We are lucky to live in a region that has good reason to consider itself the epicenter of wonderful fresh seafood, so it may come as something of a surprise to learn Astoria also can lay claim to being a birthplace of fake crab.

In our Tuesday story on the subject, you will nowhere see the word “fake,” an appellation that causes industry participants no end of heartburn and indigestion. But officially avoiding the term doesn’t keep consumers from using it, nor should it cause anyone to turn up their noses at surimi in our increasingly crowded and complicated world.

Surimi, the preferred word for fish protein paste that is made into a variety of shellfish-flavored products, has become an important menu item in the two decades since Oregon State University’s Jae Park launched the first surimi school in Astoria.

As the need for a school on the subject implies, learning how to make it correctly can achieve significant improvements in product quality. Water content, salt content, processing techniques, preservatives and other factors all determine whether the finished surimi is delicious or appalling.

Even here where Dungeness crab is a routine menu item, plenty of people find surimi to be a good, affordable alternative. This budget-conscious choice is even more prevalent in parts of the U.S. farther from the ocean and in many Asian nations. Good surimi is a logical choice for many consumers. We can be proud of Park’s and Astoria’s role in making this product better.

Starting at least as far back as “The Jetsons” cartoon in the early 1960s, there has been speculation about a future time when all food would be manufactured. Thankfully, we have thus far escaped this fate. There is a growing awareness of the benefits of eating food that is grown, raised or caught in relatively natural and nearby circumstances. Nevertheless, trying to perfect alternative ways of making palatable food is advisable as we march toward more than doubling the world’s population to 15 billion by 2100.

We must exercise great caution in monitoring and controlling the exploitation of fish species that go into producing surimi. Once regarded as nearly useless, it would be easy to overexploit them now that they have commercial value. They play crucial roles in the maritime ecosystem. We must not keep repeating destructive mistakes in ocean management.

Keeping ourselves fed and our world healthy is a complex recipe, one that we must practice diligently and learn to do better.

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