The exact health benefits of salmon are constantly being debated, but food isn’t the only way these fish make their way into dinnertime conversation. Rather than the meat being used in sushi or on the grill, salmon bones are making contributions in unexpected ways.
Cynthia Gibson, a Sitka artist, recently used 20,000 of the fish’s vertebrae to create a stunning evening dress. The oldest jewelry ever discovered was made from 100,000 year old Nassarius shells, but creating clothing out of bones takes ancient fashion to a strange, modern level.
Gibson said that shortly after relocating to Sitka, salmon became her muse.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the natural world,” Gibson told JuneauEmpire.com. “There’s so much outside that is used in regular art today, and we don’t always recognize that.”
She said that the idea for a dress made entirely of salmon vertebrae came to her while she was walking along the beach one day. She became fascinated with the tiny bones when she came across a small pile of them in the sand.
Of course, she didn’t collect all of her bones from walks on the beach. Sitka Sound Seafoods generously donated a large tote of salmon carcasses for Gibson’s project. After cleaning the carcasses through various means, polishing, and sanding the vertebrae, Gibson got to beading.
The result was a stunning evening gown that was modeled at Sitka’s Wearable Arts Show, an annual fundraiser showcasing innovative and original fashion created by local artists.
But fashion isn’t the only area where salmon bones are making a scene. A new study has begun using salmon ear bones, also known as otoliths, to help fishery owners better manage their facilities.
Dr. Sean Brennan of the University of Washington is using these bones to determine where salmon are breeding and in which areas they’re most abundant. The bones, when cut open, reveal a series of rings much like those found inside of a tree. Every ring serves as a unique marker of where a fish has been because these bones collect chemicals and other pieces of the environments that filter through a fish’s system.
The goal is to use this data to fish more effectively and reduce damage done to natural populations.
“Being able to unravel that [will] help management and research that is really focused and aiming at conserving the resource for future generations,” Brennan told Kyuk.org.
The study also encourages more sustainable methods of fishing, rather than simply breeding salmon in a facility. Farmed salmon has more than three times the amount of saturated fat as wild-caught salmon, which makes it a bit less desirable for the health-conscious consumer.
Be it science, art, or nutrition, salmon are certainly making a splash in multiple areas of study these days.