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2 sustainable seafood initiatives

Jul. 12, 2011

We’ve got two fish initiatives on the brain right now that we wanted to share with you.

1. Combating invasive fish species: Fish like Lion Fish and Asian carp are overtaking habitats and causing problems in rivers, lakes and reefs. How about this approach: eat them! As reported in the NY Times last week, “[Food and Water Watch’s] 2011 Smart Seafood Guide recommends for the first time that diners seek out invasive species as a “safer, more sustainable” alternative to their more dwindling relatives, to encourage fisherman and markets to provide them.” We are interested in this approach since it seems to achieve similar goals as he eater-based conservation Slow Food has promoted throughout its biodiversity work. In the case of endangered foods that deserve to be kept growing, we can create incentives to farmers and chefs by creating a demand for them (i.e. eat it to save it) in a way that actually increases their long-term chance of survival. This new push to eat abundant, invasive fish suggests eating can also work for species that are quite the opposite of endangered.

2. Balancing the environment and economics: Another issue we have been tracking closely is something called “Catch Shares.” This term refers to programs being implemented in coastal fishing areas that try to address overfishing by creating a system of quotas and distribution. i.e. the intent of the programs was to create a system of environmental stewardship, to keep fragile fish populations from being depleted by unsustainable, often large-scale, fishing companies that have started to dominate the waters. Although the intent of catch shares was positive, in effect, this natural resource has become privatized without ensuring the protections to fish populations that it sought to create, and meanwhile has pushed out the smaller fishing operations who were unable to secure sufficient quotas to stay in business. How did this happen? Click here to read more about the situation and take action.

The issue of how to ensure renewable, healthy fish populations without jeopardizing the livelihoods of those who bring us those fish, is a pressing concern to seafood fans nationwide and we’re committed to telling the story as it unfolds. Some other groups in addition to Food and Water Watch are exploring ways that these inequities can be corrected--we’ll keep you posted for additional ways to get involved.

Late addition!
One other article on fisheries caught our eye this week: an article in New York magazine about how fishermen on the Northeast coast are frustrated by bycatch and catch limit guidelines that are forcing them to toss dying and dead fish back into the water. It’s definitely an article with a strong point of view--what do you all think?

photo by loki_hound.back
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