Marion Nestle on Alaskan Fishing

June 22, 2010 1:05 pm
Posted in: Happening Now
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Alaskan Fish Processing Plant

Trimming Halibut at the Trident plant, Sand Point, AK

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H, bestselling author of What to Eat and Food Politics (both on my summer reading list) recently completed a trip to Alaska to check out the fishing practices over there.

She’s written about it on her blog over the past few days; it’s worth the read.

As a proponent of wild Alaskan salmon (and a fan of seafood in general), and one who cares deeply about sustainability and the environment, I’m riveted by what she has to say.  I wonder if we’re going to be able to continue juggling the needs of all stakeholders, including the fish, the fishermen, the processing workers, the consumers, and the planet.

Alaska fishing politics: fish processing

“Workers at the plant eviscerate the fish, clean them, and cut them into clean fillets.  These will go to Costco and Sams’ Clubs (Walmart) in the lower 48. . .  The men and women doing this work are mostly seasonal workers from the Philippines.  They work 12 to 16 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week.”

Wild Alaskan seafood:  sustainability

“The number of fishing permits is fixed and finite, making them a market-driven commodity.  They are often handed down from generation to generation, but also can be sold. . . But fishing area controls are democratic.  A closed fishing area is closed to rich and poor alike. . . This system creates some tricky situations. ”

Wild Alaskan salmon:  food politics in action

“The Alaskan system for doing this works fairly well but is under constant pressure.  Commercial fishers want to be able to catch all the salmon they can with no restrictions. Communities that have always depended on salmon for sustenance want to be able to continue doing so, and do not want fish caught before they get to community spawning streams.  Hence: salmon politics.”

Photo by Marion Nestle.

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