 1980.
As far as making a living the old saying has always been that the successful Alaska fisherman was one who had a spouse with a good state job. Essentially there is nothing about commercial fishing that says it has to make a living for the participant. Obviously the intent is to make a profit, as with all businesses, but making a living is something different. Many of Alaska’s commercial fisheries are part-time operations with most participants engaging in other endeavors during their off time. Same as many other business owners.
funny, i thought Alaskans voted to amend the constitution to allow limited entry so a limited number of commercial fishermen could make a living as professional fishermen. the history, in fact, would indicate that what the professional fishermen of the day wanted was to be rid of the part timers: “Cordova fishermen opposed entry restrictions on professional fishermen, whether resident or non-resident, but wanted part-time fishermen excluded.”
but i sort of like your thinking. the logical next step is to make it legal for all Alaskans to obtain a permit to sell their salmon. then everyone can have a part-time summer job and catch fish.
Craig, your thinking is just your opinion of what Alaskans were thinking. My own thinking was that the situation before limited entry was one of nobody willing to take care of a fishery where there was no ownership-sort of a “tragedy of the commons.”
We can disagree on that but clearly the salmon fisheries were suffering under the system prior to limited entry and my belief is that it was cured with limited entry.
As far as Alaskans being able to sell their salmon, the Feds allow a certain part of subsistence halibut to be sold. I am opposed to it but that’s the way the law is now. I would also oppose any selling of sport or personal use caught salmon.
Clearly there can be no collusion when UCIDA and the department of fisheries are in the same building.
I”m personally rooting for the Fish Farmer, it is abundantly more sustainable than just take, take, take. May the Commercial Salmon Fisherman go the way of the milkman.
I believe your bathroom is breeding bolsheviks, Paul.
Haha Bill , Seems I read that on someones door long ago.
Would that someone be Adam Kenyon?
Bill, Notice I am not the same Paul with the original comment. I beleive it was somewhere in a place known as geezerville, where a some old geezers lived.
Thanks new Paul, as I hadn’t noticed the difference. The door I was referring to was in a fish camp in Cordova that some may have called geezerville.
I still suspect the original Paul’s bathroom is breeding bolsheviks.
It takes a Bolshevik to know a Bolshevik…………Comrade Commie Bill.
Yessir Paul-glad to see you have a sense of humor.
Good links in your story…
That “Journalists Resource” link confirms many of my concern’s with our current salmon populations…
“Researchers have found mercury in wild salmon, though whether the amount is higher in farmed or wild salmon remains unclear. Little bits of plastic debris are also a growing concern, both in wild and farm-raised fish. (These plastics often contain endocrine disruptors, which mimic sex hormones and confuse our bodies.) Here are a few other concerns:Several studies have also raised concerns about polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in both farmed and wild salmon…
Dioxins, says the World Health Organization, “can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer” in humans.”
I guess it is time for more Americans to try out a Vegan lifestyle.
With all toxins, the dose makes all the difference. Just because you can measure a substance, does not mean it is dangerous. Mercury is a naturally occurring element. It is found worldwide. It comes out of volcanic eruptions. We have a lot of those here in Alaska. The real discussion ought to be about how much is too much and how to limit exposure to those sorts of doses.
Plastics degrade in sunlight, and there is a lot of it in the ocean. I’d be real careful about parroting what the WHO or any other environmental organization claims about plastics, or anything else for that matter. You can find a pretty good discussion on ocean plastics at the following link including the mechanism for its removal from the oceans. Hint: microscopic life eats it. Cheers –
agimarc, mercury was used extensively by gold miners and large amounts were lost into almost all creeks from placer operations. Creeks near saltwater made sure that much of that mercury ended up in the ocean, where fish (especially long lived species) end up getting it in their systems. Because salmon are short-lived they generally are not considered vulnerable to significant amounts of mercury.
In other words, salmon are not going to have “too much,” as you say.
Thanks for bringing up those points.
Yes, Mecury is naturally occuring in our environment (just like Arsenic and Lead are as well..)
As for the sources of Mercury contributing to toxicity…”Natural sources of mercury include volcanoes, forest fires, cannabar (ore) and fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. Levels of mercury in the environment are increasing due to discharge from hydroelectric, mining, pulp, and paper industries.”
As well as coal fired electric plants throughout the world.
“However, as a result of natural processes and human activity, fish also contain mercury in the form of methylmercury. Methylmercury can negatively affect the central nervous system, particularly the developing brain of a fetus.”
As a result of this, even our EPA is stating that pregnant females should eat little amounts of fish and of various different species.
Does this warning make it to rural Alaska?
Lastly remember that Arsenic is found all over the globe and has a high correlation to cancer in animals.
“Groundwater throughout Bangladesh is contaminated with arsenic, leading to widespread poisoning. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of deaths in the country are the result of drinking arsenic-laced water.”
So “naturally occurring” on Earth does not equate with safe to consume…especially in very high quantities.
Steve, nobody is suggesting pregnant women not eat salmon! That’s (mainly) because salmon contain low levels of mercury.
Some fish species but not salmon!
It appears some sources are concerned regarding pregnant women eating fish and even though salmon is thought of to have a lot less Mercury than shark and other longer life species, it still does contain some Mercury…
Exactly how much, well I bet that varies with species of salmon and location.
I wonder how many fish are tested each year in AK?
I suspect not as many as should be?
This concern has led many to limit the servings (of all types of fish) down to 2 to 3 servings per week.
Many pregnant females in bush Alaska eat way more salmon than that each year.
How is this effecting fetus and childhood development?
Mother Jones writes:
“The Food and Drug Administration recommends that expecting mothers eat two to three servings of fish per week, with an emphasis on those high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury, a neurotoxin that can put a developing fetus at risk. But the EWG, which tested mercury levels in 254 pregnant women following the recommendations, found that 1 in 3 participants had mercury levels deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Steve, for some reason you’ve got the red ass for salmon consumption by pregnant women. Here is something that may give you some pause; http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2017/05/pregnant_women_should_eat_more_fish_not_less.html
You will note that the new guidelines is not a “limit” like you’ve stated. And the risk of mercury in salmon is considered low because they are short-lived species and don’t get exposed like those fish living longer. Anyway, look into it and form your own opinion. These guidelines are for “fish” that covers a multitude of sins but Alaskan women, especially those in the bush, are not consuming large quantities of those long-lived fish (with possible exception of large halibut).
It is nothing against salmon, just a quest to detoxify my body and eat the purest food sources available.
I am only citing other sources whom have issued warnings for pregnant females to limit ALL sources of fish to 2 to 3 times a week..this is not “fake news”.
Obviously, some disagree (especially commercial fishermen).
What about the Western Villages in Bush Alaska that still eat large amounts of Whale meat?
Recent studies in Japan also show high levels of Mercury in that meat.
“Whale Meat in Japan Contains High Levels of Mercury. An international moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since 1986. But many people in Japan still consume cetaceans, particularly toothed whales. New research suggests that eating these whale products may have unexpected consequences.”
Remember those Japanese whales are living in the same Pacific Ocean that AK whale hunters harvest in….
This is not only about salmon, but yes all Salmon tested from the Pacific also contain some levels of Mercury….
Food is a personal and social-economical choice, many folks in rural AK have little choice, that is my point.
Maybe more “third” party testing is warrented?
Steve, the point of my link was that the 2-3 portions per week for pregnant women is not longer a limit and that they should eat more fish (of the type that has limited mercury like salmon).
You are free to limit your take of mercury however you like but the terms for pregnant women has changed. When the facts change, some folks can change their positions too. Heheh!
I did read your Slate link…
Without digressing too far, allow me to explain.
Many nutritionist feel the FDA “food pyramid” and FDA guidlines are B.S…
If we all eat white flour, red meat and dairy throughout our life like they recommend, then we get obesity, diabetes and heart disease…scientifically proven!
As far as the FDA saying “eat more fish”….well, many believe this is based on fish industry lobbying firms skewing the U.S. dietary guidelines.
“But a number of leading nutrition experts—including some tasked by the government to advise it on the latest research—say the guidelines are influenced too much by food manufacturers, food producers, and special interest groups… As a result, many experts say some of the government’s diet advice continues to promulgate out-of-date research from years past…”
“It’s upsetting to see cycles of misinformation coming back over and over again,” says Dr. David Heber, founding director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Human Nutrition. “The public has been confused and will remain confused by these guidelines.”
I would guess that after the EPA issued it’s mecury alert for pregnant females to only eat 2 to 3 servings of fish a week (including salmon which has mercury continuously found in its tissues…as well as DDT and other chemicals) that the Trident Seafood lobbyist was knocking on Don Young’s door to get that reversed…that is where the FDA stepped in?
Just a hunch, but you can google it, lots of debate on the FDA guidlines and lobbyist, misinformation and unproven science.
Mecury does not leave our bodies once inside and even small levels that build up over years and years of consumption may cause an uptick in the recent amounts of “neuro” type diseases like ADHD, Aspegers, etc. to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Many opinions and hypothesis are out there.
Everyone should research the data and form their own conclusions.
When the facts change Steve, some can change their positions but clearly not all.
This Task Force meeting was a big waste of time and money. It is almost a certainty that Walker will be vacating the Governor’s mansion in early December. His successor will surely not continue this wasteful expenditure.
Notably absent from this politically motivated meeting were the users that benefit most from the resource. Walker has made it quite clear that he favors the commercial fishers in Cook Inlet over all others and made sure the other users were not welcome.
But not to worry. Help is on the way. There will be a new ADF&G Commissioner, new Directors, new BOF members and a new direction starting the day after the new Governor is sworn in. The constitutional mandate requiring that the fisheries be managed for the many and not the few will be the order of the day. And it is about time!
Time 4 Change…
When U say:
“Notably absent from this politically motivated meeting were the users that benefit most from the resource.”
Did U mean China?
Yep Steve. It’s the Chinese people that Alaska’s Constitution must mean when it mandates that the fisheries resources are be managed for the maximum benefit of its “people”. Not any of those pesky dip netters or anglers. But what the heck. All those from the Dept, the commercial sector and the couple from other user groups had a great time at this ridiculously expensive coffee klatch!
I just wonder how we can let Alaskans eat from food banks when over 50 percent of our seafood goes to China?
Seems like we have a bigger problem at play than coffee?
Will a new governor address this issue at all?
Cotten’s wife is a practicing MD so make that a very handsome six figures. And yes, she’s exactly as you might expect.
Joe, I suspect you mean “she’s exactly as Joe Hill might expect.” Care to expound on Cotten’s wife? What is it that Joe Hill might expect?
In the immortal words of George H. Bush: Rhymes with witch.
Cute, Joe Hill!
Did that come to you in a dream or do you have something to back it up?
I’ve experienced her in action up close and personal.
If my dreams ever include Dr. Cotten, may I never wake.
Well Joe Hill, what does your ad hominem attack on Dr. Cotten have to do with any argument on here (either Sam Cotten or their combined salaries)???
You sound like a bitter dick!
Cerebral eunuch complains he is forced to read, respond to irrelevant comments.
Did you notice that there was no one there at that task force representing Dipnetters? Never mind that UCI dipnetters represent almost 100,000 Alaskan residents that benefit from it? So it seems that KRSA was not the only one not being represented with this Salmon Task Force. “Pandering” is somewhat used in the negative as a verb and I guess it does apply here. This close to an election it really doesn’t matter what is decided at this Task Force. If or when a new administration is elected, it is up to the next Governor to decide if he really wants to keep this task force going or not. I guess time will tell. Good read though, Thanks
Your articles are so informative!!! I love the nitty gritty Alaska information!!