Biblitz delivers advise

ASK Biblitz about Fishing.

'the green pond / rich with the shadows / of last year's swimmers where she / will nest her eggs and the fierce prince / quicken them; she flies / upstream.'

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Should I buy farmed fish, which is certainly cheaper than the 'wild' variety?

Biblitz replies:

Not everyone lives near a fishing hole like Bing and Louis.

But I can't help thinking about the commercial fishing fleet featured on the Discovery TV series, Deadliest Catch, and what they'd do - and Biblitz, too - if the series was cancelled because commercial fishing was somehow no longer.


North by Northwestern

A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaskan Waters
By Captain Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen

He (brother Edgar, now deck boss on the Northwestern) finished the summer. When he came home the Old Man said, "What did you think?"

"I hated it."

Dad just laughed. "It'll get better next time," he said. Sverre wouldn't have minded if Edgar didn't want to fish, but he did want to see what his kids were made of.

One thing Edgar had managed to do that summer was all the homework the continuation high school gave him. He turned it all in.

"So when can I start?" he asked the principal.

The guy took one look at Edgar and said, "Sorry, we don't have room for you."

"What do you mean?"

He said they were overenrolled. Edgar had received his check from fishing, which wasn't all that big, but he'd heard how much the full-share guys were making. "So I said, fine. Fuck you then. Who needs you?"

A couple months went by, and he went back to fishing. He had no choice. He probably could have gone to a community college, and gotten a GED, but he thought, You go to high school to get a diploma, then you go to college to get a degree, so then you can get a good-paying job. Shit. Why not eliminate the middle man? Go straight to where the money's at. No brain, a strong back: that's all you need.

... 'I'm just grateful to have a job.'

So Edgar went back to the Northwestern. "I was living in misery. I hated being there. Sometimes I would literally cry myself to sleep. I was in so much pain and agony. My hands were just locked up and bleeding from split fingers. I didn't want to be there. I didn't know why I was there. But at the end of each season, after being home for just a few days, I thought, You know what? That wasn't so bad." ...

After about a year, even though the Old Man owned the boat, Edgar was still standing at the sorting table making only a half share. He was leaning his elbow on the table, pitching crab over his shoulder, one at a time. "I was willing to work with one hand," he says. "And suddenly something whacks me on the side of the head, really hard. It's a flying crab. I look up and I got four guys staring me down with the look of the devil. Pete Evanson had just brained me with a king crab."

You got two hands," Pete said. "They're not broken. So use them."

Edgar put his head down and tears started falling. He started sorting. It didn't take much longer after that for his attitude to change. (-- pgs. 70-71)

Beyond the Outer Shores

The Untold Story of Ed Ricketts, the pioneering ecologist who inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell
By Eric Enno Tamm

Having depleted the ocean, we are now trying to domesticate it by "farming" fish. The U.S. government is even proposing new legislation to privatize the ocean within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone by promoting fish farnming in much the same way that pioneers settled the West. In the words of one newspaper reporter who obtained a draft of the proposed legislation, "Look out at the boundless ocean and envision a new Iowa - homesteaded by fish farm colonies... with row upon row of undersea cages roiling with swimming livestock."

Today, the outer shores of the North Pacific represent a tragic microcosm of the world at large. In British Columbia, pristine inlets are being turned into the aquatic equivalent of industrial feedlots with thousands of fish crammed into tiny floating pens. The fish are particularly susceptible to disease and sea lice infestation, are fed pellets and dyes to color their flesh, and contain a level of toxic PCBs seven times higher than in wild salmon. Production from this type of industrial salmon farming soared from 15,500 tonnes in 1990 to 89,000 tonnes in 2002, while wild salmon catches plummeted.

What remains of the wild fisheries, including groundfish, black cod and halibut, among others, are being privatized. The fish in t he ocean are being divvied up into individual quotas owned by corporations and so-called "arm chair" fishermen who trade and lease their quotas for profit. Tenant fishermen, not unlike the tenant farmers depicted in The Grapes of Wrath, often pay usurious "rents" equivalent to 70 percent of the revenue from their catches to the quota owners. Poorer rural and aboriginal fishermen have been pushed off the sea, as quota holdings are consolidated in the hands of a rich few. Of the 1,006 quota licences in B.C., for example, only thirteen are owned by people living on the outer shores of Vancouver Island.

A billionaire businessman, Jimmy Pattison, now owns more fishing licences than all these communities combined. (emphasis added)

... Are we slaves to a great industrial machine, or "monster" as Steinbeck called it, or are we a species living in mutual dependence with our natural environment? It seems we have failed to heed the one biological truth so evident in the various writings of Ricketts, Steinbeck and Campbell: humans, like other animals, live in communities. Our traditional knowledge, connection to place, dependence on clean air and water, and intergenerational bonds are part of a lifecycle that has allowed us to thrive in nature and persevere despite history's travails. Destroy this organic entity or try to replace it with the harsh mathematics of a corporate ledger or sever a community's connection to the land and sea, and you'll ultimately destroy what makes us human. We will become the brutal machines we have created. (From Epilogue, pgs-. 313-314)

Ricketts has been called Steinbeck's alter ego, his persona in art, his fictional voice. However lionized, exaggerated or sentimentalized Ricketts may be in Cannery Row's Doc, there is no doubt that the character contains all the energy, spirit and philosophy of the friend whom Steinbeck loved. Taken as a whole, the novel is fiction, but many passages and details contain a ring of truth. One anecdote from Cannery Row, for instance, is taken directly from Ricketts' life:

Once when Doc was at the University of Chicago he had love trouble and he had worked too hard. He thought it would be nice to take a very long walk. He put on a little knapsack and he walked through Inidana and Kentucky and North Carolina and Georgia clear to Florida. He walked among farmers and mountain people, among the swamp people and fishermen. And everywhere people asked him why he was walking through the country.

Because he loved true things he tried to explain. He said he was nervous and besides he wanted to see the country, smell the ground and look at grass and birds and trees, to savor the country, and there was no other way to do it save on foot. And people didn't like him for telling the truth. They scowled, or shook and tapped their heads, they laughed as though they knew it was a lie and they appreciated a liar. And some, afraid for their daughters or their pigs, told him to move on, to get going, just not to stop near their place if he knew what was good for him.

And so he stopped trying to tell the truth. He said he was doing it on a bet - that he stood to win a hundred dollars. Everyone liked him then and believed him. They asked him in to dinner and gave him a bed and they put lunches up for him and wished him good luck and thought he was a hell of a fine fellow. Doc still loved true things but he knew it was not a general love and it could be a very dangerous mistress.

However strange, the facts of this account are essentially true. Ricketts was a student at the University of Chicago and did go on such a walk. He even wrote about the experience in an article titled "Vagabonding Through Dixie" for the June 1925 issue of Travel magazine. (From Stories to Tell, p. 128)

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Any excuse to don rubber pants and head over to the estate fish barrel for some manly, sportive fish killing - nothing more than they deserve for nibbling so mercilessly the Biblitz extremities when he swims at local watering holes, such as Manning Park and the lovely reservoir at Port Moody, B.C. Take that, you blighters!

Twelve Moons

By Mary Oliver

The Fish

She climbs from the sea; moonlight
blazes the black rocks,
the surface razzle-dazzle
of sweet water
threading out of the tide. She
moves upstream, the flow

pressing against her;
she feels it, lets the hot
blade of her body pause,
drifts backward, whips awake. She
moves upstream; she is heavy;
deep in her belly
life that is to be
stirs like a million planets; she
moves upstream; when the waters
divide she follows
the fragrance spilling
from her old birth pond; she
sees the waterfalls - gleaming
stairways of stone,
water ripped and boiling
like white logs - and knows beyond
lies the green pond
rich with the shadows
of last year's swimmers where she
will nest her eggs and the fierce prince
quicken them; she flies
upstream - she arcs
in the long gown of her body, she leaps
into the walls of water,
she falls through the torn
silvery half-drowned body
of any woman come to term, caught
as mortality drives triumphantly toward
immortality, the shaken bones like
cages of fire.

(- pgs. 14-15)

Tell Biblitz your fishing story!
It's hard not to vote with one's dwindling pocketbook especially when a record catch in 2010 has not reduced the price of wild salmon one iota (at least $20 a package at Costco in October, 2010), yet it's hard to imagine fish farmer Jimmy Pattison being motivated by anything other than profit. This is, after all, the man behind all those billboards promoting gay, anonymous sex via a local gay dating Web site - signs placed deliberately near Vancouver schools! I'd like to hear more about fish farms from everyone. Blast me, won't you? In the meantime, Biblitz is now a fan of individually-wrapped filets of frozen haddock ($12 at Costco). Beat an egg with a bit of milk, salt and pepper. Roll each filet lightly in batter then place in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with panko breadcrumbs. Roast for about 30 minutes in an oven set at 375 F. Roast with thickly-sliced Yellow Fin potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, grated lemon zest and fresh thyme in the same oven, but start taties a half-hour before the fish. Serve with an icy strengthener of some kind - white wine, frozen vodka, ice-cold beer. Perfection!


Parasites From Fish Farms Driving Wild Salmon to Extinction
By Erik Stokstad
Dec. 14/07

... Or are fish scientists right in claiming B.C. sockeye will share the same fate as the vanished cod fishery in Atlantic Canada?

Rather than benefiting wild fish, industrial aquaculture may contribute to declines in ocean fisheries and ecosystems. Farm salmon are commonly infected with salmon lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis), which are native ectoparasitic copepods. We show that recurrent louse infestations of wild juvenile pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), all associated with salmon farms, have depressed wild pink salmon populations and placed them on a trajectory toward rapid local extinction. The louse-induced mortality of pink salmon is commonly over 80% and exceeds previous fishing mortality. If outbreaks continue, then local extinction is certain, and a 99% collapse in pink salmon population abundance is expected in four salmon generations. These results suggest that salmon farms can cause parasite outbreaks that erode the capacity of a coastal ecosystem to support wild salmon populations. (Authorities include: Centre for Mathematical Biology, Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Salmon Coast Field Station, Simoom Sound, B.C. For more information, e-mail