Obama’s Salmon Joke Is Serious Business

Jan 28, 2011 2:57pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: In Washington even a light-hearted joke has serious ramifications. Days after President Obama made a quip about salmon in the State of the Union address, Alaska Democrat Mark Begich sent some of his state’s smoked salmon to the White House – along with a letter with a serious message. On Tuesday night in his address to Congress, President Obama joked about salmon as part of his call for a more efficient government. “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked,” quipped Obama. That line made Begich’s ears perk up – and his constituents’, too. “Of the many subjects in your speech, perhaps none caught the attention of my constituents more than your reference to salmon: Alaska’s official state fish and a billion-dollar, sustainable part of our economy,” Begich said in his letter to the president.   “I’ll leave it up to scientists to explain the cycle of this great fish, which are spawned in fresh water and spend their lives at sea, and why managing these species throughout their range is not a duplication of government efforts, but a fulfillment of our responsibility to sustain this iconic species.” “Instead, I’d rather you just had a taste. Here for you and your family is a sample of smoked wild salmon from one of Alaska’s leading seafood processors. As you noted, the rules for smoked salmon are somewhat more complicated, but the result is a product that is as healthy as it is delicious.” “I think one taste of Alaska salmon also will convince you why salmon are best kept wild and not grown in a test tube as some are asking the government to consider.” Earlier this week ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reported on how the president’s comments had left regulatory and wildlife experts defending the current system as complicated but functional. Changing the system, they said, might even cost taxpayers money in the short-term future. **Photo of Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, with smoked salmon provided by the his Capitol Hill office.

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