Friday, February 17, 2006

Eating Endangered Species?

I was listening to Neal Boortz the other day, and he was trying to provoke his audience and Belinda, one of his show producers, by saying he was glad that the Bald Eagle was being removed from the endangered species list so that he could hunt one for the purpose of eating it.

This rubbed me wrong on so many levels, but that's what Boortz was angling for. I simply couldn't eat the bird that is the symbol for our nation. I also couldn't eat a creature that was so recently on the verge of extinction.

Then I read a Washington Post article that suggests that maybe I am doing exactly that. I was stunned, because I eat salmon at least three times a month, grilling it at home, even as the snow flies. From the Post article:
In 2004, federal and state governments spent more than $160 million to preserve that salmon species, commonly known as chinook -- listed by the federal government as endangered in the early 1990s. And that doesn't include the millions spent on other kinds of salmon, such as sockeye, coho and chum.
I don't believe I've ever had chinook salmon, but I seek out sockeye and coho for the health benefits of eating the Pacific varieties. Besides, salmon is the only fish Ame will eat. But I never thought of sockeye salmon as endangered. I buy it at Jonah's Market in the Geist area, and even at my local Target store.

It begs the question- Are these varieties of fish truly endangered, or, is this so much more money tossed out the window to appease a special interest group? Also from the Post:
The report, which regularly invites controversy, provides information to Congress so lawmakers can make decisions on conservation spending, according to the service.
This is as it should be. If salmon is truly endangered, I'm not going to eat it. If it isn't, what are we throwing our money at? The money could be better allocated on real needs, or even returned to the taxpayers, perish the thought!


GadFlier said...

The Endangered Species act simply cannot be trusted. Listing is a matter of political maneuvering, not science. It's even worse than the EPA.

Michael said...

Much of the salmon on the market is farm raised, Canadian or Chilean. Unless the label specifically states that it is wild, then you're eating farm raised salmon (note: the colour added tag just means that the feed contains a colouring agent that makes the meat orange to red...otherwise the fish would be gray).
One of the primary reasons for the decline of the wild salmon population we go kiddies...government interference. The over-damming of rivers in the Pacific Northwest and even in the East have denied the WIld Salmon access to their inland spawning habitats. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for this, as are the multiple layers of government who go out of their way to interfere in the inland waterways...whether for their own purposes or to benefit a private company.
Wild Oats and Fresh Market often carry wild caught salmon, as well as organic farm raised.

Anonymous said...

Yes, dams are largely responsible for the decimation of salmon in the northwest. But in Northern California, where all the same NW species were equally abundant, the main problem has been development. Neither gov't nor development should be thrown out. Libertarians should grow up. Only a responsible gov't will force the removal of the dams and development of nukes to replace the baseload energy.
For a discerning consumer, one should only eat Wild Alaskan Salmon which is not endangered thanks to responsible govt. Farm raised salmon (which is anything labeled chilean or atlantic) endangers struggling wild stocks and is significantly less healthy (especially re: mercury)

Mike Kole said...

I do look for the wild fish, for the more nutritious qualities associated with them, which is why I tend to get the Sockeye or Koho.

I didn't see Michael or any other Libertarian recommend an elimination of government. Those are anarchists. I did see him point out that a particular government action came with an unintended consequence for the environment, and it was negative in this case. It's worthy of pointing out. Arriving at a responsible government is precisely the problem, so it pays to have a government that respects some limitations in its actions, or more fully considers the outcomes and doesn't merely focus on solving the problem immediately before it. You will find this blog loaded of analysis of similar scenarios through all areas of life.

Here's a practical question: How does raising fish in a farm setting threaten fish in the natural setting? These would seem mutually exclusive.

Michael said...

There's a difference between limited government and limitless government. The latter is what we currently are saddled with, especially where environmental issues are concerned. The libertarian, free market solutions are the only "grown up" solutions. Everything else requires running back to mommy for answers. After decades of looking at the political arena it is easy to see that libertarians all too often offer the only grown up solutions.
Overdevelopment is a direct result of government interference. Zoning, drainage and everything associated with development are done with government approval. Again...government bears the over riding responsibility here by licensing development without looking at the big picture. Libertarians MUST look at the big picture to avoid harming others by their actions.
PS: Farm raised salmon has lower mercury levels than wild salmon, altho the levels of PCBs are often-times higher due to their presence in feeds, but are not in a toxic range.

Robert Enders said...

Just a thought: Ben Franklin once proposed that the turkey be the national bird. Of course it sounds ridiculous now, but I guess at the time there may have been a debate on whether the national bird should be a food item or not.

It is usually a bad idea to eat a carnivorous animal, like an eagle, since you aren't just eating that bird but every animal that bird has ever eaten. In other words, you don't know what germs or parasites are in it.

GadFlier said...

Chickens and turkeys eat their own poo--even when "free-range". I actually do know what "germs and parasites" can be found, therein. They're no better than a raptor.

As for fish farming being a potential threat to wild fish--it's not always the case. It has to do with how the farm in question is managed. The farms don't compete directly with wild fish, but they are not isolated from them very well either. Extreme crowding and poor aquaculture practices encourage disease--which in water can spread pretty darn far. Depending upon the specific disease or parasitic infestation, it is possible to bring infected fish to market without any signs that most consumers could notice. While such disease can also occur in the wild, it's more likely for an entire farm to be infected than an entire catch. Likewise, waste handling can be analogous to a cattle rancher scooping up all the dung on his back 40 and spraying it across the highway.

Well-run fish farms are much better than this, but not all fish farms are well-run. Currently, the people are not well-informed, and there are large vested interests devoted to reducing the spread of information. I am not an advocate of heavy government regulation, but I do favor widespread and readily-available information on all aspects of our food. If people don't want to buy farmed fish, for whatever reason, they deserve to know if it's farmed and how farms are run. If people don't want to buy genetically modified food or rBGH milk, for whatever reason, no matter how silly the reason might be, they deserve to know whether or not the food they buy contains such ingredients.

This is something that we do need to distinguish between if we love liberty. There is a difference between requiring full and complete disclosure of information to the public and meddlesome government regulation.