Friday, April 14, 2006

Health of the Seafood Supply

The words Health and Seafood are often used to describe the human health benefits derived from eating Seafood. But, this post is different it’s about “the health of the seafood supply”.

"Can the Oceans keep up with the Hunt?" is a documentary about the exhaustion of fish populations due to over-fishing. The film reported that the overall catch has been decreasing since the 1980's due to more advanced fishing techniques such as otter trawling that capture fish faster than the populations can reproduce. "by-catch" is also becoming a major problem.

By-catch refers to animals that are caught as a by-product of fishing for a certain kind of fish and are generally not included in quotas or if retained count toward total fishing allotments. By-catch species are often less valuable and are often just discarded. This practice also plays a major factor in declining populations.

Illegal fishing also contributes the problem. It is difficult and expensive to enforce international treaties on the open ocean and getting an agreement among all stakeholders, to properly police and reduce illegal fishing, is often mired in politics.

As a result of the exhaustion of fish populations, the supply for seafood cannot meet the demand through fishing alone.

During the Save Seafood tour at Hamilton College, on April 11, Jennifer Dianto from the Monterey Bay Aquarium spoke about the Seafood Watch Program the aquarium started. The goal of the program is to empower consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans. "Our goal is to conserve the ocean. All of our recommendations are science-based," she said.

Dianto presented the results of a 2003 study that showed all of the oceans in the world are showing the same trends as far as fish populations -- 90 percent of large predatory fish are gone. She also noted that seafood consumption has doubled since 1973 and that the U.S. may be close to replacing Japan as the number one consumer of seafood. The decline in fish populations poses risks to societies that depend on fishing. In addition, the unknown is a major factor in why we should do something about it. "What is this going to do to the ocean? What is this going to do to the ecosystems?" asked Dianto. The answer is, we do not know. Hamilton College article.

One of the clear answers to fish supply shortages is to farm more fish. Aquaculture practices have been proven to create more supply while also working to enhance existing populations through hatchery production and restocking.

Aquaculture isn’t the total answer; however it is driven by need and it has clearly demonstrated the ability to create more food supply while reducing our reliance upon capture fisheries.

Fish farming does face challenges; one being feed. The fish that are often used to feed the carnivorous farm raised fish are now declining in numbers and often come from polluted areas. This creates issues with sustainability and could affect the quality of the end product. The good news is that considerable real science is being applied to find alternative and more sustainable methods of producing fish feeds, such as using higher vegetable based ingredients to supply more of the nutritional requirements carnivorous fish, which in turn reduces the amount of ocean based protein required.

Farming of fish such as Tilapia in land based farms is already a highly sustainable practice and 100% of the feed requirements can be supplied from renewal plant based sources. Combining land based fish farming with Aquaponic plant production further enhances sustainability while creating additional food sources for both human and animal consumption.

Fish farming has also been subjected to bad press, much of which can be traced as a result of considerable and organized efforts of capture fishery lobby groups. Well funded lobbying and “Junk Science” efforts have been designed to paint Aquaculture as the bad boy of seafood supply.

It is recognized by farmers and researchers alike that aquaculture does have problems that need addressing and much effort is already taking place to solve these problems. However, for the most part fish farming is more of a threat to the companies that have a vested interest in raping the oceans for immense profit, than it is to the environment and the seafood supply. Careful review of the history, statistics and regulatory measures / status, supports this opinion.

In my opinion all stakeholders in the seafood world most work together toward a common goal to ensure sustainable and continual supplies of seafood. A collective approach should be taken, one where clear objectives are set out and real development and regulatory efforts are made to reach goals and objectives. There is also a real need to eliminate “junk science” designed to cloud the truth or to prop up ailing and antedated practices of seafood harvesting.


Cavmi said...

Hello from Italy! Your blog is fantastic! Please, if you have just a free minute, visit me back and leave a comment with your link, so other Italian people will be able to visit you! Thank you!;-D

Lawford said...

You are right...... but seafood is my favorite & got best of it at Home Bistro.