Saturday, July 21, 2012

Slow Food starts with Slow Fish

In the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, photos of boats and families engaged in traditional fishing activities are as beautiful to many as photos of small and organic farms on land.  
Acknowledging the value of family fisheries, celebrating the health benefits and flavors of wild fish, and working to protect marine resources for future generations, connect eaters, harvesters, environmentalists and policy makers. 
In support of small scale producers, Slow Food and Slow Fish have a commitment to community, healthy environments and food biodiversity.
Oxfam’s support of the Slow Food USA Congress in Kentucky in April provided an opportunity for a fisherwoman from the Pacific Northwest to bring photos, recipes and stories of the heritage, hopes and concerns of family fisheries to the gathering. 
After catching wild salmon for nearly thirty years in Alaska and Washington waters, my heart is full of gratitude since I’ve witnessed nature’s nearly indescribable abundance – between 25 million and 65 million wild salmon returning to rivers of Bristol Bay, Alaska in a summer month.  Most of the residents are involved in the commercial fisheries  that supports thousands of families while providing a healthy food that travels slo-o-owly by boat and barge, in cans and frozen, to markets year around. This region is now targeted for exploitation of valuable, nonrenewable resources that are under the ground. Extraction would inevitably pollute the wild salmon rivers and destroy an indigenous way of life that has existed for thousands of years.  
Healthy wild fish populations seem to be viewed sometimes as deterrents to development.  With rivers dammed, tidelands bulldozed, coastal waters polluted, wild species decline, causing collapse of economies based on once abundant common food resources. Currently, many decisions are being made throughout coastal regions and watersheds whether to resist or allow open pit mining, expanded oil and gas drilling, pipelines, coal trains, and other industrial development.
When governmental support of cheaper competitive products and often foreign owned corporations/investors causes the value of sustainable resources to plummet, the door is opened for short term dirty industries to come into a region.
Just as family farms on land are being displaced by mega-operations, small independent fishing businesses cannot survive when bad practices of factory farming are replicated in our marine environment. Many of the hazards are similar: concentration of ownership, subsidies providing unfair market advantage to large producers, introduction of genetically engineered and invasive species, usage of antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals, voluminous amounts of pollution, which is uncontained in a fluid environment.  
Marine feedlot operations are expanding and many companies receive government funding for feed, cage and gear design research.  Too often, global companies are exploiting coastal regions to rear high value foods for export, taking the profits away from producing nations and leaving the pollution and environmental degradation behind. 
At the same time, “certification” schemes are being introduced that ignore the basic flaws in intensive production of finfish, shellfish and shrimp – especially that the true costs of production are not paid since nature provides waste and chemical disposal.  High value species, such as geoduck clams, shrimp and salmon, are reared for diners in wealthier nations.  Many of the species that can be grown in confinement result in a serious protein loss since they are fed pellets composed of small fish, often harvested from coastlines of poorer regions of the world.  Or their production damages tidelands and the aquatic web of life, which is occurring with geoduck and intensive oyster production in Washington State. In tropical regions, widespread elimination of coastal mangroves is occurring because of the expansion of shrimp farming operations.
Industrial aquaculture that causes a protein loss and bankrupts coastal communities and small businesses is neither sustainable nor fair.  Yet, aquaculture can provide nourishing foods, if environmentally sound systems rearing fish that consume plants are developed. 
As Slow Food’s founder Carlos Petrini stated, “Slow Food unites the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability and harmony with nature”.  For those who relish eating seafoods, Slow Fish recommends  common sense, curiosity and appetite to make choices that are conscious, delicious and responsible. Together with Oxfam, we can help turn the tide and ensure that appropriate food is available, affordable, sustainably produced/harvested, and enjoyed.
 
Anne Mosness
Go Wild Campaign
34 Rocky Ridge Dr.
Bellingham, Wa. 98229

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