The Beacon

Blog Tags: Sustainable Seafood

Seafood for Thought: Bottom Trawling

trawling infographic

Trawling infographic by Don Foley.

Editor's note: October is National Seafood Month, and to celebrate, we’ll be featuring a series of blog posts about seafood, sustainable fishing and health. Today we’re schooling you on bottom trawling.

When you’re enjoying a tasty seafood meal, you’re probably not thinking about habitat destruction and accidentally caught marine animals. (Or at least I hope you’re not, it might give you indigestion.) But unfortunately, in many cases, before seafood gets to your plate, those two things may have been part of the equation.

Take bottom trawling, which is the most destructive commercial fishing method on the planet. Bottom trawlers scrape huge, heavy nets across the seafloor, destroying everything in their path. Trawling destroys more seabed habitat each year than the world’s annual loss of tropical rainforest. One study found that trawling destroys 16 pounds of marine animals for every pound of sole brought to markets.

Trawling is designed to catch as many fish as possible, and is used particularly to target shrimp, cod, haddock, flounder, and rockfish. Dredging, which is a similar practice, is used to catch shellfish like scallops and clams. Currently, more than half the fish eaten in the US is the product of trawling.

Fishermen have been trawling for years, but in the 1980s, technological advances allowed them to begin trawling through coral reefs, which they previously had to avoid to protect their fishing gear.

Unfortunately, we know now the huge damage that even one pass of a trawler can cause reefs. In one study in Alaska, as much as two-thirds of some sponges damaged by one pass of a trawler had not recovered a full year later.

Reefs are an important home for fish, so trawling can also ruin fish stocks into the future – even for responsible and recreational fishermen.

Recently, we’ve seen important measures to stop trawling. Earlier this year, a group of North Pacific nations, including the US, agreed to protect more than 16.1 million square miles of seafloor from trawling. Just a month later, Belize banned trawling from its waters.

We’ve made a lot of progress to stop this destructive fishing method. You can help by paying attention to the seafood you buy. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site to get their guide to sustainable seafood, also available on paper or your smartphone, and tasty recipes to make with these fish.


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Guest Post: Tech Trends in Traceability

tuna sashimi

Image via istockphoto.com

Guest blogger Jon Bowermaster is a writer and filmmaker. In this post, Jon reports on the latest trends in seafood traceability.

 One of the oldest tricks in the fishmonger’s book is trotting out the notion that the cod, snapper, flounder or mahi mahi that you are about to be served is “fresh today.”

In too many cases that translates as the fish just arrived in the supermarket or restaurant that morning by truck or plane from some distant place. The reality of course is that most likely it was plucked from a farm or raised in nets from the sea many, many weeks before. I once sat in a salmon broker’s office at a fish farm in the south of Chile while she waited for higher prices, as, the fish she was selling were sitting on ice in a 747 on a runway in Santiago, waiting, ultimately for days, to be delivered.

Thanks to some novel and enterprising partnerships between fishermen and chefs around the sea borders of the U.S. - literally from Maine to Alaska - some restaurants and fish sellers are now guaranteeing that the fish on your plate was swimming free just hours before.


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Shark Steaks for Dinner? No Thanks.

mako shark

Mako shark. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s Shark Week over at Discovery Channel, and that means everyone’s talking about them: sharks at the beach, sharks hunting seals, scuba diving with sharks, but…eating sharks?

We found a piece at esquire.com called A Man's Guide to Eating Shark, for Shark Week or Otherwise which explains, after acknowledging the conservation concerns for the species, a few ways to cook a mako shark right at home for dinner.

We like eating seafood, as long as it is sustainable. And shortfin mako is not; it’s listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List (as is its cousin the longfin mako). The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that overfishing of shortfin mako sharks is occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Recently, NMFS launched a program to encourage fishermen to release shortfin mako sharks alive back into the sea after being caught. This will help stop overfishing of the species and maintain a healthy population for the future. There is even an interactive online map and an Android app where fishermen can report their releases of shortfin makos back into the ocean.

As if being overfished wasn’t enough, sharks can also contain toxins like mercury in excess of the FDA’s recommended limits for moms and children. Certainly something to think about the next time someone recommends putting some shark on the barbie.

Do your part by telling the U.S. government to protect threatened sharks!


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Unsustainable Seafood Dinner Makes a Splash

While some of you may be sticking to New Year’s resolutions to make sustainable seafood choices in 2011, not everyone is following suit.

Namely, Legal Sea Foods CEO Roger Berkowitz, who is hosting a dinner later this month with the New England Culinary Guild featuring what he calls “blacklisted” seafood, such as black tiger shrimp, Atlantic cod and Atlantic hake, which are all on the Monterey Bay Aquarium guide’s “avoid” list.

This provocative stab at sustainable seafood designations has taken some heat, not surprisingly. Jacqueline Church and Miriam at Deep Sea News both did some digging into the company’s claims and the science that Legal is trumpeting as “outdated.”


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Fish: the Next Local Food

This is the last in a series of four guest posts by Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.

A sanitized version of an old Yiddish proverb advises: "don't excrete where you eat." An incredibly obvious and comprehensible point. And yet, we Americans have been doing pretty much exactly the opposite for much of our history. 

Millions of tons of human sewage, not to mention excretion, from various shore-based factories and power plants and now the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, have fouled our local waterways and made much of the seafood that is at our coastal doorsteps either rare or inedible.

Combine that with agricultural runoff and the habitat destruction caused by the dredging of harbors and you have an obvious result: Americans now get around 80% of their seafood from abroad and the seafood that is caught within our borders is often brought to us from distant offshore fishing grounds or from still relatively untainted places like Alaska.  

Which is why I feel strongly that the next "local food" movement should be one of reclaiming local seafood and bringing regional fish back onto the menus of our coastal cities. 


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Sustainably Heckled in Chicago

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.  <--break->


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Kate Walsh on Access Hollywood

Kate Walsh was on Access Hollywood yesterday to announce the winner of her sushi dress giveaway on Twitter -- and she again gave Oceana a shout-out, check it out:

And congrats to Ariel B from Ithaca, NY, whose tweet was chosen from many to win the dress!

 


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Whole Foods Adopts Seafood Rating System

© Oceana/Emily Fisher

As you’ve probably heard, Whole Foods Market announced last week that it is partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and Blue Ocean Institute to label all the wild-caught seafood in its North American stores according to their sustainability criteria.

A green label means the fish is relatively abundant and the fishing method causes little damage, yellow indicates that some problems exist with abundance or fishing method, and red means the fish is overfished or the fishing method seriously harms other wildlife or natural habitats. The company has also pledged to eliminate all red-list seafood by Earth Day 2013.

I wanted to see this new rating system for myself, so I headed to the nearest Whole Foods store around lunchtime yesterday. In addition to having a mercury warning clearly posted, the seafood counter’s new stoplight-color rating system appeared prominent and easy to understand.


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Loblaw's Displays Empty Fish Trays

Loblaw Companies, Canada’s largest food distributor, is making a splash for sustainable seafood.

In a bold marketing move, Loblaw’s has begun displaying empty fish trays at seafood counters where at-risk fish were once displayed. (Pictured here.)

The public awareness campaign is part of the company’s efforts to source 100 percent of seafood sold in its stores from sustainable sources by the end of 2013.


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The Spring Oceana Magazine is Here!

The new issue of the Oceana Magazine has arrived!

This issue features news from the Gulf, including an in-depth look at the dangers of offshore drilling. The magazine also explores offshore wind as a source of clean, safe, sustainable energy. 

Also included: updated news on the status of loggerhead sea turtles, and the latest happenings in our newest office in Belize, plus a profile of "Top Chef" finalist Bryan Voltaggio. Chef Voltaggio even gave us the recipe for one of his favorite sustainable fish dinners so you can make it at home!

Check out the magazine for more Oceana goodies.


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