THE NEWS: The seal hunt on Canada's East Coast begins this week, and on the other side of the continent another hunt of pinnipeds has been approved to stop the animals from eating endangered salmon.
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has granted permission - after years of lobbying - to Washington State and Oregon to trap and (if a home in captivity cannot be found for them) kill up to 85 sea lions per year for five years by the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, where some animals go in order to feed on the salmon.
THE BUZZ: Animal-rights advocates have filed a lawsuit to stop the hunt. The Humane Society claims that it is illegal (sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act) and unfairly scapegoats the animals (which probably eat less than 5 per cent of the river's fish). But officials counter that booming sea lion populations - more than 200,000 animals on the West Coast, up from 1,000 in the 1930s - can afford to lose less than 100 of their number.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Whether eliminating the sea lions will boost salmon numbers or not, one thing is certain: Overfishing and hydroelectric dams are primarily responsible for the decline of Pacific salmon.
Talk about shortsighted! We're going to kill sea lions to save salmon? How convenient for the fishing industry, and for consumers. How inconvenient for sea lions. And for whatever else their deaths will contribute to.
And this brings me to something I've been meaning to blog about for a while. These wild salmon.
We eat a lot of salmon, because it's very nutritious, and because we think it's delicious. Ever since reading about the environmental damage caused by aquaculture, and knowing how unhealthy farmed fish can be, we've chosen wild salmon whenever possible.
The comparative health risks and benefits are off the charts. Atlantic salmon, like all farmed fish, is laden with toxins, dyes and antibiotics; it contains only a fraction of the healthy fatty acids and other benefits found in Pacific salmon. In taste and texture, Atlantic salmon can't compete with its rich, dark, beautiful Pacific cousin. Once you start eating wild Pacific salmon, you can't imagine how you ever thought that other stuff was tasty. Even frozen Pacific salmon tastes better than fresh farmed salmon.
So there we are, happily buying, grilling and consuming lots of wild Pacific salmon. And I'm wondering, where does all this wild salmon come from? How could there be so much of it? My local Loblaws stocks mountains of this fish. How could any wild-caught fish satisfy such an enormous demand? But I'm buying and eating it, and trying to block out those nagging thoughts.
Of course that only works for so long. Even without trying, I continue to see news about depleted salmon stocks. So now we still buy it and eat it, only I feel guilty.
I don't know what to do. Giving up wild salmon would be an act of Herculean will for me. Especially with grilling season around the calendar corner, I really don't think I could do it. I swear, I wish they'd just ban the damn fish. Our supermarkets couldn't stock it, and I'd be forced to stop eating it.
The wild salmon fishers says that their fish is not endangered. But how can I trust the judgment of people whose livelihood depends on my eating their product? We can't ask loggers if it's all right to cut down old-growth forests.
This is a real tough one. What should I do? If you eat fish, what are you doing?
If you take a stab at my question, please do keep the following in mind. I will not be going vegetarian. I have tried that, including for an extended period of time (more than two years). It was not for me, and I'll never do it again.
Also, I'm trying. I'm thinking about this. And for that reason alone, you should not attack me.