The Beacon

Blog Tags: Seafood

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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Introducing Oceana’s New Seafood Fraud Campaign

Do you eat seafood? If not, do your friends and loved ones? We think almost everyone out there will answer yes to this, which is why we are launching a campaign today to tackle the problem of seafood fraud

Last week we gave you a preview of our new seafood fraud campaign, but today, with the launch of a new report, our campaign is officially kicking off. 

Oceana’s new report, titled “Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health,” explains how consumers are being misled about the seafood they buy, with negative impacts on their wallets, marine conservation efforts and human health.

Inside the report you’ll find information about the following:

  • What is seafood fraud? - We explain the different types of seafood fraud, which share this basic fact in common: you aren’t getting what you pay for.
  • Health risks of seafood fraud - Learn about the serious consequences to misleading consumers about seafood - from allergic reactions to the potentially debilitating condition called ciguatera.
  • Tips for consumers - With all of this in mind, here are some tips for when you’re shopping for fish.

And you can also take action right now by telling the FDA that our seafood needs to be safe, legal, and honestly labeled. 

Check out the full report, and please share with your friends and family! And as always, let us know what you think.


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How Might Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Affect the Oceans?

Many of you have inquired via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail about how the Japanese nuclear crisis is affecting the oceans and marine life. There are still a lot of question marks, but here’s what our scientists have to say.

How it could affect marine life in general:

The greatest concern for marine life comes from the radiation from cesium, strontium and radioactive iodine entering the oceans via the smoke and water runoff from the damaged facilities. Small doses of radiation will be spread out over the Pacific Ocean, and monitors on the U.S. West Coast have even picked up slight traces of radiation from the smoke.

Although the levels of cesium and radioactive iodine in the immediate vicinity of the plant have increased and very small amounts of radiation have even been detected in local anchovies (1 percent of acceptable levels), it is not clear whether there will be any long-term or significant impacts on marine life off the coast of Japan or out to sea, according to researchers who studied the marine effects of fallout from nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the Chernobyl nuclear accident.


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Make a Bid to Save the Earth

On March 29th, for the second year running, Oceana will benefit from Christie’s Green Auction, along with NRDC, Central Park Conservancy and Conservation International.

There are some fantastic items already up for bid online, including a chance to meet Lady Gaga, an eco-vacation in the Maldives, a day of sailing with David and Susan Rockefeller, and much more.

Leading up to the big day of the auction, we also want to know: what’s your personal “bid” to save the earth? It can be as small or big as you want. Maybe you want to start composting (that’s my bid), or bike to work more, or eat only sustainable seafood. Maybe you vow to use only eco-friendly products in the shower. Whatever it is, we want to know!

So here’s how to tell the world: Make a 15 second video with your bid and upload your video to your YouTube account. Label your video “mybid,” and include your name. All videos will be linked to the Bid to Save the Earth YouTube page.

Here’s a video explanation:

 

So go on, make those bid vids -- or just tell us your bid in the comments!


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Paul Greenberg: Uniting the Fishies and Foodies

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.


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UN Report: No Improvement in Global Overfishing

The world’s appetite for fish continues to grow. Fish stocks, though? Not so much. 

That’s the bottom line from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which released its latest State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture report yesterday. Global per capita consumption of fish reached a "new all-time high" in 2008.

Here are some of the facts from the report:

  • Fish consumption increased to an estimated 17.1 kilograms per person in 2008, up from 16.9 kilograms in 2007.
  • Fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, roughly 8 percent of the world's population.
  • Much of the increase is due to fish farming, which is set to overtake fisheries as the main source of seafood.
  • In the early 1950s, aquaculture production was less than one million tonnes per year; in 2008 it was 52.5 million tonnes worth $98.4 billion US, the report authors said.
  • There has been no improvement in the level of global fish stocks -- the overall percentage of overfished, depleted or recovering stocks is expected to be slightly higher than in 2006.
  • Slightly more than half of the world's fisheries were estimated to be "fully exploited," meaning their current catches are "at or close to their maximum sustainable productions, with no room for further expansion."
  • About 32 per cent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be rebuilt, the report said.

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Guest Post: Boom Times for Squid

A delicious plate of calamari. [Image via Wikimedia Commons.]

Guest blogger Jon Bowermaster is a writer and filmmaker. His most recent documentary is "SoLa, Louisiana Water Stories" and his most recent book is OCEANS, The Threats to the Sea and What You Can Do To Turn the Tide.

Typically at this time of year a certain breed of shopper purposefully wanders the fish stalls of their favorite grocer taking stock of the piles of fresh oysters carefully arranged on crushed ice or to pick up and judge the heft in their hands of tightly packed tins of caviar, which sell for anywhere from $50 to $2,000.

But maybe this is the year to lay off those two favored treats and replace them with something slightly less traditional: squid.

I know, a big bowl of calamari hardly compares to one of caviar… but, man, there’s a lot of squid out there these days. I’m sure some of those very popular sustainable fish chefs have already dreamed up some special calamari entrée to take advantage of the boom.


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A Big Win for Safer Seafood

Olin Corp's Charleston, TN facility. © Oceana

I hope you’re not tired of good news -- because we have another big dose for you today.

Olin Corporation announced today that it will phase out the use of mercury in its chlor-alkali manufacturing process in its Charleston, Tennessee facility by the end of 2012. Plus, the company plans to turn its Augusta, Georgia plant into a bleach plant and distribution center, discontinuing chlor-alkali manufacturing (and thus, mercury use).  

The Tennessee facility is the largest mercury-based factory left in the United States. Built in 1962, Olin Corp.’s factory has consistently been the largest mercury emitter in the entire state of Tennessee. The factory, which produces chlorine and caustic soda, discharges mercury directly to the Hiwassee River and is likely the primary cause of the fish consumption advisory on that portion of the river.

Oceana has been working since 2005 to convince mercury-based chlorine plants to convert to cleaner technology. Since then, two factories have closed and three others are in the process of converting or have converted to mercury-free technology. With Olin’s announcement, there are now only two remaining plants using mercury - Ashta Chemicals in Ashtabula, Ohio and PPG Industries in Natrium, West Virginia.


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New Study Measures Nations’ ‘SeafoodPrint’

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.


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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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