Earlier this year, I wrote about an event held in my neighborhood by Eating with the Ecosystem, a new initiative that aims to educate seafood lovers about the environmental and culinary benefits of a diverse palate that incorporates a wide range of sustainable seafood choices. After that dinner, I sat down with Sarah Schumann, the creator of Eating with the Ecosystem, to learn more about how her project emerged.
Sarah’s work is driven by a diverse and fascinating array of interests and experiences. Her love of commercial fishing was born more than a decade ago when she lived on the coast of Chile and got to know the small-scale coastal fisheries of that seafaring nation. Chile has enjoyed success in implementing cooperative and area-based allocation systems, which today are serving as a model for work being done by EDF, Rare and the University of California at Santa Barbara through the Fish Forever partnership. Read More
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Eating with the Ecosystem is a project created to help consumers learn about the marine waters from which New England seafood is harvested. The project aims to build upon related efforts focused on sustainable seafood and eating local by urging consumers to think about the suite of species living together in a given place, and their ecological interactions and fluctuations in abundance. In other words, their mission is to grow awareness of individual species to awareness of the entire ecosystem.
One important message of Eating with the Ecosystem is that consumers should focus on healthy stocks so that we benefit from abundance while allowing other resources to recover. Today, this means being willing to try species that are unfamiliar to many seafood lovers. As we work to recover well-known species like cod and flounder, species such as dogfish, skates, hake, pollock and redfish present opportunities to offset lost revenue for fishermen, and for diners to try some new tastes. Fortunately, based on the results of a poll conducted collaboratively by EDF and the Center for Marketing Research at UMass-Dartmouth, consumers seem willing to give those species a chance. Read More
Photo Credit: Natacha Hardy.
Alex Koeberle and Scituate Fisherman Frank Mirarchi
By: Alex Koeberle and Jake Kritzer
Following the hottest summer ever on record, the Atlantic coast was rocked recently by super storm Sandy, both stark reminders that climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. This year had already seen effects of climate change take on a more prominent place in marine conservation debates. In July, renowned Australian ecologist Dr. Roger Bradbury argued that the fate of coral reefs is essentially sealed due to warming waters, rising seas, acidification and extreme weather (although other prominent voices were quick to counter such doomsday predictions). Closer to home, an effort to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River was ended after nearly a half-century, in part because changing ocean currents, temperature regimes and plankton production might be impairing the ability of salmon to survive at sea and migrate back to spawn.
It is not only salmon that are contending with effects of climate change in New England. The region is seeing sea levels rising faster than many other places around the globe, which threatens to drown salt marshes already struggling with excessive nutrient loads. Marshes help buffer coastal areas against storm surge, and provide vital nursery and feeding grounds for many important fish species. Ocean waters are not only rising but warming as well, one consequence of which has been a dramatic shift in the distribution of cod north of the primary fishing grounds in the western Gulf of Maine. Also, rainfall patterns are becoming increasingly erratic, altering salinity profiles and plankton production, which hampers productivity of species throughout the food web. Read More
The Marine Conservation Institute, in partnership with the Waitt Foundation, has developed an online digital atlas that assembles information on marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world. This is a valuable tool that provides the ability to explore sites and characteristics of existing and proposed MPAs. When developed with careful consideration of fishing communities, MPAs have the potential to accelerate recovery of fish populations, increase ecosystem resilienceand provide data for stock assessments and catch limit setting. Learning about existing MPAs and their impacts can help inform the design and implementation of future sites, and hopefully improve the ability of MPAs to provide direct ecosystem and fishery benefits.
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Atlantic Cod; Photo Credit: NOAA
Yesterday, I recounted the recent history of assessments of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod stock that has led to a looming crisis for many New England fishermen, and the management response underway in the form of emergency action. Today, I discuss two major goals that will most effectively use the time before us to potentially change our understanding of cod status, and avoid or minimize socio-economic hardship.
Expand our scientific perspective
Before the 2011 assessment had even been reviewed, a barrage of criticisms began to be levied. To be sure, many decisions made during the assessment could have gone a different direction, including data to include or exclude, values for key parameters, and determination of reference points. Renowned ecologist E.O. Wilson once observed that ecology is far more complex than physics, and fisheries science is a close cousin of ecology. There are few universal rules for how to assess fish stocks, and the discipline relies heavily on experience, professional judgment, vigorous debate, peer review, and trial and error. The GOM cod assessment was not lacking in any of those elements. In my view, the assessment was done right, was done well, and should be commended for achieving what it set out to do. Gerrymandering the assessment to get a more favorable outcome is both bad practice and bad policy. Read More
Atlantic Cod; Photo Credit: NOAA
By now, most people concerned with fisheries management in New England, and in fact many others across the country, are aware of the difficult situation unfolding around the Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod stock. For those who are not, a stock assessment completed late in 2011 drastically altered our perception of the stock from the last assessment completed in 2008, and suggests that the resource is in much worse shape than we previously thought.
Actually, in many ways the 2011 assessment tells a story similar to the 2008 assessment: Biomass reached all-time lows during the 1990s, but then approximately doubled by 2001. Thereafter, biomass dipped again to another low point in the mid-2000s, before climbing again toward the end of the 2000s.
The critical difference between the two assessments lies in the pace of rebuilding since the recent low in the mid-2000s. The 2008 assessment suggested that the population was increasing extremely rapidly, with growth of more than 200% from 2005 to 2007. In doing so, it had exceeded the overfishing threshold, and was well on its way toward the rebuilding target biomass that would produce the maximum sustainable yield on a continuing basis. Read More