|Abstract or Summary
- 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.