January 2nd, we survived the New Year, the holidays, and even the event that
threatened to spoil our celebration of the winter solstice - the Mayan
Apocalypse. Now that it's over, I look out my window on a chilled landscape
that gets even more chilling with each Facebook post I read or article I scan
on the news web sites. The end-of-the-world fantasy is gone, but the real one feels like it's creeping up on us just as if we lived in this gray ice-fog every
day of the year. Extinctions are increasing exponentially around the globe,
Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is disappearing at an accelerating rate, giant
storms, floods and drought are ravaging the planet with increasing frequency,
and what are we doing as a race? The same old act: shooting each other;
arguing; looking the other way; praying; making shit up to be afraid of.
easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things that seem to be going wrong when you
sit back and reflect on the state of the world and what a mess mankind is
making of it, but I really believe that is counterproductive. How can I look my
son in the eye and say, "It's too late. Your baby girl doesn't have a
chance." I can't. I refuse to believe we will allow ourselves to sail into
that bleak future. And the fact of the matter is that we cast off the lines on
that voyage long ago. But we can still change course, turn off the autopilot
that is steering us into the maelstrom and hand-steer ourselves to smoother,
cleaner waters. That is what I have to believe: that abundant, unpolluted
waters are still achieveable. But in order to get there we need more hands to
be willing to take the wheel, and we need to remain committed to that course.
That is why I will continue to rail at the insanity that plays out in the halls
of our government, even if it's only on my Facebook posts or in emails to my
congressmen. But here? On a blog about fishing and family? Yes, here too. One
issue at a time.
I'm no expert on genetic modification of food, but I did harvest a food product
(salmon) for 20 years in Alaska (from 1977-97). The threat of farmed fish
damaging the gene pool if they should escape their pens has been
well-documented over the years. Farmed fish were a big hit when they first
began showing up on the international market - they were beautiful (no scars or
net marks that come from living in the wild or being caught by fishermen). They
were available fresh any time of year, not just during the salmon seasons. And
they were cheaper. Before we knew it, fish farmed in Norway and Chile (farms
were banned in Alaska) had taken a third of the fresh market out of the hands
of the fishermen. Alarming as it was, fishermen unions and some processors took
a while to respond with marketing efforts of their own. Wild salmon isn't fed
food supplements, has better muscle tone from not living in pens, and doesn't
need the food coloring added to the meat like farmed. That message, simple as
it was, took years to get out. All of which helped to label farmed fish as an
unhealthy food to feed your family. Ironically, the US FDA won't label wild
salmon as "organic" because they can't document what they eat out in
the oceans while they are maturing - a four-year process in most salmon
species. Instead, the farmed fish can get that label, depending on where their
enhancement drugs originated. Look here for documentation: The GMO Salmon Struggle
the corporations involved in producing farmed salmon, and one in particular, AquaBounty, have recently taken it a step further - to genetically modify
farmed fish to GROW faster. This presents a whole litany of new problems, also
documented in the attached article. Just one, that a GMO fish has a voracious
appetite, presents a problem for survival in the wild where food
sources fluctuate dramatically. If the wild population is contaminated by
such a modification, they entire species gets pushed closer to the edge if
food sources decline. In other words, they could run out of gas quicker.
entire idea of playing with these kinds of enhancements seems ludicrous to me.
Why take the risk? Once a GMO fish escapes and breeds into the wild population
you can't unring that bell. It's just one among many ideas that are pelting the
commercial fisheries around the country (and world) and putting them in
jeopardy. Ocean acidification is another major concern (more on that later),
and the Pebble Mine (a copper strip mine) proposed at the headwaters of the
largest salmon producing rivers in the world (Bristol Bay, Alaska) is another.
Makes me glad I'm not making my living on the water anymore, but infuriates me
just the same because many people I love still do. One of those folks summed
it up well when he said, "They only have to win once to do their damage.
We have to win every time." True enough. But I like to think that with each victory the fog seems
to lift a little.