What Will You Change, or Not?

Super Steelheader’s volunteer, Stevie Parsons, with a southern Oregon Coast lingcod from October 1, 2015

Photo: Super Steelheader’s volunteer, Stevie Parsons, with a southern Oregon Coast lingcod from October 1, 2015

Eating Wild Fish May Be Better for the Planet

Yes, I do it, too; make New Year’s Resolutions that typically don’t stick around too long, easing myself back into routine, much more comforting, much easier to adhere to. It’s that time again, let’s see, how can I improve my life, or the lives of others…

There are so many choices to choose from. I always find it justifiable to “bulk up,” eating as many mint M&M’s as possible over the Christmas holiday, so losing that first 5 pounds becomes pretty easy after the New Year. Well, one of the many benefits of getting to do more research and blogging on behalf of the Marine Fish Conservation Network is simply learning more about what I’m most interested in anyway…. Yeah, fish!

A friend of mine recently called me in disgust; he was upset upon learning how much fresh water it takes to grow a pound of hamburger. I couldn’t believe it and you wouldn’t either. It certainly made me think about how much water I’ve used over my lifetime as beef is one of my favorite foods. How about 1,847 gallons of water to grow a pound of beef? I know, did you just lose your breakfast sausage? If you did, you just regurgitated 100 gallons per sausage link, but don’t think you did Mother Earth any favors.

Although beef is one of the worst offenders, do yourself a favor and find out how much water you’re using when you consume your favorite foods. It’s good just to be aware, and maybe give us a bigger motivating factor to have a few more meals each week with more plant-based protein. I’m not even going to look up M&M’s, but I have a feeling I just had my last Merry Christmas.

Guess what food I didn’t find on the table of water-saturated foods? Yeah, fish! I even tried Googling “How much water does it take to grow fish?” but to no avail. It certainly takes fresh water to grow fresh water fish, but think about it…it doesn’t really take any fresh water to grow saltwater fish, now does it? Most of us know that two-thirds of Earth is made up of water, but did you know that less than one-third of one percent is actually consumable, and not just for humans, but for growing crops and cattle, too. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?

One look at my breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and you’ll get a clear understanding that I’m no diet expert, but changing to a more fish-centric diet has some clear benefits and not just for the conservation of our fresh water resources. Fish has less fat, less cholesterol and higher omega-3 fatty acids (the good kind) than terrestrial-based animal protein sources, that’s a no-brainer. Of course, we have to expend a few more petroleum products to pursue that finned source of protein, but so do the farmers that grow our hamburgers.

I always make it a point to empty my freezer full of salmon by New Year’s Day, smoking all the vacuum-packed fish from the summer. It makes a heck of an appetizer during the holidays, especially in Chicago where I spent my Christmas break. I think it’s high time, however, that I take a serious look at having at least one dinner per week of fish. I still have some vacuum-packed seabass in my freezer, and it might be time for some fish tacos this week. The east wind is blowing, too! That will knock down the wild swells we’ve had over our tumultuous fall, where we can get after some bass and lingcod of the fresh variety this week!

Maybe one of the bigger benefits of gravitating towards a more fish-based diet is the desire to conserve the species. Looking around the world, we’ve got it pretty good here on the West Coast. Most of the world’s countries have fished down their local stocks of fish, and for those “villages” that can still fish, their success has diminished in both size and quantity.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) has been the federal piece of legislation that has prohibited overfishing of stocks over the course of its adoption in 1976 to its reauthorizations through the years. The act takes a holistic look at what it takes to maintain healthy fisheries, both sport and commercial, into the future. It’s already credited with the success in rebuilding some of our favorite species of fish here on the West Coast, in particular, lingcod. With strong protective measures in place, most fishery managers would agree that we’re ahead of the rebuilding timeline for many of the sensitive stocks that triggered some of the stronger provisions in the latest revision.

Congress is set to look at the act again in 2016. Can you believe Congress hasn’t got to it in the last few sessions? Well, besides surely losing 20 pounds, eating fish more often in 2016 and culling M&M’s from my daily diet, there is one other hope we can aim for this year: that Congress takes its job seriously enough to stay the course on MSA. It’s worked for the last 40 years; let’s make sure it works for the next 40.

About Bob Rees

Bob Rees is a professional fishing guide and executive director of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association.

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