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Monterey Bay Aquarium report: Demand for seafood leading to oceans' decline

October 20, 2009 |  1:41 pm

Fishing

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been working for years to improve the health of the planet's oceans, and today it has announced new collaborations to spread the word through chefs, seafood buyers and others.

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 sets out significant problems that remain for the oceans and cites the human demand for seafood as the primary factor in the oceans' decline.

It also 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. On the list are some albacore tuna caught in the U.S. or British Columbia, wild-caught salmon from Alaska and pink shrimp from Oregon, among others.

Another of its efforts is a commitment by some of the country's top chefs -- including Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles, Susan Spicer of Bayona in New Orleans, and the Food Network's Alton Brown -- to serve only sustainable seafood and work to persuade other chefs to do the same.

The aquarium is partnering with Santa Monica Seafood, the largest seafood distributor in the region, to help spread the word to its 1,500 chef customers and others, as well as to the people who sell them seafood and to the company's sales force.

And the California Science Center announced a new ecosystems exhibit opening next spring that will include a 188,000-gallon kelp forest, also to be home to fish and other marine life.

The aquarium's report said the world seafood supply was 110 million tons in 2006 -- eight times what it was in 1950, with Asia accounting for more than half the global catch. And in the next year, it said, people will eat more farmed seafood than wild for the first time.

In the last decade, the aquarium has distributed 32 million Seafood Watch cards, pocket guides listing which seafood to avoid because they're caught or farmed unsustainably and which seafood are recommended. The aquarium also has cards that diners can leave on restaurant tables asking that unsustainable seafood not be served.

"We hear back from chefs," says Sheila Brown, outreach manager for Seafood Watch.

"In the last 24 months, there has been an amazing escalation of interest" in sustainable seafood, Brown says. "People are starting to get it."

Today's announcement comes a week after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a sustainable-seafood bill into law to encourage sustainable-fishing practices in the state and help fishermen market their catch.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium

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