Posts Tagged 'local seafood'

Thoughtful Thursday: The Key to Sustainable Seafood is Information

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In this space, we’ve often discussed how our seafood choices reach far beyond the particular fish on your plate and are related to healthy ocean ecosystems, healthy economies and healthy families.  As a result of the increase in communication from organizations like us on this issue, more and more people are paying attention to the seafood they purchase. There is new consumer awareness around the link between the fish we choose to feed our families and the health of our rivers, bays and oceans.

Primary to all of these efforts to make thoughtful choices is information.  Without accurate information about how and where our seafood is caught, our efforts to protect our aquatic ecosystems can be fairly ineffective. Inadequate or wrong information can lead you to think you are supporting local fishermen when you are not.  Worse yet, it can lead to making choices that support overfishing or habitat destruction.

 Accurate information is key to seafood sustainability, and it is why the National Aquarium will be supporting the “Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act.” If passed, this legislation would ensure that seafood sold in the state is labeled with the correct species name and location of harvest – giving consumers the tools they need to make the right decisions.

In a recent study, our partners at Oceana revealed that 1 out of every 3 seafood samples they purchased were mislabeled.  Sometimes this is done intentionally to inflate the value of the fish or to hide illegal fishing practices. The problem is that even honest restaurant and market owners can mislabel their product if every step in the supply chain is not verified.

seafood fraud quiz fresh thoughts

Locally, this can have a big impact on our fishing communities. This industry is an intrinsic part of the culture of this state, and we take great pride in our local seafood, like blue crab, rockfish, oysters, etc.

Take a closer look at crabs, for example. Many Marylanders grow up eating bushels of crabs with family and friends at backyard barbecues and can recite their favorite crab cake recipe from memory. There is a bustling tourist industry that revolves around the “Maryland crab cake.”  Yet millions of pounds of crab meat are imported into Maryland every year. While just about every seafood restaurant in the state highlights their own version of the Maryland crab cake, there’s no telling if the cakes are actually being prepared with locally harvested crab meat.

Using our collective power as consumers to show support for local sustainable fishing communities, like our Maryland crabbers, will be an important step in the future success of healthy communities and ecosystems. Requiring accurate seafood labeling is an imperative part of this process.

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrate National Seafood Month Locally!

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Buy Local! This rallying cry has become more and more prominent over the past several years. The popularity of farmers markets, Community-Supported Agriculture and Farm-to-Table restaurants has grown exponentially in recent years. What’s not to love? The food is fresher, local economies are supported and the carbon footprint of transporting the products to stores is drastically reduced.

But, how often do we think of “buy local” when we think of seafood?

Similar to other food we feed our families, purchasing local seafood has its benefits. But when we talk about food taken from our waters, there are other considerations as well – primarily dealing with how well wild and farmed fish stocks are managed here in the United States. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, first enacted in 1976, provides the foundation for sustainable fisheries management in US waters.

This law established the science-based, cooperatively-managed system that employs routine stock assessments, catch limits, ecosystem-based management and accountability measures that eliminate overfishing and support sustainable populations.

Sustainable sturgeon nursery in North Carolina, which is producing local caviar!

Sustainable sturgeon nursery in North Carolina, which is producing local caviar!

Although US fisheries and aquaculture are tightly managed, more than 80 percent of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported. Foreign fisheries and aquaculture operations are under varying degrees of control. Many countries have put the financial gain of the fishing and aquaculture industries above the need to sustain healthy ecosystems and populations of fish. Efforts to improve international efforts to improve the management of our aquatic resources have already begun and are vital to supporting global sustainability, but there is still much work to be done.

Buying local seafood isn’t just about supporting U.S. fisheries and local fishermen, especially here in the Mid-Atlantic. This region enjoys the particular pleasure of being able to enjoy diverse and high quality seafood from our ocean, bays and rivers – and more recently from aquaculture facilities. But, even here, our seafood choices are highly affected by the global economy. More often than not, your “Maryland style” crab cake is made with imported crab meat.

As consumers, we should begin asking ourselves how our seafood purchasing decisions can make a difference. Here are some simple steps to get you started:

  • Buy Local -  Support local fishermen by asking if the seafood you purchase is from local sources. For example, in Maryland, you can identify restaurants using local Maryland blue crab meat by the True Blue certification logo on their menus.
  • Support Community-Supported Fisheries - Similar to the agriculture program, CSFs connect local fishermen and consumers, providing a steady source of locally caught or farmed seafood throughout the year.
  • Eat What’s in Season -  Just like vegetables, many seafood choices have a “season.” Purchasing seafood out of season generally means you are not supporting local options.

The health of our local fish is intricately tied to the health of our aquatic ecosystems, which is all connected to the health of the land surrounding these ecosystems. When we better understand  - and benefit from – the relationship between healthy waters and safe, plentiful seafood, we think more carefully about things we can do to help protect our waterways. Continued support for individual, community and civic efforts to clean up our waterways and watersheds is good for us and the fish!

Do you have a favorite local seafood recipe(s)? Share them with me in the comments section! 

Laura Bankey


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