The Beacon

Blog Tags: Sustainable Seafood

CEO Note: President Obama Announces Plan to Combat Seafood Fraud at Global “Our Ocean” Conference

President Obama Announces Plan to Combat Seafood Fraud

The BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Oceana / Jenn Hueting)

I have truly historic news to share with you. Today, in a video message shared at Secretary of State John Kerry’s “Our Ocean” conference, President Obama announced his plan to develop a comprehensive program aimed at combating seafood fraud and keeping illegal fish out of the U.S. market.


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The Perfect Protein: By the Numbers

A few clear steps could provide hundreds of millions of hungry people around the world with a nutritious, protein-rich meal of wild seafood, like this mackerel 

In a recent interview with Coast magazine, Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless discussed his new book, The Perfect Protein. While the phrases “saving our oceans,” and “feeding the world,” may feel nebulous and, frankly, overwhelming, Andy used this interview to break these overwhelming ideas down into clear, straightforward points. 

"So, if you go into McDonald's and you're choosing between a fish filet sandwich and a hamburger, you can make a decision that has a bigger impact on the world, and yourself, than people appreciate," says Sharpless. "If you eat the hamburger, you're eating enough grain to make more than 200 taco shells and you're consuming enough fresh water to fill more than 10,000 glasses. If you eat the fish filet sandwich, you're not." 


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Harvard Dining Services Dishes Up Sustainable Seafood

Sustainable Prince Edward Island mussels make a delicious dish for hungry men and women of Harvard. Photo by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer for Harvard Gazette

It looks like r’s aren’t the only things getting dropped at Harvard: Over the last few years, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) has overhauled its operations to make its meals more ecologically friendly, and now unsustainable seafood is getting the chop.

In the last year, Dining Services began to examine the thousands of pounds of tuna, tilapia, salmon, and mahi-mahi being served to their seafood-hungry scholars, and realized that there was much room for change. These new changes reached their diners this fall, with students dining on new species like swai, and sustainable and regional versions of old favorites, like mussels from Prince Edward Island and shrimp caught in Maine waters.

“It’s part of our overall program in sustainable dining,” said David Davidson, managing director of HUDS. “We’re hoping we can come up with guidelines we can share with other schools.” To help guide them through the murky waters of seafood sustainability, Dining Services has enlisted the help of Barton Seaver, Washington DC chef, sustainable seafood advocate, National Geographic fellow, and frequent Oceana collaborator.


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Guest Post: Live from the Seafood Summit

©Wikimedia Commons

Editor's note: This is a guest post by Simone Lewis-Koskinen, Program Assistant at SeaWeb, reporting from the Seafood Summit in Hong Kong. Oceana is a sponsor of the summit. 

After many months and several thousand emails, phone calls and meetings, the Seafood Summit has arrived! SeaWeb’s 10th Annual Seafood Summit in Hong Kong, kicked off this Wednesday with a series of pre-Summit activities exploring the existing and future horizons of the eco-certification landscape, investment mechanisms for fisheries and local seafood markets. Despite the jet lag, most of the participants were in high spirits and eager to mingle, setting the tone for what’s sure to be the best Summit yet.

The following three days will see a flurry of panels, workshops and meetings that get at the heart of some of the most pressing issues facing the seafood industry. From climate change to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, the topics run the gamut, promising a healthy dose of debate and discussion.

Panels addressing tuna and shark issues are particularly likely to spark some heated debates given the cultural and traditional ties to the region. From Friday’s panel discussion on local trends around shark fins and consumer attitudes, to Saturday’s workshop on sustainable shark fisheries, Hong Kong is shaping up to be the perfect place to elevate these dialogues to the next level.

Other sessions likely to provide some interesting food for thought examine the relationship between seafood and the consumer, exploring the various avenues to engage consumers in the discussion. As the Holy Grail for many conservation groups, sessions sharing tools and lessons learned around translating consumer awareness into behavior change are sure to spark a lot of interest.

The Seafood Summit is an annual event hosted by SeaWeb that brings together global representatives from the seafood industry and conservation community for in-depth discussions, presentations and networking around the issue of sustainable seafood. The goal of the Summit is to foster dialogue and partnerships that lead to a seafood marketplace that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. The breadth and depth of topics, discussions and perspectives serves as a catalyst for new solutions as one of the premiere events in the seafood community.

Looking back at past Summits, this year’s event represents the first steps into new territory. Traditionally held in Europe and North America, bringing the Seafood Summit to Hong Kong is an important step for helping the sustainable seafood movement engage more effectively with the Asian marketplace. Many of the presentations so far have acknowledged the growing role Asia has and will continue to play in the path towards sustainability. In the days, months and years to come, this initial foray will surely be remembered as setting the stage for many of the lasting relationships formed at the 2012 Seafood Summit.  


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New Report: Seafood Fraud in South Florida

sushi

58% of samples from sushi vendors in South Florida were mislabeled ©Wikimedia Commons

How would you feel if you found out the red snapper on your plate wasn’t red snapper at all, but instead something illegally fished or potentially unhealthy? A new Oceana study found that 31% of seafood we tested in South Florida is mislabeled, keeping consumers in the dark about what they’re really eating.

Our campaigners used DNA testing on seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants, and sushi venues in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas. We’ve conducted studies like this in other cities, and the results from Los Angeles and Boston were even more striking—55% of seafood in L.A. was mislabeled and 48% in Boston.

But just because the numbers are lower in South Florida doesn’t mean that seafood fraud is any more acceptable. Some of the fish being served under a different name pose risks to health and sustainability. The study found that king mackerel, a high mercury fish with a health warning for sensitive groups, was being marketed as ‘grouper.’

Sushi restaurants were the biggest offenders, with 58% of samples found to be mislabeled. All the samples of white tuna collected from sushi vendors were actually escolar, a fish species that can make people sick.

The large amount of seafood coming into the U.S. market can make it difficult to trace each item to its source. Oceana is calling on the federal government to ensure that the seafood we find in our markets is safe, legal, and honestly labeled. By implementing a traceability system, consumers can make informed decisions about what they put on their plate.

Sign the petition to fight seafood fraud and ensure you’re getting what you order.


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Video: Mercury from Source to Seafood

The health benefits of seafood are well-documented, but some people avoid eating it after hearing reports of high mercury levels. This video might help make things a little clearer.

Produced by the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, the video explains how mercury gets into water and then into the fish that we eat. Burning coal releases mercury into the air and increases its concentrations in our waterways. Depending on where in the food chain a fish is, it could have low levels of mercury or high levels that could be unhealthy.

Eating seafood has many health benefits—it has important Omega 3 fatty acids and is low in the saturated fats you find in other animal proteins, especially red meat. Many fish are safe and healthy to eat. While shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and tuna have higher mercury levels, there are plenty of other options that are safe to eat. You can find responsible and healthy seafood choices in our Sustainable Seafood Guide

Check out the video, which also features Oceana senior scientist Kim Warner, to learn more about how mercury builds up in the environment and how to stay healthy while including seafood in your diet.


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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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A Carbon Footprint that Isn’t Shrimpy

shrimp cocktail

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

According to new estimates, farmed shrimp from Asia may have one of the highest carbon footprints of any food.

More than half of all shrimp farms are located in Asia, primarily in areas that used to be mangrove forests. Mangroves are trees that grow in salt water, and they are important for marine ecosystems because they provide nutrients and shelter for many fish, turtle, and wading bird species. Mangrove forests are also important because they serve as a carbon sink, removing and storing more than 1,000 pounds of CO2) per acre each year.

But around the world, mangrove forests are being cut down to build shrimp farms. These farms are also often short-lived. The intensive farming methods pollute the environment, and disease spreads easily among the shrimp, which means that shrimp farmers must frequently clear new areas to stay in business.


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A Fishery for the Future: Off the Hook

nova scotia boats

Fishing boats in Nova Scotia. © Becky Cliche via http://www.offthehookcsf.ca

A group of hook-and-line fishermen in Nova Scotia are helping change the face of fishing, and we think you should know about them.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the CSA model, or Community Supported Agriculture, in which subscribers pay for weekly shares of a farm’s produce. Off the Hook is a Community Supported Fishery using this model with fish, connecting a co-operative of small-scale fishermen from the Bay of Fundy to subscribers in and around Halifax, Nova Scotia. Customers receive weekly shares of the co-op’s catch of fresh whole haddock and hake. 

The benefits? Community Supported Fisheries like Off the Hook provide more family income, more market choices, and increased ownership and control. Subscribers get better access to the freshest local, sustainable fish along with a better connection to local fishing communities and the ocean. It’s a win-win.

Off the Hook has been named a finalist in a global competition being held by National Geographic called "Turning the Tide on Coastal Fisheries". The contest aims to find community supported projects that provide innovative solutions to overfishing. Off the Hook was the only project in North America to make it to the top 10 out of more than 100 entries from 48 countries.

The last phase of the contest is an online vote that ends Dec 24. If Off the Hook makes it to the top three, they will be flown down to DC to meet with key stakeholders in international fisheries management and marine conservation. The winner receives a $20,000 grant, and National Geographic will produce a video that features their project.

Vote for Off the Hook and spread the word about Community Supported Fisheries!


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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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