Between 1912 and 1992, recreational anglers on the Penobscot River in Maine carried on the annual tradition of giving the first Atlantic salmon caught each spring to the President of the United States. Local anglers maintained cultural traditions of catching and eating salmon, keeping them in the social memory of the region. Each president’s receipt and consumption of the first fish retained a national memory of Atlantic salmon as food, a memory that otherwise may have faded due to the decline of Atlantic salmon populations. At the same time, the annual gift of the Presidential Salmon revealed how local populations of food fish were affected by national policies regarding energy, industrial water use, and pollution. Today, the Presidential Salmon has implications for current restoration efforts on the Penobscot and other rivers across the globe.
How the Presidents Ate Their Salmon
Catherine Schmitt writes about seafood and other salty topics for the Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine. She is the author of A Coastal Companion: A Year in the Gulf of Maine from Cape Cod to Canada and managing editor of The Catch: Writings from Downeast Maine. Her articles and essays appear in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals, archived at catherineschmitt.com.
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Catherine Schmitt; How the Presidents Ate Their Salmon. Gastronomica 1 November 2013; 13 (4): 1–9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.4.1
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