The devil’s bargain…

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“‘If you eat the food in China, that will kill you. But if you do not eat the food in China, that will kill you even faster…’

Americans now harvest our best, most nutritious fish in our best-managed Alaskan fisheries and send those fish over to Asia. In exchange, we are importing fish farmed in Asia, with little of the brain-building compounds fish eaters are seeking when they eat fish. This fish can be difficult to trace back to its farm of origin, and less than 2 percent of it is inspected directly by the FDA. In the case of shrimp, that food is higher in cholesterol than most seafood; in the case of tilapia, instead of heart-healthy omega-3s, it is rich in omega-6s, which are not as beneficial and may in fact be harmful when consumed in large amounts. Many physicians argue that high omega-6 fatty acid content–more typical of landfood like beef and pork–is detrimental to human health and can aggravate heart conditions when poorly balanced with omega-3s. But because American consumers don’t really know their own fish, they tend to lump it all together under that word ‘seafood’ and presume that it is all basically ‘good.’

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And so a frustrating disconnect has emerged on both the foreign and domestic sides of American fisheries resources. Foreign buyers would like the salmon they buy from Alaska to continue to be wild, clean, and readily available. But foreigners have no jurisdiction over projects like Pebble Mine and the industrial development that could eradicate the food that they most want. Americans, meanwhile, who eat seafood raised on Chinese farms would like that Chinese seafood to be grown without the use of carcinogenic chemicals and raised in clean, safe water. But we have no control over the Chinese food system. We can demand standards of our importers and certification of the supply chain, but the rules and regulations that govern Asian aquaculture are local and hard to assess…

According to a recent New York Times op-ed by the scholars Damien Ma and William Adams, more than half of China’s largest lakes and reservoirs were so contaminated in 2011 that their waters were unsuitable for human consumption. This according to the Chinese government’s very own standards. 

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All this makes you want to stamp your feet and scream out loud, to shout at Alaska to just stop. Stop sending your fish abroad. Stop your plans to ruin your rivers. Focus on what you do best. Feed America your good food.”

American Catch