The Lummi Nation Natural Resources Department is finding out just how much seafood the average tribal member eats.

Seafood consumption rates are used to determine water quality safety standards, but federal and state agencies rely on national studies. Members of fishing tribes in western Washington eat a lot more fish than the average person.

State water quality standards are based on a seafood consumption rate of 6.5 grams of fish a day. Other fish consumption studies of northwest Indian tribes and Asian and Pacific Islanders reported consumption rates ranging from 100 to nearly 500 grams of fish per day.

“Estimates for seafood consumption from national surveys do not apply to either the Lummi people or other Indian tribes in the Puget Sound area,” said Merle Jefferson, director of Lummi Natural Resources. “We need to know how much seafood our people eat, so we can set regulations that reduce the pollution in the waters where we harvest our food.”

The Lummi Nation plans to use Lummi-specific data to protect the health of its members. This summer, natural resources staff members began conducting a diet survey of male tribal members with fishing and shellfishing licenses, including fishermen who harvest for ceremonial and subsistence purposes.

In addition to guiding Lummi’s water quality standards, the results of the survey will help ensure that the state’s toxic substance criteria protect the health of tribal members.

Washington state also is preparing to adjust its water quality standards to protect people who consume more fish than the general population nationwide.

The study was funded by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registration, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with additional support provided by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information contact: Jeremy Freimund, Lummi Nation Water Resources Manager, 360-384-2212 or jeremyf@lummi-nsn.gov; Kari Neumeyer, NWIFC information officer, 360-424-8226 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org.