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

US Government subsidized fishing nets?

The United States Agency for International Development is jeopardizing the future of development for east Africa by distributing destructive fishing nets to African fishermen:

Kenya Wildlife Perishes in Nets Bought with US Aid
By Katharine Houreld

DIANI, Kenya (AP) – Plastic fishing nets — some bought for poor fishermen with American aid money — are tangling up whales and turtles off one of Africa’s most popular beaches.

One recent victim was a huge dappled whaleshark that bled to death after its tail was cut off by fishermen unwilling to slash their nets to save it. In another case, divers risked their lives to free a pregnant, thrashing humpback whale entangled in a net last summer. Continue reading

I’d like to ring their necks…

elephant seal slowly choking to deathThe fishermen, or whomever discarded what looks like fishing gear, into the marine environment, which is now permanently strangling this helpless elephant seal. Thanks to Denise Kocek for sharing this photo with us.

This elephant seal is a resident of a colony in Morro Bay, California near San Luis Obispo. Denise spoke with park service and marine mammal rescue service officials who are not able to help seals when the colony is well-populated, particularly with alpha males and new mothers around that will fiercely guard their young.

Despite  her horrific injury this seal recently gave birth to two seal pups, one of which survived. Denise is monitoring their progress and will keep us updated. Continue reading

Good news for marine conservation/sharks

Just two weeks shy of his final day as President, George W. Bush announced today that 195,280 square miles will be designated as three new marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean. Contrary to his resistance to sign the Kyoto Protocol and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and his other unpopular environmental policies, Bush is leaving a decent legacy when it comes to the ocean. This good news combined with the good news of a bill to ban shark finning in the US put forth in the new session of Congress (sea below) put a smile on my face!

Diodon holocanthusFrom his press release:

On June 15, 2006, I established the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, and on May 15, 2007, I instructed the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization to submit a proposal for international measures to enhance protection of the Monument. On April 4, 2008, the International Maritime Organization adopted our proposal, and the Papahanaumokuakea Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) was established. 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

Bluefin now extinct: “Well worth it,” say sushi fans

I loved this satrical article in: the Ethicurean: Chew the Right Thing. Yes, yes it’s satire, and funny – but not – because it’s close to the truth. Here’s a humorous excerpt:

Nibbling from trays of sushi containing realistic-looking tuna substitutes such as raw beef and watermelon, guests acknowledged a debt of gratitude to the delicious fish. Many insisted they hadn’t taken the privilege for granted. “The extinction of the bluefin must serve as a wake-up call for all of us,” stated film producer Devon Gillespie. “With so many delicious creatures in the sea, I believe we owe it to our children to enjoy as many of them as possible before they’re gone forever. I’ve already installed a second freezer at my house, just for abalone and Chilean sea bass!”

Bluefin tuna fish stocks have declined so much in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean seas that for the second year in a row, the European Union is closing the Bluefin tuna fishing season early. The season normally lasts until September, but as of June 16 Greece, France, Cyprus, Spain, Malta and Italy will be banned from bluefin tuna fishing. Continue reading

US Congress working to protect the ocean?

OCEANS 21: Coming To Rescue An Ailing OceanA call to action from the Ocean Champions website:

OCEANS 21: Coming To Rescue An Ailing Ocean

We are entering a new era of ocean conservation. As Ocean Champions had hoped, the new 110th Congress is already off to a great start for protecting our oceans.

Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) one of our Ocean Champions in Congress, introduced the OCEANS-21 bill (HR-21) earlier this month, setting the stage for the establishment of a comprehensive national oceans policy with guiding principles for use and management of U.S. coasts, oceans and lakes. Ocean Champions, we have been working with members of Congress to adopt key recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission. The OCEANS-21 bill would make many of these recommendations into law. The bill adopts the key recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commision to develop a holistic ocean health plan. This bill, unlike past ocean legislation, treats the disease, not the symptom.

Please ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor this vital legislation and help us build a better future for our oceans.

OCEANS-21, if passed into law, would implement a comprehensive ecosystem-based management plan that addresses current and future ocean and coastal challlenges, such as overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction.

This is indeed a very exciting time for those who care about protecting our oceans because we are now seeing the positive results of our electoral victories from last November’s elections. The OCEANS-21 bill and the principles it carries are vital to the future of our oceans because it mandates that the government adopt a holistic ocean health plan, something that is long overdue. In the past, Congress has passed laws that addressed one or a few important ocean issues, but nothing this comprehensive.

Seafood could collapse by 2050

Though I don’t read MSN’s news page very often, a co-worker brought this article to my attention this morning. Though nothing in the article surprises me, I still found it disturbing to read. Though science keeps telling us over and over that the world’s ocean is in real trouble, it’s not an issue that seems to be receiving much attention or action.

In my opinion, the billions being spent on a senseless war in Iraq is an abominable misappropriation of funds that should be spent on issues like this, which will ultimately create far more chaos than terrorism ever did.

Seafood could collapse by 2050, experts warn
Overfishing, pollution, warming are destroying stocks, study finds

MSNBC staff and news service reports

WASHINGTON – Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few decades. 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