Category Archives: Seafood

sustainable seafood options and eco-friendly fish choices

H-E-B Grocery Making Sure Texans Enjoy Sustainable Seafood

By Tim Fitzgerald and Heather Paffe

storefront

Source: HEB.com

Today EDF proudly announced its new sustainable seafood partnership with Texas retail giant H-E-B, a cornerstone of communities across Texas for more than 100 years. One of the nation's largest independently owned food retailers with annual sales exceeding $20 billion, they operate more than 350 H-E-B and Central Market stores across the state.

The new partnership builds on H-E-B’s longstanding dedication to healthy oceans, healthy seafood and healthy Gulf fishing communities, and positions EDF as its primary sustainability advisor for all fresh, frozen and prepared fish offerings (work will begin on shelf stable seafood later this year). H-E-B’s updated sourcing policy outlines nine ways that they are committed to providing the freshest, safest, and most sustainable seafood – including:

  • Preferential sourcing from wild fisheries that are well-managed by catch shares, and a commitment to improve the sustainability of additional fisheries through selected fishery improvement projects;
  • A strengthened commitment to source farmed seafood from aquaculture operations that are either certified or soon to be certified to industry-leading standards of production;
  • A directed effort to support and improve the fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico, especially snapper, grouper and wild shrimp;
  • Setting an ultimate goal of full traceability for every seafood product that it carries; and
  • Posting a full species inventory online, along with regularly identifying priority seafood items still in need of sustainability improvements.

EDF and H-E-B began working together back in 2012 when H-E-B became the first major retailer in the Gulf to offer the GulfWild® brand of red snapper. This innovative sustainability and traceability program was created by Gulf fishermen after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in an effort to reassure the public that their fish was safe, responsibly-caught and trackable back to individual fishing vessels. The product can now be found in 150 stores and is evidence of H-E-B’s ongoing commitment to Gulf fishermen and coastal communities.

The great news is that, although it may seem like this announcement only affects Texans, H-E-B’s expanded commitment will help ensure more fisheries and fish farms are managed well. That translates into more fresh, sustainable seafood for generations of all Americans to enjoy.

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The quest for sustainable seafood has never been easier

Photo credit: Rick Moonen/RM Seafood

Photo credit: Rick Moonen/RM Seafood

If you love seafood, the six weeks between Mardi Gras and Easter is likely one of your favorite times of the year. It doesn’t hurt that restaurants, fish markets and grocery stores are awash with Lenten promotions, resulting in the most profitable period for seafood sales.

So why not use this time to get out of your comfort zone?  Put down the tuna and salmon and try something new; the seafood market has an abundance of options.   Additionally, consumers are seeking out local and sustainable seafood like never before, representing some of the hottest trends in the restaurant industry for the past several years.

But which fish are the best to buy? Tools like EDF’s mobile  Seafood Selector and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app are great ways to have sustainable seafood recommendations at your fingertips. Some fish pundits like Chef Alton Brown – host of Good Eats and other programs on the Food Network – go so far as to encourage consumers to ignore all the labels and just “Buy American.” In the absence of definitive information, this might be your best option. However, it’s usually a good bet that your fishmonger or server can tell you where their fish is from.

Did you know?

The average piece of fish can be handled by up to 10-15 people before it gets to your plate. This isn’t inherently bad, especially if it’s coming from remote waters, like Alaska’s Bering Sea. However, more and more seafood lovers want to know who caught their fish, and more importantly, how long it’s taken to get to market. In response, a number of companies, fishermen and nonprofits alike are committed to “shortening the supply chain” between the ocean and your plate. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorites:

  • Gulf Wild provides individually tagged, traceable and responsibly-caught red snapper and grouper from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Ecofish is one of the first all-sustainable seafood companies. Their products can be found in health food and natural food stores all across the country.
  • I Love Blue Sea is a California-based company selling a variety of seafood online and direct to consumers. They recently added Gulf Coast and Chesapeake Bay products too.
  • Dock to Dish is a new startup on the East End of Long Island that delivers fresh, hand-caught Montauk seafood to New York City restaurants and consumers within 24 hours.
  • Sea 2 Table partners with local fishermen from small-scale wild fisheries around the country to get their catch direct to market as fast as possible.
  • Community Supported Fisheries have sprung up in the last few years in the mold of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically, you pay a local fisherman upfront for a share of his catch and receive a regular seafood delivery throughout the season.
  • Trash Fish or ‘underutilized’ or ‘underappreciated’ seafood species are all the rage right now, and our good friends at Chefs Collaborative are hosting a series of dinners around the country that hope to spread awareness about fish that are sustainably-caught yet undervalued.

It's never been easier to find sustainable, healthy seafood that directly benefits local, responsible fishermen. So put down that generic fish sandwich and help ensure that this trend continues.

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Catch Shares: Harvesting Sustainable Catches

Originally published on November 18, 2013 on the Oceans Health Index Website


Introduction

Written by Steven Katona, Managing Director, Ocean Health Index

Maximizing sustainable food production from the ocean by harvest of wild fish stocks and production of farmed species by mariculture is one of the 10 goals evaluated by the Ocean Health Index, and it is especially closely watched because it is so critical for the future.

Three billion people out of today’s world population of 7.1 billion people depend on seafood for their daily protein and fish contribute a greater proportion of protein to the average diet than poultry.  A single serving of fish or shellfish (150 g) provides 60% of a person’s daily protein requirement, but the ocean’s continued ability to meet that need is in doubt.  Our population is rising steadily and will reach about 8 billion by 2024 and 9 billion by 2040, but the annual catch from wild ocean fisheries has stayed at about 80 million metric tons since about 1990 despite increased effort.  The reason is that too many stocks are overfished and too much productivity is sacrificed as bycatch, illegal and unregulated catch and as a result of habitat loss caused by destructive fishing practices.

Yet without increased wild harvest and augmented mariculture production, the risk of malnutrition will increase for hundreds of millions of people, because the catch will have to be shared by so many more mouths.

Why would we expect fish landings to increase in the future if they haven’t done so since 1990? Clearly with business as usual, they won’t, but a number of new strategies and tools offer hope.  Catch shares is one of them.  We’re pleased to welcome Kate Bonzon, Director of Environmental Defenses Fund’s Catch Share Design Center, to explain how catch shares are working worldwide and highlight some of their benefits.

Even though catch shares have been used in a diversity of fisheries around the world, the idea of catch shares is new in many places, and it has occasioned some misunderstanding and subsequent debate around the best way to manage fisheries.  However, catch shares give a powerful incentive and opportunity for fishers to care for their fish stocks, thereby improving the consistency, sustainability and possibly magnitude of their catches, while also improving their livelihoods.

More sustainable fishing will not only help fishers and fish stocks, but it will also improve scores on many of the other goals evaluated by the Ocean Health Index.  Of course there are trade-offs between the goals, but meeting the goals for sustainability embodied within each goal will improve the ocean’s ability to sustainably deliver a range of benefits to people now and in the future.  What’s more, the ocean’s animals, plants and habitats will benefit too.

Catch Shares: Harvesting Sustainable Catches

Fish were once thought to be so abundant that we could take our fill and never deplete them; that wild fisheries were inexhaustible and would always be plentiful. But over the past few decades, there is growing recognition that most of the world's wild fisheries are in trouble and fishing has had a tremendous impact. Globally, nearly two-thirds of wild fisheries are overfished, leaving depleted fish stocks and low yields. New evidence on fisheries with little data, which account for 80% of the global catch, is especially concerning. Once thought to be relatively stable, many of these fisheries are, in fact, overfished and facing collapse. Depletion of this resource threatens not only ocean health but the billions of people who depend on fish for food and jobs.

The good news is fisheries are a renewable resource. And the key to sustainably managing them is ensuring there are enough fish left in the ocean to produce future generations. Future fish generations will keep fresh and sustainable seafood on the plates of the billions of people around the world who rely on them for protein, and wages in the pockets of millions of fishing industry workers who depend on them to support their livelihoods.

And there is more good news. There are effective fishery management programs-called catch shares-that are doing all of the above. As of 2013, about 200 catch shares programs are  managing more than 500 different species in 40 countries. Very much like dividing a pizza or pie, catch shares give a secure fishing area or privilege to catch a share of a fishery’s total allowable catch to an individual or group. And with this privilege, fishing participants are expected to fish within their allotted amount.

The success of catch shares lies in the ability to give fishermen a long-term stake in the fishery and tie their current behavior to future environmental outcomes. Specifically, catch shares align fishermen’s incentives through a system of rights, responsibilities and rewards. By giving fishermen the privilege or right to a secure area or share of the catch, fishermen also retain the responsibility to conserve fish stocks and marine ecosystems and are subsequently rewarded by stable and healthy fish populations. Importantly, catch shares are flexible and can be custom designed to meet the different characteristics and goals of diverse fisheries.  Some catch share programs have allocated shares to groups—often called Cooperative catch shares—and others have allocated shares to individuals—often called Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) or Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs).  Area-based catch shares, often called Territorial Use Rights for Fishing, or TURFs, allocate secure, exclusive areas to fishermen. And within these differing types of catch shares are a multitude of design features that have, and can, be used to meet different goals. Around the world, from small artisanal fisheries to large commercial fishing operations, well-designed catch share programs are increasing compliance with catch limits, reducing the amount of bycatch and discarded fish, increasing revenues and reducing fishing expenses, proving that good yields can indeed happen sustainably. A 2011 study of 345 fish stocks around the world found that those managed with catch shares had significantly lower cases of overexploitation when compared to conventional management practices. And another study found that the implementation of these systems “halts, and even reverses—widespread fishery collapse.” This positive trend is largely driven by catch shares ability to encourage compliance with mortality controls.

Numerous studies on these fisheries have reported a dramatic drop in bycatch and discarded fish including a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report which found that catch share fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico reduced red snapper discards by 50% in 2010, just three years after a catch share program was implemented. And in some fisheries like the Alaskan pollock fishery, fishermen create voluntary no-take zones to avoid bycatch of at-risk species while targeting specific species. In the Alaska halibut fishery after just one year of catch share implementation, there was an 80% drop in ghost fishing (when lost or abandoned gear continues to kill fish). Read More »

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Setting aside space provides room for innovation

By Sarah Poon

Territorial Use Rights for Fishing, or TURFs, have been in place for centuries in fishing communities around the world.  In a TURF, fishery participants have a secure, exclusive privilege to fish in a defined area.  Many fishery policy experts view TURFs and catch share programs as separate options for managing fisheries. TURFs are a type of catch share, since the area-based privileges assigned under a TURF provide the same rewards for stewardship as quota-based privileges.

In recent decades fishery managers have channeled the historical successes of this approach by formally recognizing customary TURFs, applying them to more fisheries and experimenting  with modern adaptations.

Community-based territorial rights that have existed for centuries are now formally recognized by national law in Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Palau.  Empowered by national law promoting traditional community-based management, the Safata District of Samoa implemented a district-wide TURF in 2000.  Bylaws developed by the community manage members’ fishing efforts and limit outsiders’ access.  Safata’s leaders have further improved biological performance by establishing a network of no-take reserves.  With a formalized role in management, the district has received strong community support, high regulatory compliance and increased abundance for important species.

TURF systems have been used in different types of fisheries, but they are particularly well-suited for managing near shore fisheries where there is a clear spatial range of fishing activity. While these systems are ideal for less mobile species that don’t move beyond TURF boundaries, they can also be designed for more mobile species.

In Mexico, fishermen are benefitting immensely from the Baja California Regional Federation of Fishing Cooperative Societies (FEDECOOP). Under the federation, 13 fishing Cooperatives from 10 villages manage Baja spiny lobster, abalone, and other species in 10 area-based concessions or TURFs. By coordinating management across a network of TURFs, FEDECOOP has served as a model for sustainable fisheries management. The fishery was awarded Marine Stewardship Council certification in 2004, making it the first small-scale fishery in a developing country to receive accreditation.  The system has incentivized fishermen to protect stocks and many Cooperatives have even implemented voluntary no-take zones, allowing fish populations to recover more quickly and the oceans ecosystems to become more resilient to change.

Across the world, the Japanese Common Fishing Rights System is a model for managing nearshore species—including more mobile species—through a coordinated system of co-management. Japan’s program, formally established in 1949 when Fishery Cooperative Associations (FCAs) were granted TURFs, spans most of the nation’s coastline and includes more than 1,000 FCAs. Under the TURF system, FCAs are responsible for the day-to-day management of coastal fisheries.  Fishery management organizations (FMOs) have also emerged to improve management by promoting collaboration between fishermen targeting certain species or using certain gear types, often including fishermen from multiple FCAs. Innovation is an outcome of the TURF system, and fishermen within and between Cooperatives have agreed to pool effort, costs, knowledge and revenues to increase profits and improve stock conditions.

These are just a few examples of fisheries that are successfully using TURFs to manage their resources. Below you will find links to additional examples of how fisheries have designed TURFs to meet biological, economic and social goals.  A step-by-step guide to designing TURFs can be found here. To access our full fisheries toolkit click here.

Mexican Vigía Chico Cooperative Spiny Lobster Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

The most productive fishing Cooperative in the Mexican-Caribbean since 1982, this area-based catch share program has steadied the Punta Allen lobster catch while ensuring access to community members.

Chilean National Benthic Resources Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

Among the largest area-based catch share programs in the world, the Chilean TURF system includes more than 17,000 artisanal fishermen and co-manages more than 550 distinct areas along the coast.

Spanish Galicia Goose Barnacle Cofradía System

The Galician goose barnacle fishery’s integration of traditional fishing guilds, provision of secure and exclusive fishing areas and use of an on-site fisheries ecologist have established one of the most successful models of fisheries co-management in Spain.

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How Sustainable is your Supermarket’s Seafood Case?

sustainability rankings of seafood retailers 2013

ImageCredit: Greenpeace, from "Carting Away the Oceans 2013" Report

Last week, Greenpeace USA released the seventh edition of their popular Carting Away the Oceans report, which ranks the sustainable seafood performance of the nation’s 20 largest supermarket chains. Industry leaders like Wegmans (a former EDF partner on salmon and shrimp sourcing), Whole Foods and Safeway once again scored in the top five, while Winn Dixie, Publix and Supervalu perennially find themselves at the bottom of the rankings.

This year’s report places extra emphasis on the ways that these companies approach pressing conservation policy issues, such as the approval of genetically-modified salmon, the advancement of industry-wide seafood traceability, and catch methods for canned tuna.

Perhaps the report’s biggest surprise was the improvement shown by prepared foods leader Trader Joe’s, which rocketed up 12 spots (from 15th in 2012 to 3rd this year). This comes just weeks after public scrutiny of the company’s follow-through on its 2012 sustainable seafood promise. However, Greenpeace gave Trader Joe’s a major pat on the back for removing several unsustainable species from their inventory and switching to better sources of canned tuna.

Although we don’t always agree with our Greenpeace colleagues about the composition of their ‘red list’, we were happy to see them recognize the improving sustainability of Gulf of Mexico red snapper and grouper – fisheries that EDF has worked in for more than a decade. They even gave a nod to EDF partner H-E-B for their strong support of the GulfWild traceability program.

So until next year’s edition, try to use your seafood dollars to support companies that are on the right track. If you are uncertain about the right species to purchase, you can refer to our recently revamped “Seafood Selector.” Let’s hope that the good continue to get better and the not-so-good get serious about seafood sustainability.

 

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Seafood Selector helps you have your hake (and eat it too)

Environmental Defense Fund recently released the latest version of its popular Seafood Selector, a tool to help make consumers aware of critical ocean conservation issues through the fish that they and their families eat. Today I want to take a moment to remember what life was like in 2001, when our first version came out as a small black-and-white paper cutout in the organization's quarterly member newsletter. (I know it’s hard to believe, but most people still received their environmental news by snail mail back in those days).

Back then, most people still didn’t have cell phones, and those that did just kept them in their gloveboxes for emergencies. I was a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, studying shark ecology and physiology. Even as a young marine biologist, I was largely unaware of the impacts of our personal choices on the health of the oceans.

Raising consumer awareness of ocean conservation issues was no easy task 12 years ago – and is still a challenge today – given the complexity of how most fish makes it to our plates. For example, here are some interesting facts you might not know about the U.S. seafood market:

  • More than 90% of U.S. seafood is now imported.
  • Almost two-thirds of our imported fish comes from Asia.
  • Our seafood trade deficit is approximately $11 billion. That’s billion with a ‘B’.
  • Almost 60% of U.S. seafood consumption is from 3 items (shrimp, canned tuna, salmon). If you add ‘whitefish’, like pollock, cod and tilapia, the per capita total goes up to 80%.
  • More than 50% of U.S. seafood is now farm-raised.
  • Roughly 33% of U.S. seafood is mislabeled.
  • Americans eat 10% less seafood than they did in 2004 (15 lbs/person in 2011 versus 16.6 lbs/person in 2004).

Consumers care about sustainability now more than ever. That means they want to know where their food comes from, and more importantly, what impact its production had on the environment. This is especially true in restaurants, where a recent survey of chefs by the National Restaurant Association found that local and sustainable seafood accounted for three of the Top 10 culinary trends for 2013.

EDF's latest version of the Seafood Selector makes it easier than ever for seafood lovers to make fish choices that are healthy for them AND the oceans, with profiles of more than 200 types of commonly eaten seafood. The new Seafood Selector is also optimized for just about every type of mobile device out there. (I, for one, can’t wait to see what the 2023 Seafood Selector looks like!) So whether you want to know the difference between farmed and wild salmon, the mercury content of different types of tuna, or learn more about EDF’s fisheries work around the country – Seafood Selector is the tool for you.

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Support American Fishermen: Fish for a different dish

monkfish

Photo Credit: Nate Gray/flickr
Monkfish, aka American goosefish, eats way better than it looks.

When it comes to seafood, we  are creatures of narrow habit. The average American eats about 15 pounds of seafood each year  (well below the global average for coastal nations), almost 60% of which is either shrimp, canned tuna or salmon. That number jumps to more than 80% if you include "whitefish" like pollock, tilapia and cod.

So when one of these few items becomes overfished, too expensive or less available, the market usually just tries to pass off some other species in its place.

For example, 20 years ago, no one knew what a slimehead or American goosefish was. But when Atlantic cod fisheries crashed, low-value orange roughy and monkfish slowly gained in popularity and are now staples on restaurant menus – even though most people have no idea what the actual fish look like. What started out as worthless bycatch (also known as trash fish) that usually got dumped overboard will now routinely run you $10/lb or more in the market.

Unfortunately, Atlantic cod populations off New England are actually faring even worse today. We recently learned thatfishing quotas for 2013 will be slashed by almost 80% in certain areas compared to last year. There are several factors at play, among them decades of intense fishing pressure, ecosystem shifts and climate change. Nevertheless, we should still support New England fishermen by purchasing what little local cod makes it to market in 2013.

But how can we ensure that this iconic fishery – and others like it on the Pacific coast – don’t disappear quietly in the night? Our experience with orange roughy and monkfish provides one important answer: Previously unfamiliar fish can win the hearts of seafood lovers and help strengthen local fisheries.

It turns out that cod fishermen can also target several other related species, but traditionally haven’t done so because they don’t yet command a good price. Trash fish (or as I like to call them, under-appreciated species) like Atlantic hakepollock and Acadian redfish may be the key to this fishery’s survival. Read More »

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Eating with the Ecosystem: Georges Bank


Eating with the EcosystemEating 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.

In the spirit of the “trash fish” dinner recently sponsored by the Chef’s Collaborative, Eating with the Ecosystem is hosting a series of dinners across New England to showcase underappreciated seafood and the ecosystems from which it comes. I was fortunate to attend their most recent event highlighting the Georges Bank ecosystem, which was held at one of my favorite restaurants: Ten Tables, located right in my own neighborhood, Boston’s Jamaica Plain.

The menu began with a simple sea scallop ceviche served with Hakurei turnip, green apple and arugula.  As the basis of the most valuable fishery in the United States, sea scallops are far from unknown in the market!  But the stock is abundant, and no meal focused on the Georges Bank would be complete without scallops on the menu.

Next up was a house cured hake brandade, served alongside pickles and mini toasts.  There are actually three different species of hake found on Georges Bank: white, red and silver.  An interesting ecological linkage between the first course and the second is that juvenile red hake take shelter inside adult sea scallops after beginning their lives as tiny larvae drifting among the plankton and then settling to the seafloor. Read More »

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