I lived in Seattle for 24 years but went salmon fishing only once.
Bill Marler, our publisher, and I have a long history. Sometimes in reading the comments we receive on Food Safety News, I am struck by the fact that people do not understand his background. Bill was not a farm kid per se, but was close enough in that he was raised in a rural area on Washington’s Hood Canal.
What his parents did not raise on their property, they expected to get out of the salt waters of Hood Canal. They lived off the land and sea.
So at some point, long after I’d been living in Seattle, Bill decided there was something just unGeoduck about the fact that I’d never been salmon fishing. I’d never even had the desire, and I was from Minnesota’s Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Nevertheless, I agreed to go on this venture, which involved staying up most of the night and heading out Highway 101 toward the Pacific Ocean on the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the tiny town of Sekiu. That is as far as you can go north before Cape Flattery sends you south.
We arrived at Sekiu about 3 a.m. and slept across from the charter boat dock. At 5:30 a.m. it seemed that everyone in Sekiu got up and took a leak at exactly the same time. (No women in Sekiu at this time.)
Then we got on the boats and headed out to sea. I cannot remember what our limit was, but the salmon came so quickly that we were fished out by 6:15 a.m. and back in our slip by 6:30 a.m. The salmon we took home was fabulous.
My idea of what salmon fishing is like was forever set. Bill figured he’d taught me something, and did not make me do it again.
My image of salmon in the Pacific Northwest, and certainly Alaska, is one of total abundance. Many years when I lived Seattle — even when there was talk about salmon being endangered — you could drive around to back roads where members of various Indian tribes were selling salmon at discounted prices.
It’s sort of in that context that I am following the controversy over bigger, genetically engineered salmon. I wish I could, but I cannot get too excited about it. Sure I understand how politicians from Alaska, Washington state, and a couple of other places can get all excited about it, but excuse me on this one. I don’t think food safety is at issue.
During the many years I heard that salmon might be disappearing and how bad that would be for the cultural and culinary aspects of this fish, there never was a day when I couldn’t buy all I needed at Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market.
I truly doubt that it’s going to be the end of the world if bigger salmon become available.
What politicians will do to dance to the music of their constituents is always fun to watch. But to let the likes of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, dictate findings to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration without any scientific backing would turn the approval process into farce.
Salmon are worth a lot, even driving through the night and getting up at o’dark thirty in the morning. But they are not worth leaving science behind and turning into a bunch of Luddites.