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Keywords:

  • Fish consumption;
  • subsistence;
  • survey methods;
  • tribe

The environmental health goals of many Native American tribes are to restore natural resources and ensure that they are safe to harvest and consume in traditional subsistence quantities. Therefore, it is important to tribes to accurately estimate risks incurred through the consumption of subsistence foods. This article explores problems in conventional fish consumption survey methods used in widely cited tribal fish consumption reports. The problems arise because of the following: (1) widely cited reports do not clearly state what they intend to do with the data supporting these reports, (2) data collection methods are incongruent with community norms and protocols, (3) data analysis methods omit or obscure the highest consumer subset of the population, (4) lack of understanding or recognition of tribal health co-risk factors, and (5) restrictive policies that do not allow inclusion of tribal values within state or federal actions. In particular, the data collection and analysis methods in current tribal fish consumption surveys result in the misunderstanding that tribal members are satisfied with eating lower contemporary amounts of fish and shellfish, rather than the subsistence amounts that their cultural heritage and aboriginal rights indicate. A community-based interview method developed in collaboration with and used by the Swinomish Tribe is suggested as a way to gather more accurate information on contemporary consumption rates. For traditional subsistence rates, a multidisciplinary reconstruction method is recommended.