Comparison of Contemporary and Heritage Fish Consumption Rates in the Columbia River Basin Public Deposited

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  • Fish consumption rates (e.g., pounds or grams per day (gpd), or meals per week) are used in a variety of regulatory processes such as setting water quality standards. Many tribes still eat more fish than the general public, especially in in areas such as the Columbia River Basin which was renowned for abundant fish. However, contemporary fish consumption rates are lower (i.e., they have been suppressed) than the baseline heritage rates due to contamination, habitat degradation, loss of access, and legal and physical assault on tribal fishing. Nevertheless, these traditional lifestyles are recognized and protected by intergovernmental Treaties and/or aboriginal rights. Of particular interest to Pacific Northwest Tribes are the heritage fish consumption rates that are integral components of their traditional lifestyles. Understanding heritage rates is gaining importance as tribal cultures are reinvigorated, watersheds are restored, and understanding and respect for tribal lifeways improves. This paper compares the different methods used to derive Columbia Basin contemporary and heritage fish consumption rates. Heritage rates require multidisciplinary research compiled from a century or more of data, including catch and use records, as well as nutritional, archaeological, ethnographic, and other information. Contemporary rates are obtained directly from living people using a variety of statistical and ethnographic methods. Contemporary statistical methods give the appearance of precision but do not accurately measure traditional or heritage rates. By way of illustration, some contemporary national fish consumption rates and rates in damaged ecosystems are around 6.5 or 17.5 grams per day (gpd), and contemporary tribal averages may be around 64 gpd (CRITFC 1994), while average Columbia Basin baseline heritage rates are around 620 gpd to 725 gpd (c.f., Harper and Harris 1997; Walker, 1985, and other examples cited in the text). This range of rates illustrates the current degree of suppression of fish consumption, and highlights the need for caution in selecting a fish consumption rate until the derivation and context of the rate have been considered.
  • Keywords: Methods, Native American Tribes, Pacific Northwest, Columbia River, Plateau culture, Fish consumption rates, Columbia Basin, Statistical and ethnographic surveys, Suppression, Heritage
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  • Harper, B. L., & Walker Jr, D. E. (2015). Comparison of Contemporary and Heritage Fish Consumption Rates in the Columbia River Basin. Human Ecology, 43(2), 225-236. doi:10.1007/s10745-015-9734-4
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  • 43
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  • 2
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