The Beacon

Blog Tags: Fish

Creature Feature: Reef Lizardfish

This good-looking creature is a reef lizardfish. (Photo: Colby Bidwell) 

You won’t find land-dwelling lizards scampering about coral reefs, but you might do a double-take when you see the reef lizardfish. Also known as variegated lizardfish, these strange reef-dwellers look surprisingly like lizards. They’re found in coral reefs throughout Indonesia and along the coast of India and northern Australia.


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Creature Feature: Meet the Fangtooth!

Fangtastic: Meet the incredible fangtooth l Photo: Citron

Like something out of your nightmares, the fangtooth (Anoplogaster cornuta, Anoplogaster brachycera) lurks in the darkest depths of the ocean. Wielding huge, saberlike teeth, the fangtooth has the largest teeth in the ocean relative to body size. The phrase “relative to body size” is important to remember here, however: the larger of the two species of fangtooth reaches a maximum length of just 6 inches, rendering these tiny balls of ferociousness harmless to humans.


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Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless's New Book, The Perfect Protein, Released Today!

The Perfect Protein Trailer from Oceana on Vimeo.

We're thrilled to announce that today is the launch of Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless's new book, The Perfect Protein! As the CEO of Oceana, Andy is dedicated to the protection of our world’s oceans. Over the years, however, he realized that the work Oceana does to save the world’s oceans was not just helping to preserve the oceans’ biodiversity; it was also resulting in more food for people. In other words, it’s a win-win: When we adopt practices that conserve and protect our oceans and the creatures in it, we also create stocks of healthy, nutritious protein for the people of our world.


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Skin Cancer Appears in Australian Fish

The black spots on this coral trout are melanomas. © Michael Sweet/Newcastle University 

Strange lesions are showing up in coral trout in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

In a new paper in the journal PloS One researchers found that 15% of reef fish tested showed signs of melanomas. This is a high occurrence, given that many of the fish with this condition may have already been eaten by predators or perished due to the illness.

This is the first time skin cancer has been documented in a wild marine fish species, but in the laboratory another species exposed to high UV radiation showed similar lesions, and they lived greatly reduced life spans.

The authors note that the occurrence of the melanomas was likely due to increased UV radiation and the proximity of the fish to the hole in the ozone layer which occurs over portions of Australia and Antarctica. The people of Australia already suffer huge health risks from skin cancer, topping the world in the occurrence of this illness.

These results are concerning because coral trout are an important commercial fish species, and they may suffer population level impacts if these rates continue. One third of all coral reef fish are already threatened with extinction due to the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, their home. Added stresses such as skin cancer could be the nail in the coffin for some species.

It’s important to figure out if skin cancer is occurring in more fish in a larger area, and what the risks are globally for marine life from UV radiation. We obviously can’t put sun-block on every fish in the ocean, but we can limit emissions of ozone-depleting gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a refrigerant, as well as greenhouse gases that drive climate change which was also recently shown to threaten the ozone layer.

We are all in this together, so for the sake of fish and people we need to protect our thin layer of atmosphere.


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Oceana and Fish Fraud on the Daily Show

We have finally made it -- Last night Oceana’s new Los Angeles seafood fraud report was featured on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Ever-angry Lewis Black responded to the report: “Snapper, tilapia, who gives a S#@*? That’s what the ketchup’s for!”

Well, not quite the message we were going for with the report, but pretty funny nonetheless.


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Video: Andy Sharpless on Fish and World Hunger

Did you know that protecting our oceans could be an answer to world hunger? A few weeks ago our CEO Andy Sharpless gave a talk at TedxSF about how saving the oceans can help feed the world.

We think it’s a fantastic, thought-provoking presentation, please watch and pass it on:


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California Begins to Reel in Seafood Fraud

Red snapper is often mislabeled. [image via Wikimedia Commons]

With the help of sustainable seafood guides such as Seafood Watch, we can make informed decisions about what type of seafood to buy based on mercury levels, the type of fishing gear used, and the health of the fishery.

But those guides are undermined if the fish itself is mislabeled. Oceana recently uncovered through DNA testing that in Los Angeles County, 55% of commonly swapped seafood was indeed labeled incorrectly.

This means that we may only be getting the fish we ordered half the time. Seafood fraud is unfair to consumers who may be faced with health risks from consuming seafood with higher contaminant levels, or who are paying more for a less desirable substitute. We should be empowered to consume seafood we think is best for our health and we have the right to be served the seafood we are paying for.

The frustrating part is that there is little oversight on the long journey seafood takes from the ocean to our plate -- from transport to processing, to labeling, to shipping, and finally to grocery stores or restaurants. This extensive journey with little oversight and labeling leaves plenty of room for key information to be lost and for fraud to occur.

So what can be done about seafood fraud?

California is taking a step forward to begin tackling this problem at the state level through new legislation. Senator Ted Lieu introduced Senate Bill 1486, sponsored by Oceana, to require labeling of seafood at large chain restaurants (with 19 or more facilities).

If the bill passes and is signed into law by Governor Brown, chain restaurants will be required to provide information on seafood items ordered including what the species of seafood is; in what country it was caught; and whether it is farmed or wild-caught.  So rather than just seeing “Fish sandwich” on the menu, customers will have the information needed to make informed decisions based on health, sustainability, and buying local.

The Senate Health Committee passed the bill at the end of the day yesterday.  A huge thanks to the more than 5,000 Oceana Wavemakers in California who weighed in support of this bill with their legislators!

Despite trying to make the best eco-conscious decision, we are being swindled and deceived. Not only is it unjust to consumers, but to the environment and to those fishermen using more responsible practices.

We’ll keep you posted as this legislation progresses, and thanks again for your support.


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New Report: Widespread Seafood Fraud in LA

Red snapper is often mislabeled. [image via Wikimedia Commons]

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.

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Fish as a Lifeline for Filipinos

Ayoke Island, Philippines. © Suzannah Evans

Editor's note: This is part 3 in a series of dispatches from the Philippines.

Ayoke Island may be the most idyllic place I’ve ever seen. It’s a small island in the northern part of Lanuza Bay covered with a riot of coconut and palm trees.

The town is a small cluster of bamboo and thatch homes. I was lucky enough to get to snorkel in the aqua waters of the Ayoke Island MPA with Lito, a Rare staffer, while fishers held a community meeting in the guardhouse. Unlike the waters of Cortes, which contain mostly an undulating seagrass meadow, Ayoke is home to a stunning reef with ten-foot table corals and seemingly endless clusters of branch corals.

But even in this paradise, there are signs of trouble. We saw very few fish, although I did spot one fat sea cucumber resting on a table coral. I didn’t see any giant clams, although Lito said he saw a dead one. Broken patches of branch corals littering the ground were evidence of dynamite fishing.

Even so, Ayoke Island’s MPA was named one of the Philippines’ top 10 marine protected areas, no small feat in a country with 1,600 MPAs, the most in the world. But as recently as December the community faced a real test when the MPA was dynamited during the town’s fiesta, when no one was volunteering at the guardhouse. No one knew about the bombing until a family that was new to town showed up at the market with several boxes of fish that everyone immediately recognized as the result of dynamite fishing. As fishers told Cherry Ravelo, Rare’s conservation fellow for Ayoke and nearby General Island, they felt like they had been robbed.


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Fishy Business: Can You Trust Your Seafood?

Can you trust that the seafood you bought is actually what it claims to be? In a new report titled, “Fishy Business: Do You Know What You Are Really Eating?” Oceana explains how seafood mislabeling and species substitution can have dangerous consequences for public health and ocean ecosystems.

Seafood fraud is more common than people think. Seafood takes a long journey from the ocean to your plate, with plenty of opportunities for fishermen and merchants to fudge the truth—and very little in the way to stop them.

Some expensive fish are switched out for more common varieties. Seafood may be weighted down with ice, meaning you’re paying for more than what you get. And fish caught unsustainably may be falsely labeled as an eco-friendly option, which means even careful consumers could still be funding unsustainable fishing.

The FDA only inspects 2% of imported seafood, but up to 70% of seafood may be mislabeled in some manner. Obviously, the FDA needs to make seafood a priority. “Consumers have a right to know what they are eating and where it came from.  Yet, frankly, customers are being ripped off,” said Oceana’s Beth Lowell.  “Fraud of any kind is wrong, illegal and must be stopped.”

Eating dinner shouldn’t be a guessing game. Today, the House is considering the FDA’s 2013 budget, and we’re calling on them to pay attention to seafood.


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