The Beacon

Blog Tags: New York Times

NYC Seafood Fraud Report Making Waves

What's on your plate? Source: wikimedia commons

Spurred by Oceana’s seafood fraud report for New York City released last week, Sunday’s New York Times took a broader look at the widespread practice of food mislabeling.

Oceana’s initial report, which was also covered in the Times, included a number of eyebrow-raising findings.  After analyzing 142 samples, Oceana found that 56 of them, or 39 percent tested in New York City, were something other than what was advertised on the menu.

It also found that 100 percent of sushi restaurants tested in the area sold mislabeled fish, that 94 percent of “white tuna” was, in fact, escolar (a fish which can cause gastrointestinal problems in some diners), and that 79 percent of red snapper was mislabeled, in one instance being switched with tilefish, which is on the FDA’s do not eat list because of its high mercury content.

Chef Tom Colicchio was not shocked by this latest round of fraud uncovered by Oceana. “This has been going on for as long as I’ve been cooking,” he says in the article. 500 chefs, from Eric Ripert to Mario Batali have signed a letter calling on Congress to end to seafood mislabeling.

The article suggests that diners can arm themselves with a baseline of seafood-related knowledge to fend off fraudulent menu items:

“If a restaurant claims to have fresh Maine diver scallops in July, it helps to know that the tightly regulated bivalves can be harvested only from December to March. (And that they are rarely taken from the sea by actual divers.) Fresh wild Alaska salmon should not be on plates in January.”


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Shark Fin Ban Making Waves In The New York Times

Oceanic whitetip shark

Fans of sharks have undoubtedly noticed that protections for the oceans' great predators have really ramped up in the last couple of years - and now the New York Times has taken notice, too.

Reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal quoted Oceana's very own Elizabeth Wilson in yesterday's article about the proliferation of shark finning and trade bans. In the last year, the West Coast has neared a total ban on finning and trade, and the U.S. and Chile have passed national bans on finning. Oceana has been an integral part of advocating for shark protections, as tens of millions of sharks, including some rare and endangered species, are killed each year for their fins.

As Elizabeth said in the Times: "We're really enthusiastic to see good things finally starting to happen for sharks."

And we're thrilled by all the Oceana Wavemakers who joined us in the fight to save sharks. There's still time to help: If you're a California resident, you can call Gov. Jerry Brown to encourage him to sign the shark fin ban, AB 376, that was passed by the state Senate last week into law at 916-445-2841. Call by Oct. 9, which is the deadline for it to be passed. The sharks thank you!


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Plastic Bag Makers Sue ChicoBag

© Flickr user doviende.

ChicoBag is one of the most popular brands of reusable bags. Their totes are colorful and stylish, and they help us avoid the need to create more of the plastic waste that is clogging our rivers and streams and creating massive garbage patches in our oceans.

But in a low blow meant to drain green companies like Chico Bag of time and resources, a trio of plastic bag manufacturers is suing ChicoBag for exaggerating the dangers of plastic bags to the environment.

Although some of ChicoBag’s online statements about plastic bags were indeed outdated, the company quickly corrected the errors as soon as it was notified of them. But the plastic bag trio, which includes manufacturer Hilex Poly, had no interest in ceasing fire.


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Oceana’s Seafood Fraud Report in the NYT

Today’s New York Times features a great story about seafood fraud -- and guess whose report is front and center?

That’s right, Oceana’s new report, “Bait and Switch” forms the core of the article, and our chief scientist Mike Hirshfield has several excellent quotes, including the following, which was the “Quote of the Day” in the NYT’s e-mail news digest:

“If you’re ordering steak, you would never be served horse meat,” said Dr. Hirshfield of Oceana. “But you can easily be ordering snapper and get tilapia or Vietnamese catfish.”

It’s great to see that seafood fraud is getting so much attention, and we’re hopeful that it means there’s change on the horizon -- you can take action right now by telling the FDA that our seafood needs to be safe, legal, and honestly labeled. 

Read the full article in the Times and please pass it on! 


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Ted Danson And Mark Bittman On Ocean Conservation

On the anniversary of the oil spill, New York Times columnist and author Mark Bittman sat down with Ted Danson to talk about Ted's book, "Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them." I can't embed the video here, but be sure to hop over to the Times' site to watch the clip! Enjoy.


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Sea Turtles and Circle Hooks in the NYT

sea turtle x-ray

© Oceana/Cory Wilson

The Latest NYT “Scientist at Work” blog follows a sea turtle researcher, Lekelia “Kiki” Jenkins, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, as she travels to Ecuador to study factors in the cross-cultural adoption of sea turtle conservation technologies like turtle excluder devices and circle hooks.

Here’s an excerpt from her first post, including a great explanation of how circle hooks help sea turtles, and why turtles are like 40-year-old virgins:

“Some scientists estimate that a quarter of a million sea turtles are ensnared in fishing lines each year. This is truly a problem for sea turtles, which are the “40-year-old virgins” of the oceans. Turtles have a life span similar to humans, but might not start having young until they are several decades old. Dehookers and circle hooks are part of a suite of solutions that help longline fishers protect sea turtles, allowing them to mature and bear young while helping fishers continue to catch profitable tuna, swordfish and mahi-mahi.


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Dissecting the Cause of Death in the Gulf

A kemp's ridley sea turtle. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

Warning: what follows isn’t exactly light reading.

The New York Times reported yesterday on the complicated task of performing necropsies -- i.e., animal autopsies -- on sea turtles and other creatures that have been found dead in the Gulf of Mexico since the spill started.

It’s not easy to determine the cause of death of these creatures. Of the 1,978 birds, 463 turtles and 59 marine mammals found dead in the Gulf since April 20th, few show visible signs of oil contamination.

And in the case of sea turtles, a more familiar culprit may be at fault: shrimp trawls and other commercial fishing gear that scoop up turtles as bycatch and prevent them from going to the surface to breathe.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how the veterinary investigators begin to determine the cause of death:


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Danson on Water

ted danson

© Oceana

As I mentioned in last Friday’s Scanner, Oceana board member Ted Danson will be live on CNN.com on April 1 in a 30-minute interview about the oceans.

Send in your burning questions and the actor and longtime ocean activist will answer them during the show.

Also, Mr. Danson was the subject of a long profile by Frank Bruni in the New York Times this weekend.

The article points out what many Oceanans know well: he may play egotistical roles on TV, but he is quite the opposite in person.

I was particularly amused by the end of the article:

Just before lunch, during a meeting with his editor at Rodale, he spoke in an animated voice and expansive style, saying that he had a biblical, grandiloquent notion for the cover of his save-the-oceans book, scheduled for publication in April 2011. The cover could show him in a Jesus-evocative pose atop the ocean’s surface, with the words: “Danson on Water.”

No sooner had he uttered that phrase than he took it back, desperate to clarify that he was joking — that he would never really consider something so, well, vain.


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Bluefin Tuna: A Worthy Opponent in Decline

I'm a little disappointed in this New York Times story about Dave Lamoureux, a fisherman who battles bluefin tuna from his unmotorized sea kayak. On the one hand, it reinforces the mythos around bluefin, that they are majestic creatures worthy of being considered alongside terrestrial predators like tigers or lions. On the other hand, it presents the fish as just a critter to be caught because someone can. Much like big game hunting in Africa fell out of favor as the giant cats and elephants became endangered, bluefin tuna fishing should also be pursued only with the understanding that these are critically endangered animals.

It's disappointing since Andrew Revkin has done a terrific job chronicling the massive overfishing of bluefin tuna in the very same newspaper. The population of bluefin that Lamoureux pursues from his kayak is among the most devastasted in the world, already reduced to less than 20 percent of their historic levels, and there are already strict rules in place to keep the fish from disappearing entirely.

Given that the story is floating near the top of the NYT's most-emailed list right now, I see this as a missed opportunity to both celebrate the bluefin's impressive power, fight and speed as well as warn about losing it to overfishing.


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