Study Shows: Fish Farms Harm Wild Sockeye

Another sea lice/salmon farm study was published this week.  Yes, I am going to write about sea lice again… I know the topic seems a  little dry, but I find this whole salmon farming battle really interesting.  It is probably in part because our family depends on the health of wild seafood stocks, but also because the heart of the debate is centered so close to home, just north of us in Vancouver, BC and the surrounding area.

The study that came out this week provides some pretty compelling evidence that BC salmon farms are infecting Fraser River sockeye with sea lice.  In short, scientists from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and several environmental organizations conducted studies pinpointing the routes that migrating runs of sockeye salmon take to get to the Skeena River and the Fraser River (Fraser River sockeye are a hugely valuable resource, not to mention a BC icon).

Fraser River watershed (in green)

The Fraser River sockeye, which must travel past some 18 open net fish farms in the Discovery Islands (between Vancouver Island and the mainland), picked up more sea lice than their neighbor salmon in the Skeena River where sockeye don’t pass by any fish farms.

You should read the whole article from the Vancouver Sun: Fish farms linked to sea lice infestations among wild sockeye. (It’s not very long, I promise!)

Many studies have been conducted on this topic and although there has been some contradiction (read my post on contradicting sea lice studies) the vast majority point to the same conclusion: open net salmon farms increase the levels of sea lice on wild salmon when they are in their most vulnerable stages.

I do feel some sympathy for Canada because salmon farming is a major contributor to their economy and provides jobs for their people.  However, there is also job potential in an alternative: development of closed containment salmon farms, which are much more environmentally friendly and do not put wild fish at risk.  Considering all the evidence, Canada is being irresponsible in allowing salmon farming to endanger one of their most valuable natural resources, the wild salmon.  Too little is understood about these wild salmon runs for us to be contaminating their habitat and exposing them to disease and parasites.  I vote for erring on the side of caution when it comes to the existence of an entire species.  Salmon farms need to clean up their act and move toward closed containment systems NOW!

A view of the Fraser River in Mission, BC

Want to know more?…

-Canada is taking some steps in the right direction… read here about efforts to develop closed containment salmon farms, aka the future of salmon farming.

-And watch a 90 second video of a closed containment tank being built and installed.

-I hate to assault you with too much info at once, but this is another great video “Farmed Salmon Exposed”, but I warn you… it’s 23 minutes long (but worth it).

-Read some of my other posts about salmon farming:

My Discussion with a Salmon Farmer

Out of Control Sea Lice

Try Something New: 22 Dungeness Crab Recipes

The Washington Coast Dungeness Crab season has been awesome so far!  All of our fisherman friends have been kickin’ butt, and many are having their best season EVER.  This is great news for fishermen, but it’s also nice for all the consumers and chefs out there who can go to the grocery store or fish market and get FRESH dungeness crab.  It is my personal favorite – I would take dungeness over king crab or lobster any day!

check out this beauty!

check out this beauty!

One of the best ways to eat crab is just plain, dipped in butter (classic), but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up.  So while searching for new recipes online, I came across this:

The West’s best seafood: Our guide to healthy, sustainable choices from the West’s amazing bounty from Sunset Magazine.  This is a guide for buying, prepping, and cooking seafood with 108 recipes, including a compilation of 22 dungeness crab recipes.  Yay!  Just what I was looking for.

I will definitely be trying out some of these recipes in the next few weeks.  For more Dungeness crab recipes, click on “Dungeness crab recipes” under “Categories” in the sidebar to the right.  And if you have a favorite crab recipe of your own, please share!

Happy cracking everyone!

Coast Guard Rescues 5 off La Push

Yesterday a Bellingham fishing vessel, the 80 foot Vicious Fisher, started taking on water and made a call to the Coast Guard requesting assistance.  All five crewmen were rescued with the assistance of a rescue swimmer and a Motor Lifeboat rescue crew.

Watch a short video of the rescue taken from the Coast Guard helicopter.  You can read the whole news release on the same page.

110203-G-0000X-001-ViciousFisher.

Its always scary to hear of boats from our fleet going down…  just relieved everyone got off safely.  Thanks Coast Guard!

Adjusting… and then Readjusting

I get asked pretty regularly what it’s like having a husband that is gone all the time.  My response varies depending on my mood, but inevitably the word “adjusting” always comes into the conversation.  “Adjusting” is the word that defines my existence as a commercial fishing wife.

This is the summary:  Zed leaves to go fishing, and over the course of weeks or months I learn to adjust to his absence.  I develop routines and coping mechanisms that allow me and the kids to “get by” until he returns (I’m sure he has his own ways of coping with the fishing lifestyle).  And when he comes home I readjust as we get used to each other again.  I change my schedules and my routines and I try to accommodate another person in the house.

After Zed returns from a fishing trip, we usually have a day or two of bliss, where we are just so happy to be a family again.  Then we start stepping on each others toes as he struggles with adjusting to life on land after weeks or months on a boat with constant stress and danger, working around the clock, and I adjust to the disruption of my routines and the doubling of my cooking and cleaning.  If Zed has been gone for an extended period of time we have to (in a way) get to know each other again.  While he is gone we lead such drastically different lives, with very little communication between us, and almost no way of really knowing what the other person has been going through.

After a couple of weeks of mild irritation from both parties we begin to settle in and figure out how to share the duties around the house (like getting the kids ready for bed) and if we have enough time together we eventually develop a routine together.  And then our time runs out and he’s back out on the water, and I once again adjust to being a single parent.  This little dance we do is repeated MANY times throughout the year and we never seem to be able to avoid it.

I hate to sound whiny or negative because, despite the difficulties, we are very lucky to have the opportunities we do.  Just to have a job in this economy is something to be thankful for!  And I also know that I am not alone.  I imagine that the experience would be similar for anyone with a spouse who is gone from home for much of the year.  Military families must have it especially hard and, although I worry for my husband’s safety when he’s gone, I won’t even pretend to understand what it is like to have a spouse away at war.

So until we find another source of income, I will continue to adjust, readjust, adjust again, and try to think of it as an exercise in flexibility…  or maybe strength training for our relationship.  After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder!

Dungeness Crab Trip #1 a Success!

Zed and Remo haul a pot

The first trip of the season: Done!  Off to a pretty good start, the F/V Pacific Hustler delivered their first load of crab yesterday in Blaine, WA.  They had a slow first couple days and one of the guys got pretty sea-sick, but overall it was a good trip.

I love it when they deliver up here, because I get to see my husband!  It was a brief visit, but better than when he crabbed in the Bering Sea and I wouldn’t see him for FOUR MONTHS at a time.  They left this morning to do it all again.  Hopefully they’ll be back in a week with another full load!

Last, but not least... coming home with a full load... what a beautiful sight!

Congrats on your Article Zed!

Just received the January issue of Pacific Fishing Magazine featuring an article about Aleutian Crab Rationalization by my brilliantly talented husband Zed Blue!  Congratulations Zed on your first published article!

I recommend everyone pick up the magazine and reads Zed’s take on rationalization from the point of view of a deckhand who crabbed in the Bering sea before and after its implementation.  Crab rationalization has been devastating for many crabbers and fishing families, including our own, and we need more people like Zed to stand up to the big corporations that are taking over the fishing industry.  Way to go Zed!

(read the full article here)

Time for a change

We have reached that point in our adult lives where we need to make some major decisions.  Zed is tired of being only a deckhand, and only barely paying our bills, and is thinking of buying his own dungeness crab operation (permit and boat).  Until this point, he has resisted making this move because he didn’t want the added responsibility and stress of owning his own boat.  Essentially, we were afraid of the boat owning us.  This is a big decision in itself, but on top of that we will need to decide WHERE to buy an operation.

We love living in Bellingham and we love our neighborhood, but the cost of living is relatively high, and so is the cost of a Washington State permit.  Our other options are Oregon or California.  California is looking to be the more feasible with boat and permit prices at a fraction of what they are in Washington or Oregon, but a very high cost of living.  Maybe we could fish in California, but keep our home in Washington?

Arrrggghhhh.  It’s a tough choice to make and either way we will end up with more debt and responsibility, but also more potential for making a decent income.

Anyone have any advice?????

Late season=Christmas on a budget

Washington coast dungeness crab season is going to start a little later than we expected…  This is good because it means Zed will be home longer, but it also means that we have to wait that much longer before getting paid.  We are going to have to stretch our budget a little bit, no more eating out, and we have to get creative for the holiday season.  Homemade cards and gifts are always more appreciated anyway.  I made flour and salt “clay” today that we are going to shape into ornaments, bake, and paint.

Winter is a wonderful time to stay home, drink spiced cider, make cookies, play games and get crafty.  Those are my favorite holiday memories from childhood, doing projects and making things together.  Opening presents on Christmas morning was fun, of course, but it was the preparation for the holidays that really mattered.

I’m actually looking forward to not spending money this Christmas, and focusing on enjoying the company of my family and friends and eating lots of good food.  Let’s just hope our bank account can hold out until the crab season starts…

Feeling Thankful

For the last week Zed has been doing gear work, getting ready for the Washington Coast Dungeness Crab season.  He’s been down in the harbor every day rigging pots, and for the moment it feels like we have a normal life.  Zed’s working 9 to 5ish kind of days where we can eat breakfast and dinner together as a family.  The harbor is a short 5 minute drive from our house, so he can run home if he needs something, or if I need something (like I did yesterday when our pipes burst in our garage).

For the next month I can try to delude myself into feeling like a normal wife with a normal husband that comes home every night.  But, no matter how hard I ignore it, there will always be a nagging feeling of dread in the back of my mind as the opening day of the season creeps closer and closer.  This feeling of impending doom will linger because I know that opening day always comes much to quickly, and I will once again be on my own.

But I must say, the weeks and months that we spend apart really make the time we have together special.  That is what I try to focus on.  And that is what I am thankful for today… every moment we get to spend together as a family.

Fishing, India Style

Zed and I were traveling through India a few years ago (before children) an stayed on a beach in the town of Kovalum, which is near the southern tip of the country.  The land in that part of the country is an immense network of canals, lagoons, rivers and lakes, giving the state hundreds of miles of coastline.  One can travel for days through the “backwaters” (basically a system of waterways).  Needless to say, fishing is an important aspect of the local economy and culture (there are over 1 million fishermen in the little state of Kerala).   Where we were staying commercial fishing was conducted right on the beaches, using long, narrow, wooden boats, so we could sit and watch the whole operation from a comfortable distance.

pulling in the net

To get the boats into the water the fishermen would lay out boards on the beach and a couple dozen men would gather and push the boat, little by little, along the skids.  These boats are ridiculously heavy and it would sometimes take the men an hour just to get the boat in the water.  If the fishermen struggle for long, locals and tourist will usually lend a hand and a whole hoard of workers and onlookers will develop, some people pulling on ropes, some pushing from behind and lots just watching.

After getting the boat in the water, they would leave one end of a long net at the shore and row the boat in a giant arc, setting out the net, and bring the other end back to shore where they started.  At this point the fishermen would gather on the beach and begin pulling the net in by hand.  We sat and watched this for a while, but I don’t remember exactly how long it took, I just remember how laborious it looked.  When end of the net came within sight, one or two boys would stand in the water on the inside of the net and smack the surface of the water with their hands, scaring the fish into the back of the net (at this point we were thinking, “I hope there aren’t any sharks in that net”).  Eventually the net would reach shore and they would haul the whole thing up onto the beach and sort through their catch.

As soon as the catch was sorted, restaurant owners and cooks would run out onto the beach, buy their fish and run it back into the restaurant.  The biggest fish would always be on display on a tray outside the restaurant, near the sidewalk, to lure in potential customers.  We ate seafood for most meals while we were on the coast.  Mussels and fish in a creamy curry sauce was popular there, as well as fried fish with sides of rice and relishes.  We also had fish steamed with spices, wrapped in a banana leaf.

picking out the fish...

The men in this photo here caught painfully few fish for the time and effort they put in, but it must be worth their while.  I remember hearing at one point that the average fisherman in that area makes about 20 rupee (at the time that was worth a little under 50 cents US) per day, but that fishermen on the more modern boats, that go farther out to sea,  make more like 40 rupee per day.

 

kids harvesting mussels

On the same beach, these young kids were jumping off this rock into the water to scrape mussels off the side as they got smashed around by the waves.  In the brackish canals we watched kids diving underwater to gather clams out of the muck.  And in the freshwater lakes, fishermen pulled out giant prawns, closer in size to lobsters (and mighty delicious too!).

me and my prawn

 

 

 

 

It was great to see how important seafood was to this part of the world–how much it was a part of their identity.  And interesting to see the excitement (and shock) of the locals when Zed told them that he is also a commercial fisherman.  I’m not sure they really believed us when we told them that fishing in the states can be a lucrative occupation.  To someone barely scraping by, we must have seemed like millionaires.