Last evening, while waiting on a couple at the casual restaurant I work at in the off season, I had the pleasure of talking about our salmon on the menu. It is Norwegian, and although farmed, one of the best farmed salmon table offerings we can provide. Most guests are not in the habit of dropping $30-50 per pound for Copper River Wild caught salmon, and thus we can’t offer it on our menu. We went on to discuss the potential development of Fish Farming in the Great Lakes as well as on one of our most famous trout rivers nearby. My clients spend a fair amount of time traveling the globe and reside in Chicago, they found it ironic that we would purposefully degrade a habitat that is rich with natural beauty all for the mighty dollar. I had to agree, after all, the pristine rivers and lakes are what draw many suburbanites to the North to breath our fresh air and swim in our freshwater seas.
But I also see the other side of the equation. Our establishment alone sells 60-100 pounds of salmon & whitefish weekly, multiply that by 52 weeks and a couple hundred restaurants across the 45th parallel and the number grows exponentially larger. Do we risk the healthy ecosystem of the Au Sable River to meet a demand for rainbow trout? Can we substantiate the negative impact(s) of open Pen Net farms in the Great Lakes? It seems absurd to me, as a Fly Fishing Guide and hospitality professional, that we could entertain the possibility of introducing new diseases and parasites from thousands of salmon living in confined space. This goes without mentioning the herbicides used to control algae blooms and fungi on the nets, coupled with potential escapement and intermingling with other native species, either to outcompete for food or diminish genetic purity of some salmonids that migrate up our orders to spawn. The concentration of feces in both scenarios depletes oxygen and feeds growth of various green algaes, detrimental to the survival of sensitive trout that need cold and clean water to survive.
The Great Lakes are under attack from multiple facets. Whether it is the impending introduction of the voracious plankton filter feeding Asian Carp in Chicago’s Calumet River, or the selling of our spring water on the upper Muskegon River aquifers via NESTLE corporation to ship 20 oz. bottles around the world. Enbridge Line 5 in the straights of Mackinaw has many people concerned its age and degradation will someday lead to total devastation to the largest freshwater system on the green planet if there were a leak. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and current administration deems it necessary to cut Great Lakes funding from $300 million to $30, absolutely not the right time to be faced a critical situation which cannot be undone. Our family has made small steps to be more conscientious of our habits, buying local, eating more homemade pastas and fresh grown vegetables from the farmers market, and less top level consumer proteins. I will eat a fish once in a while, when I catch a walleye or a mess of bluegills with my girls. That is precisely why we are advocates for the resource, and why we need to protect them. For my daughters generation, and hopefully my grandchildren as well. We should Farm Dirt, not Our Water.
Listen to Dr Bryan Burroughs from MITU in his interview with WKAR.