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Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks
seasonal availability. The range of traditional foods available includes fish, marine mammals, shellfish, ascidians (sea squirts), sea cucumbers, and seaweed. Also included are nonmarine game meats, berries, and edible plants (Kuhnlein et al., 2000). Specific examples of wild-caught foods commonly consumed by Northern Dwellers include caribou meat, arctic char, Beluga (whale), muktuk, geese, whitefish, and trout (see Glossary for definitions) (Kuhnlein et al., 2000).
Muckle et al. (2001) reported that among Inuit women of childbearing age, about 80 percent consumed fish at least once per week and the average frequency of consumption of fish meals was 3.3 times per week. This population also consumed traditional products including beluga whale fat, muktuk, and seal fat, meat, and liver; their consumption of these foods increased during pregnancy.
Kuhnlein et al. (2004) report that since the introduction of nonnative foods to the Canadian Arctic at the turn of the 20th century, the use of native (traditional) foods has declined such that, among adults, only 10–36 percent of dietary energy is derived from traditional foods. Additionally, Receveur et al. (1997) found that traditional food consumption among Dene/Métis communities was associated with greater intake of iron, zinc, and potassium, and lower intake of sodium, fat, saturated fat, and sugar. Considered in conjunction with the cultural integration and importance of dietary traditions, advice to indigenous peoples to change their longstanding dietary patterns in order to reduce exposure to contaminants may not only not be beneficial, but could have deleterious health effects (Marien and Patrick, 2001).
Sport and Subsistence Fishers
The number of subsistence fishers in the United States and the amount of seafood they consume is difficult to estimate due to the challenge of identifying members of this population and a lack of data collected on them. By and large, individuals who engage in sport and subsistence fishing tend to consume more fish than the general population (Burger, 2002). Among anglers (those who crab and/or fish) in the Newark Bay Complex area of New Jersey, Blacks and Hispanics ate more fish than Whites or Asians (Burger, 2002). Similarly, Burger et al. (1999) noted that Blacks living along the Savannah River in South Carolina consumed both larger portions of seafood as well as higher total amounts compared to Whites. In that study, levels of intake were also related to education: those who did not graduate from high school ate seafood more often, consumed more total seafood, and consumed more intact fish than those with at least a high school degree.
While Alaskan Natives fish for sustenance (Ballew et al., 2004), others, e.g., the Newark Bay Complex group (Burger, 2002), angled primarily