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Is your seafood hurting the planet?

Salmon Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger sometimes send their menus to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to make sure the seafood they serve is sustainable. And sometimes there are fish "we love and we can't buy, and it drives me crazy," Milliken says.

They made ceviche at the California Science Center this morning to support some new initiatives from the aquarium and Science Center to preserve the oceans.

The aquarium, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, released a report today on the state of the oceans. Prospects for the oceans are improving with a growing consensus to manage wild and farm fishing, the report says. But it also cites the human demand for seafood as the primary factor in the oceans' decline.

The aquarium released a "Super Green" list, developed with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Environmental Defense Fund, of seafood that is healthy for people and the planet.

Sustainable seafood is catching on with the public and with professionals, according to Milliken, aquarium officials and others. But it's not always easy.

"You have to have so many things in mind to be a conscientious consumer," Milliken says. She recently turned down some Caribbean shrimp because, while the seller was moving toward sustainable practices, it was not there yet.

"I love a lot of products that are not sustainable, but I want my kids and grandkids to be able to taste them, too. I've had my share," Milliken says. "A little bit of everything won't hurt you. But I think we've gotten very kind of gluttonous."

The restaurants she and Feniger own now offer "good for the planet" dishes called "80/20," meaning that no more than 20% of the ingredients come from animals.They are among two dozen chefs who are part of the aquarium's campaign to get restaurants to serve sustainable seafood.

Companies like Santa Monica Seafood, the largest, are also collaborating with the aquarium. Logan Kock, purchasing director for Santa Monica Seafood, says the company will look at what it sells in terms of its species, country of origin and fishing methods to come up with a baseline. It will then educate its sales force and its customers with the goal of making "a substantial difference over the next five years."

Many consumers are baffled, however. "People ask me, 'Should I be eating seafood or chicken?'" says Sheila Brown, outreach manager for Seafood Watch, the aquarium's program to guide consumer choices. "People should be eating seafood and supporting the guys who are doing it right."

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Wild Alaska Salmon is a sustainable fishery. Fish must be labeled according to what country it comes from and whether it is wild-caught or farmed. Credit: Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times

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Is it too much to ask of this news agency to inform us of at least some of the sustainable seafood we should consume?

I was briefly a commercial fisherman and was amazed at how far boats had to travel to fishing grounds, two days of steaming. Imagine driving for two days through pristine forests to go hunting. While fishing the ocean seemed so vast without another boat in sight. Where you could see for miles.Yet we are still over fishing. Some historians talk about how the ocean would heave ashore countless lobsters during a storm and how harbors would smell from the breath of whales due to their abundance. Fishing is a manufacturing process with small boats and huge factory boats , using radar and other technology . Samuel Beckett once said before dropping one in boiling water ,"the lobster never had a chance."

"Should I be eating seafood or chicken?" - Neither! The most sustainable diets use no animal products. Try a vegan diet, you may just like it! The animals definitely will appreciate it.

No, our seafood is not close to sustainable.

'Sustainable' seafood has no inputs from fossil fuels (finite & unsustainable supply) meaning no fuel for fishing boats, transport ships & jet planes to get it to us. Not to mention processing plants, nitrogen fertilizer, refrigeration, A/C, indoor heating and pump powered municipal water systems.

'Sustainable' food systems are simple, they look much like they did 120 years ago, before the advent of fossil fuels. We've had some other, big improvements since then, but if we go back to that model, more than 3 billion people will not make it.

Wishful thinking doesn't feed people.

Any of you folks seen the knuckle-dragging low-lifes that fish commercially? If they can 'harvest' 10 tons, they TAKE 20, cutting into breeding stock, while driving DOWN they average cost per pound take, as they flood the marketplace. Then, there are those who drag huge steel nets along the bottom, ravaging the environment where fish need food, protection, and have their young. Then, when they bring up their catch, with much of it dead, or dying, they shovel OFF the dead and dying stocks they CAN'T take or sell. You just don't get to SEE these pictures on the fishing news reports. Many cameras that are required to be operational, suddenly have 'problems.' Consider, if you will, that some boat have Fed or State inspectors on board.....anyone reading this believe corruption doesn't exist, when the number$ are HUGE? As for eating the frankensalmon....there are KNOWN dangers (started 20 years ago, roughly, in Scotland, then moved to Canada, the USA, Chile....) associated with these, but our politicians have been bought off, under the EUPHEMISM of being....wait for it....."In the Public Interest." IS it in YOUR interest to pay $18-25 a pound for fish...then have your tax dollars BAILING OUT the unconscionably greedy commercial guys, who DROVE the species to extinction? Just look at the 20 century and the ENTIRE story is right there in b& cannot trust the fisherman, nor the hookers in Congress.


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