CITES: a “tragedy of the oceans” says Oceana

I moved in January and now (more than two months later!) I’m just getting to know my neighbors.  What does this have to do with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)? Well, it turns out they got married in Singapore and had a Chinese ceremony and reception and they chose not to include the traditional shark fin soup on the menu — much to the displeasure of some of their guests. I applaud them for that and I’m so thrilled to have such awesome next door neighbors. I’m sure it took a lot of courage.

Serving shark fin soup at weddings is a very old and very honored tradition in the Chinese culture. Keeping it off the menu might be compared to banning wedding cake from American weddings. Or flowers. Old traditions die hard and shark species are dying out as a result of the over-consumption of shark fins. Bluefin tuna is going fast too and dozens of corals are at great risk among many other marine species. Too many. Continue reading

Sustainable sushi

sushiTonight I had dinner with a colleague who travels the globe to address serious disaster relief and international health issues. He’s fascinating to talk to and I always look forward to hearing about his most recent travels. Tonight he was telling me about a trip to Japan where he visited the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo — the enormous market where they sell the prized bluefin tuna among a myriad of other species. He went there at 5am, which is the best time to see the day’s offerings before they’re quickly sold to restaurants. I imagine it was fascinating. He told me he had sushi there for breakfast and my mouth watered at the thought of the extraordinarily fresh fish he must have enjoyed. Then, feeling guilty, I thought about Toro. The prized belly of the tuna that sells for ridiculous prices. Why? Because its increasingly rare. Just a few days ago, WWF released a report that bluefin tuna stocks are collapsing under the heavy demand. Why are people still eating this when it’s been shown to have high levels of mercury? I urge sushi lovers to avoid this delicacy and any other sushi – or seafood – dishes that are not currently sustainable. There’s an organization called Sea Choice in Canada that has produced a sustainable sushi card to educate diners on the best choices for sushi. If you’re a sushi fan, print it and carry it in your wallet. Continue reading

Tuna: A Love Story

Richard Ellis’ new book Tuna: A Love Story is now in bookstores. In his latest book, Ellis focuses on the bluefin tuna – an amazing species that is being loved to death in sushi bars worldwide.

We’re fans of Ellis’ The Empty Ocean, which paints a grim but accurate view of the exploitation of the ocean through centuries of fishing. The book is filled with historical data on overfishing and includes Ellis’ wonderful illustrations of marine life.

I’m hoping Tuna includes his drawings as well. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to in the next few weeks and will provide a more in depth review. In the meantime: Continue reading

Sustainable seafood solutions in Europe?

Despite WWF’s claim that in 2002 its Stop Overfishing Campaign was successful in “helping to put environmental concerns and long-term resource sustainability at the heart of the EU’s fisheries policy,” the organization is still pointing fingers at the EU’s ongoing problems with unsustainable fishing practices:

GENEVA (Reuters) – Commercial fishing methods threaten to devastate Europe’s oceans, WWF International said on Wednesday [September 27, 2006].

The Swiss-headquartered environmental group, formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, noted that up to 80 percent of some North Sea plaice catches are thrown overboard dead or dying due to their small size. Continue reading