Almost half of the world’s seafood now comes from fish farms, which can cause significant environmental harm if not responsibly managed.
Because many fish are confined to a small area, aquaculture can lead to high levels of pollution and outbreaks of diseases. Sometimes the farmed fish escape, which can hurt wild fish populations and the local ecosystem. Aquaculture can also lead to overfishing since carnivorous fish, like salmon and tuna, are fed large amounts of fishmeal made from prey fish like anchovies or herrings.
The Velella Project is an experiment off the coast of Hawaii that is trying to address some of the problems associated with aquaculture. Instead of enclosing fish in stationary nets or tanks like traditional farming methods, a specially-designed spherical pen, called the Aquapod, drifts through the water containing 2,000 hatchery born fish.
Something’s fishy in Los Angeles.
That’s according to our new report, which found widespread seafood mislabeling in the LA-area. DNA testing confirms that 55 percent of the seafood our campaigners sampled was mislabeled based on federal law.
In May and December of 2011, Oceana staff and supporters collected 119 seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The targeted species included those that were found to be mislabeled in previous studies as well as those with regional significance such as wild salmon, Dover or other regional soles, red snapper, yellowtail and white tuna.
Among the report’s other key findings include:
- Fraud was detected in 11 out of 18 different types of fish purchased.
- Every single fish sold with the word “snapper” in the label (34 out of 34) was mislabeled, according to federal guidelines.
- Nearly nine out of every ten sushi samples was mislabeled.
- Eight out of nine sushi samples labeled as “white tuna” were actually escolar, a species that carries a health warning for it laxative effects.
What do blue whales, penguins and salmon have in common?
They all have the same diet. Much of the ocean is fed by a two-inch crustacean: krill. Antarctic krill congregate in huge masses in the Southern Ocean, dense enough to fill the belly of a blue whale, the world’s largest animal.
Penguins will march hundreds of miles to feast on krill, building up blubber that will help them survive their cold months on land. Even flying seabirds will dive in and partake of the abundance.
Without this tiny creature, the ocean would starve. But like so much else in the ocean, krill’s future is in danger. It is also a popular food for salmon, giving the fish’s meat that distinctive pink color. When humans build fish farms for predatory fish like salmon, we need to feed them. And that means that humans are now fishing krill to feed our farms, taking away potential meals from whales, penguins, and other wild creatures.
Oceana is working to prevent the overfishing of krill and the other small creatures that keep the oceans’ food chain going. To learn more about marine animals like Antarctic krill, visit our marine wildlife encyclopedia.
This is the second in a series of ocean infographics by artist Don Foley. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Danson’s book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”
With shark week fast approaching, how about a shark-related infographic to whet your appetite?
Today’s infographic illustrates how overfishing fundamentally alters ocean ecosystems, leading to fewer and smaller fish over time.
If overfishing isn’t stopped, the largest fish like sharks, tuna, cod, and salmon eventually run out and overfishing expands to previously untargeted, smaller species, some of which were considered undesirable. As a result, the world catch is now primarily made up of small fish like pollock rather than large predators like grouper, and this shift to smaller and smaller species over time is called “fishing down the food chain.”
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Oceana’s new Seafood Fraud campaign kicked off Wednesday with an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. As the Washington Post reported, it wasn’t just a press conference; it was also a seafood pop quiz.
Our campaigners asked audience members to identify skinless fillets of halibut and fluke by sight, and did the same for red snapper vs. hake and for farmed vs. wild salmon. Then they conducted a taste test between tilapia and vermilion snapper.
The result? While a few fish-savvy folks passed the tests, many people couldn’t tell the difference, which is a simple illustration of how easy it is to fool seafood consumers.
That’s one of the key points of our new report, “Bait and Switch,” which explains how consumers are frequently served a completely different fish species than the one they paid for. Seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish such as red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, according to recent studies.
The good news just keep coming in Chile. Yesterday the Chilean Supreme Court ruled against a lawsuit filed by the laboratory Veterquímica to prevent the Livestock and Agriculture Bureau (SAG) from disclosing information to Oceana.
The case began in 2009, when Oceana submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to SAG to access documents that the Bureau used to approve the use of quinolone-related antibiotics in Chile’s salmon farming industry. The SAG denied the information due to the opposition of the laboratories Veterquímica, Recalcine and Centrovet, the main suppliers of these chemicals in Chile. Now the SAG has until April 5th to disclose the documents that supported its decision to approve such antibiotics.
The new issue of the Oceana magazine features a Q&A with author Paul Greenberg, whose book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, has won praise from conservationists and foodies alike. Greenberg also wrote several guest blogs posts for us in the fall. Needless to say, we are big fans. You'll see why:
Why salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna?
Salmon, usually farmed Atlantic salmon, is like the corn of the sea, grown on every continent now, save Antarctica, even though it historically never lived south of the equator.
Sea bass, that catch-all name that describes so many fish, has become the market niche of the white, meaty fish. The name "bass" itself is a cover for a troubling fish swapping game where we progressively replace depleted species with new ones and give them the same name so that consumers don't notice the swap.
Similarly, cod represents an even more massive example of fish swapping. Only with cod, you're talking about the swapping of literally billions of pounds of fish for a whole array of both farmed and wild fish that fill a similar flesh niche.
This is the third in a series of four guest posts by Paul Greenberg, author of the bestselling book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.
One of the more enjoyable things I've done during the Four Fish book tour is to host sustainable seafood dinners at some of America's better restaurants. I've done this at Fork in Philadelphia, Savoy in New York City, Ammo in Los Angeles and most recently at North Pond in Chicago (Blue Hill at Stone Barnes and Lumiere in Boston are upcoming).
At each dinner the chef and I reviewed the principles of eating sustainably from the ocean and then put together a four-course menu. Bruce Sherman at Chicago's North Pond, for example, did a dinner with an oyster/clam/gulf shrimp/spot prawn starter, a seared mackerel intermediate and then main courses of a farmed arctic char and a wild local lake whitefish.
Each course represented a different potential solution: clams, oysters, shrimp and prawns are low trophic level feeders and have relatively small energy demands from the planet. The clams and oysters can be farmed with pretty much no damage to the environment and oyster beds are useful bottom habitat for many wild fish. The mackerel is lower on the food chain and quicker to reproduce than say, bluefin tuna, and still has plenty of omega threes.
This is the first in a series of four guest posts by Paul Greenberg, author of the bestselling book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.
A few times in my life I have walked into a party and found myself in a crowd where I'm about as tall as the shortest woman in the room.
As a man who is perched safely above the national average for male height, I have come to take these anomalous parties not as sleights to my standing in the world, but rather as venues where I ought to pay careful attention. For, as so many studies have found, extreme height is linked to extreme wealth, power and influence. Find yourself in a room with very, very tall people, and it's likely some very important decisions could be made.
And so it was this past Monday night, when Bob Gillam hosted an event for some of New York's tallest hoping to raise consciousness (and, yes, money) to stop "Pebble Mine" the biggest, most egregious onslaught against wild fish we have seen in the last quarter century. For those not aware of it, Pebble Mine is a proposed copper and gold mine that a group called "Anglo American" has put together at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
You knew the U.S. had a massive carbon footprint, but did you know we also have the world’s third largest “SeafoodPrint?”
That’s according to a study published today in National Geographic led by Oceana board member and fisheries expert Dr. Daniel Pauly and National Geographic fellow Enric Sala.
How do you measure the "SeafoodPrint" of a country, you ask? By factoring in the type of fish and the total amount hauled in. The researchers used a unit of measurement based on "primary production," the microscopic organisms at the bottom of the marine food web that are required to make a pound of a given type of fish.
China comes in at the number one spot because of its sheer population size, while Peru is ranked second because its anchoveta becomes fish meal for farm-raised pigs, chickens and fish (such as salmon) around the world, even though Peruvians themselves don’t consume a lot of fish. Meanwhile, the U.S. is ranked third because of the type of fish we generally prefer -- top-of-the-food-chain fish, such as tuna and salmon.