Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Sustainable Seafood Helps Oceans Revive

When it came to posting about the environment today for Blog Action Day, there were so many things I wanted to write about, it was difficult to narrow it down to one topic. I wanted to discuss plastic in the ocean and how there is a vortex in the Pacific with mountains of plastic garbage twirling around waiting to harm sea birds and sea life. I wanted to talk about zone creep due to global warming, where native plants are being decimated by newer species never able to grow in climate zones before, and how this affects wildlife. There were household hints I wanted to give you about how to live a greener life to help the earth survive. But today I'm going to talk about sustainable seafood, seafood that can be eaten that will not decimate species.

Around the world many traditional fisheries are threatened with collapse, due to unsustainable fishing practices and habitat destruction. Where I live, in New England, many native species have been literally fished out, meaning that there are not enough of the fish left for any fishing of the species. Not only does this affect the fish population, but it has a second negative affect of creating poverty and hardship amongst the professional fishing population. In Massachusetts, there are many towns that rely on the fishing industry, and with fish populations dwindling and dying out, those towns are experiencing a rise in unemployment, poverty, and terrible hardship.

Fish comprise the world’s largest wild food harvest and provide a vital source of protein as well as livelihoods for many families. Globally, more than 120 million people are dependent on fish for all or part of their incomes, particularly in developing countries (www.fao.org/gender/en/fish-e.htm). Animals such as whales, dolphins and seabirds also rely on fish for their food. Fish are a vital part of marine ecosystems and are key to the essential services that these systems provide (e.g., global nutrient cycling).

It is troubling that over the last century commercial fisheries have drastically reduced fish populations and altered the world’s marine ecosystems. On a global level, most fisheries are poorly managed and fish stocks have been fully exploited (52%), over-exploited (16%), or depleted (7%). The world’s capture fisheries peaked in the late 1980s and, despite increased fishing efforts, catch rates have dropped. More hours on the water for fishermen have yielded fewer and fewer fish.

Put simply, what we take out of the ocean as seafood or bycatch is greater than what the ocean can sustainably provide. We are not only facing a decline in the capacity of our oceans to provide a sustainable food source but we are destroying the basic ecological processes and food chains that we and marine life depend on.

While the overall catch from the world’s oceans appears to be maintained at a high level, this does not mean that catches are sustainable. High levels of catch have been maintained as commercial fleets move to new, previously unexploited species or areas, once their original target stock is depleted. This “sequential depletion” of marine organisms has been masked until recently by improved technology, expansion to different or deeper parts of the ocean, and over-reporting of fish catches for political reasons by some national fisheries organizations. All the while, previously undesirable species, often lower on food chains, are marketed to consumers.

Some fisheries, however, remain healthy and productive due to succesful management, responsible harvesting and advances in contained fish farming.

You can help support sustainable fisheries with the choices you make at the restaurant or the seafood counter. Choosing sustainable seafood is a simple and effective action that you can take every time you eat at a restaurant or buy seafood. Whether you are an individual shopping for your family, a chef buying for your restaurant, or a supplier sourcing from fishing communities, your choices count. Voting with your wallet sends a strong signal to government and industry leaders, telling them that you support responsible stewardship of our natural marine resources. The following chart is an easy guide to follow when you are shopping for seafood. However, it is not regionally based. If you are interested in regional lists showing which seafood is native to your area, see here for the West Coast, here for the North East, here for Hawaii, here for the South East, see here for the Central US, and here for the South West.

Better Choices

Catfish (farmed)
Crab: Blue, Dungeness, King

Halibut (Pacific)

Herring (Pacific)
Mackerel: Atlantic, Spanish
Mussels (Black, Green-lipped)
Octopus (Pacific)
Oysters (farmed)
Pacific Black Cod (sablefish)
Pacific Cod (pot or jig caught)
Prawns (trap-caught, Pacific)
Rock Lobster
Salmon (Wild Alaskan)
Scallops (Bay - farmed)
Shrimp (US farmed)
Squid (Pacific)
Striped Bass (farmed)
Sturgeon (farmed)
Tilapia (farmed)
Tuna: Pacific Albacore
Uni (sea urchin)

Moderate Risk

Flounder: "Summer Flounder" Fluke

Lobster (Atlantic)
Mahi Mahi or Dorado
Octopus (Atlantic)
Prawns (US farmed or wild)
Rainbow Trout (farmed)

Salmon (wild from WA, OR, BC Canada)
Salmon (farmed from Chile or WA)
Scallops (Sea, Bay wild)
Shrimp (domestic, trawl-caught)
Snow Crab
Squid (Atlantic)
Swordfish (Pacific)
Tuna: Yellowfin or skipjack

Best to Avoid

Alaska King Crab
Atlantic Cod
Caviar (wild sturgeon)
Haddock (Atlantic)
Halibut (Atlantic)

Hoki (Atlantic, New Zealand)

Orange Roughy
Pacific Rockfish (Rock Cod)

Prawns (imported, tiger)

Red Snapper
Salmon (farmed from Scotland or Faroe Islands)
Seabass: Chilean
Shark: all species
Sturgeon (wild)
Swordfish (Atlantic)
Tuna: Bluefin
Yellowtail Flounder

If I can convince you to only eat seafood from the list of best choices, you will be helping to save our depleted oceans. I know, it's difficult to avoid certain fish when you go out for sushi, but bring a list with you (printable lists available from the Monterey Bay Aquarium) and only choose from the seafoods that are sustainable.

Please support the Magnuson-Stevens Act by visiting this site and sending this message to your congressional representatives.

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Blogger Jendeis said...

Interesting post, Margalit. Glad that you picked this topic, since it's much less covered than cheap greening.

I'm trying to eat more local and organic foods, and I think that your chart will be really helpful.

Hope you all are doing well since The Boy's meds started kicking in. They raised mine a notch, but I think they are going to have to up them again. Hopefully, this time's the charm. :)

15/10/07 10:34 AM  
Blogger Whimspiration said...

Thank you for being one of the rare people who actually participated in Blog Action Day by posting something instead of just advertising it on the day of.

Your posts and others like yours, bring our community together, and make the blogosphere strong.

Very informative, I'm going to bookmark you to come back to later.


16/10/07 3:04 PM  

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