Here is a short explainer of what the fish consumption rate we’re fighting to increase actually looks like.
Even a quick glance at our state’s water quality standards for toxic pollution shows a gross inequality between the weak limits on toxic pollution and the strong value of we place on serving fish for our families. Washington currently has some of the weakest limits on toxic pollution in the nation, in part because we use a low estimate of how much fish people eat every day.
The problem is this: in a state where people have subsisted primarily on salmon and seafood for thousands of years, the state assumes people only eat a cracker-sized portion of fish per day. 6.5 grams, to be exact.
Stillaguamish Chairman Shawn Yanity recently wrote a column in the The Everett Herald on the importance of raising Washington’s fish consumption rate:
It’s a lot easier and less expensive to prevent toxins such as flame retardants, pesticides and mercury from getting into our waters than it is to try and clean them up after the fact. That’s the idea behind the state of Washington’s plan to update fish consumption rates.
Fish consumption rates are used as a regulatory tool to ensure our fish and shellfish are safe to eat. This rate is supposed to be an estimate of the amount of fish and shellfish people eat. The rate is used to set standards for water quality and cleanup of contaminated sites. Health officials say that fish and shellfish are important parts of a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish or shellfish twice per week.
However, Washington is one of nine states with the lowest fish consumption rate in the country, even though our residents are among the biggest consumers of fish. The current fish consumption rate of about 8 ounces per month was developed decades ago, is no longer accurate and does not adequately protect public health. That is why the state is considering increasing the rate to be more reflective of just how much fish and shellfish we all are eating. The new consumption standard will help reduce levels of more than 100 pollutants that can hurt human health.
Russ Hepfer, a member of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribal council, explains why increasing the state’s fish consumption rate is important to him and his tribe.