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October 25, 2019


When we talk about sustainable fish, we are always confused about what is sustainable and what is not. I recently traveled with a college batchmate who happens to head Oceana Philippines and who is an esteemed lawyer and environmentalist.

Atty. Gloria “Golly” Estenzo-Ramos and I met up with college sorority batchmates and took Vancouver by storm in our own way. A reflective reunion, we now have our own advocacies and Golly and I happen to share our love for protecting the environment. So, we were very curious about how Canada keeps its salmon population alive and well.

We visited the Salmon Hatchery and saw for ourselves how wild salmon is carefully maintained to ensure its continuous natural supply for the big demand in Canada and all of North America. I told our Canadian hosts that it was on my agenda to eat Sockeye, Wild, Red and other kinds of Salmon that are only found in cold Northern waters. Because in Asia, we do not know what salmon we are getting—be it for sashimi, baked salmon and other culinary styles of serving this cold-water fish.

In the hatchery, you see the wild salmon coming down the river, being diverted to a hatchery and the magic happens. The eggs are then extracted and cared for until they are let out again to sea. The guide tells us that if you let the salmon alone to find its way, mortality is high and you would not have enough catch anyway as the salmon goes through the raging river waters.

This is their way to preserve more eggs and thereby ensuring we have more salmon supply. It’s a bit disturbing to note that Nature has been interrupted, but that is the only way we can be sure to have enough salmon for everyone’s desires, mine included.  Canada is serious about its salmon preservation and sustainability that it charges no tax for the purchase of any salmon (and maple) product—smoked, fillets, fresh, etc. for taking home as presents.

So on the personal side, I ate smoked salmon for breakfast every day. I also ordered fish and chips using salmon and even had a salmon on top of Caesar salad aboard a ferry that took us to Victoria.  Every day for five days, I had my share of sockeye salmon in many forms or preparation. I truly had my fill in Canada as I am careful about salmon found in Asia—of unknown origins and blurred information on the method of catching.

My friends were “salmoned-out” after five days, but not me. I was eating salmon and enjoying the chance to eat it at source, which is how we ought to consume these endangered species—giving in to our desires while thinking of how it is sourced and maintained for sustainable sourcing.

Golly shared with me the environmental laws and that we need to implement these good laws such as telling those who own commercial fishing vessels (3 gross tons or more) not to fish in municipal waters. I did not know that. I have had requests from communities to help them source fish cages. I now know that is not a good thing all the time. Fish cages and commercial fishing. Oh Golly, tell me more.

But it was time to part and go back to our homes and our own advocacies. Now I know, I can eat all I want of salmon in Canada, but I would be conscious of eating it elsewhere. I only eat Alaskan king crabs in Canada, too. But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, let me reminisce about my going wild about salmon while thinking of our overfished waters in our country. How do we address overfishing when we are a fish-eating people? What fish is safe to eat now? Help me communicate what Atty. Golly and her team are doing—implement these laws that need broadcasting to local governments. Maybe we can eat our fish again, and go wild over our hasahasa and lapulapu…just as I did over salmon.



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