Posts Tagged 'sustainability'

Bill Introduced in Maryland House to Combat Seafood Fraud

national aquarium government affairs and policy update

Earlier this week, Delegate Eric Luedtke introduced a bill that would provide Maryland residents with better information on the origin of purchased seafood.

The “Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act” (House Bill 913) is the first piece of legislation introduced in the state of Maryland that directly addresses seafood fraud. According to our partners at Oceana, at least one-third of all seafood items purchased in the United States are mislabeled. They also reported that 26 percent of tested seafood in the DC metro area was mislabeled.

Citizens can have a tremendous positive impact on the health of our bays and oceans through their everyday consumer choices. The effectiveness of these choices is directly linked to the reliability of the information provided. Proper identification opens the doorway to increased knowledge of where seafood is raised and harvested, contributes to the movement of sustainable fishing practices and sustainably minded consumers, and results in a healthier ocean.

The National Aquarium is proud to support this bill: we cannot properly protect the ocean without fully understanding its creatures and our relationship to them. A large amount of our interaction with fish and shellfish occurs in the kitchen and in restaurants, and the more we can know about where our food is from the better we will understand this relationship.

Through educational programming, conservation action, special events like our Fresh Thoughts Sustainable Seafood Dining Series, and in supporting policy initiatives like this one, the National Aquarium places a high priority on promoting and supporting seafood that is caught both locally and sustainably.

Here are the five things you need to know about the Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act:

  1. This bill specifically prohibits any person from knowingly misidentifying the species of seafood product being sold in the state of Maryland.
  2. This bill requires that species, common name and state of origin be identified on restaurant menus or market signs, as appropriate.
  3. The bill requires specific identifications for crab products, barring anything that wasn’t made from the Atlantic crab species Callinectes sapidus from being labeled as “blue crab.”
  4. In addition to actively supporting this bill, Oceana has also petitioned Congress to pass federal labeling legislation. If passed, Maryland would become the 2nd state in the country to require this type seafood labeling.
  5. Over 400 chefs nationwide have signaled their support for this type of legislation, including 25 chefs from Maryland and 10 from Baltimore.

The bill will be heard in front of the House Environmental Matters Committee on February 26th at 1:00 pm. The National Aquarium team will testify in support and will actively advocate for the bill before the entire General Assembly.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our legislative update emails and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates from Annapolis throughout session!

Want to contact your Maryland representative regarding House Bill 913? Find your legislator here.

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Fresh Thoughts: Sustainable Seafood Q&A with Joseph Cotton!

About next week’s featured Fresh Thoughts headliner, our very own executive chef Joseph Cotton:

national aquarium executive chef

Executive Chef Joseph Cotton started his love affair with food at the early age of 9, by making meatballs for a local deli. A Johnson and Wales trained Chef; his passion for fresh, local and eclectic food aligns with the Aquarium’s mission for their guest experience.

After his work in hotels, fine dining establishments and in special event catering, Chef Joseph opened JC’s Grill House in Newton, NJ, in the summer of 2007. His first solo business, the restaurant sat 150 guests, catered weddings and events onsite, and simultaneously operated as the caterer for nearby Bear Brook Golf Club. When he and his family moved to Maryland, Chef Joseph joined the National Aquarium family in December 2012 as the Executive Chef for our main café, Harbor Market Kitchen, as well as overseeing Harbor Market Catering.

Using sustainable and local products whenever possible including seasonal produce, artisanal cheeses, grass-fed beef, humanely raised poultry, sustainably harvested seafood and shade-grown coffee, Chef Joseph’s menus are not only delicious and innovative, but an extension of the Aquarium.

In preparation for next week’s dinner, we sat down with Chef Joseph to talk about how sustainable seafood is changing the culinary scene throughout the mid-Atlantic region:

What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?

Oysters are my favorite seafood to eat and also my favorite to prepare. I like how versatile oysters are – they can be fried, grilled, stuffed, raw or sautéed. In the summertime, I love to stuff oysters with local crabmeat and top them with a nice, light spinach cream sauce.

How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?

Sustainable seafood is finally becoming a standard for up and coming restaurants! Not only is this a great trend for the industry, but it shows that there’s a lot of awareness and demand from consumers.

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?

The biggest challenge is definitely the availability of the product. By working closely with local fisheries, farms and distributors, we hope to see this problem solved in the very near future.

If everyone could walk away from our Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be …

I hope that they walk away embracing the concept of “fishing today for a better tomorrow.” My goal is that our guests leave satisfied and educated on how important sustainability is to the future of our ocean and the species that live there.

Tell us a little bit about Harbor Market Kitchen and how your team is always churning out such delicious meals!

It’s very important to myself and my team to provide our guests with fresh, homemade meals that showcase the best that Maryland has to offer! Whether it’s our members and visitors that come through the Aquarium everyday or our after-hours guests at catered events, we’re dedicated to making sure every bite of food is high-quality and delicious.

To learn more about our sustainable seafood program and other conservation initiatives, click here

A Blue View: Seafood Fraud

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

October 30, 2013: Seafood Fraud

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Oceana’s Beth Lowell
discuss the importance of 
traceability.

Throughout October, we’ve talked about National Seafood Month and how our seafood choices and personal actions are related to healthy ocean ecosystems, healthy economies and healthy families.

Americans love to eat seafood. In fact, the United States is the second largest consumer of seafood in the world, only behind China. Unfortunately, although seafood can be healthy and delicious choice, the current lack of traceability in the U.S. seafood supply chain may be putting the oceans and seafood consumers at risk.

Americans are often left in the dark about where, when and how their seafood was caught. The only information that seafood consumers have to rely on is the label, which is often vague, misleading or even flat out false. From 2010-2012, Oceana conducted one of the largest seafood fraud studies in the world to date, collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from 21 states. DNA testing revealed that one-third (33 percent) of the samples were mislabeled, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Seafood fraud can impact everyone along the supply chain, whether it is the buyer, the seller, or the ocean itself. Consumers who avoid certain fish due to health concerns may be unwittingly ingesting a high mercury fish, as Oceana found multiple instances of in our testing. Many times, they also may be paying top prices but getting lower cost fish.

In July, Oceana released a report that evaluated the economic cost of seafood fraud. An eight-ounce fillet of tilapia, which would usually sell for about $15, could sell for as much as $22 if it was mislabeled as red snapper or $27 if it was mislabeled as grouper. In addition, a species of fish like salmon often sells for a higher price if it is labeled as wild-caught, versus farm-raised.

Seafood fraud also hurts our oceans. Illegal fishermen can launder their product into the U.S. market, not having to account for the capture method they used, or if their catch is an overfished species that warrants protection. Not only does this undermine conservation efforts, it puts honest fishermen at a competitive disadvantage.

Although some species of fish may have a distinctive look while swimming around in the ocean, they may look, smell and taste similar to another fish once they have been filleted and covered in sauce. In June, Oceana teamed up with the National Aquarium for a recent Fresh Thoughts dinner, focusing on seafood fraud. By offering dinner attendees commonly swapped fish side-by-side, Oceana demonstrated just how difficult it was for anyone, even experts, to tell between many species of fish.

seafood fraud quiz fresh thoughts

Without requiring that fish are tracked from the ocean to our plate, it can be impossible to tell if our seafood is honestly labeled. Although U.S. fishermen are required to record where, when and how their fish was caught, much of that documentation does not always stay with the fish to the end consumer.

That is why Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) are leading the charge to fight seafood fraud. The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act was introduced in March and would require traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S, allow the U.S. to block imports of seafood suspected to be mislabeled or illegal, and improve the information consumers receive about their seafood. The bill has since gained support from chefs, restaurant owners, consumers, fishermen and environmental groups.

Fighting seafood fraud is a win for consumers, fishermen, honest seafood businesses, our oceans and our health!

Beth Lowell is a campaign director at Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans.

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A Blue View: From Bait to Plate

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

October 16, 2013: From Bait to Plate

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Oceana’s
Beth Lowell discuss the importance of
sustainable consumer practices.

It’s National Seafood Month, and there’s more to talk about than what’s for dinner. Throughout the month of October, smart seafood choices, sustainable fisheries and the health benefits of eating a diet rich in seafood are highlighted to encourage consumers to make good decisions about their seafood selections.

We talked about the journey that seafood takes from boat to plate with Beth Lowell, Campaign Director for Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Beth kindly shared the following tips on how everyone can make better choices about their seafood:

How to be a Smart Seafood Consumer

  1. Ask Questions. Consumers should ask more questions, including what kind of fish it is, if it is wild or farm raised, and where, when and how it was caught.
  2. Check the Price. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is, and you are likely purchasing a completely different species than what is on the label.
  3. Purchase the Whole Fish. When possible, consumers can purchase the whole fish, which makes it more difficult to swap one species for another.
  4. Trace Seafood. Until we have a national traceability system in place, consumers can support voluntary traceability programs like Gulf Seafood Trace or other traceable seafood.

Listen to this week’s podcast to get even more sustainable consumer tips from Beth! 

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Thoughtful Thursdays: Understanding Seafood Fraud

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We all know that the seafood choices we make directly affect the health of our oceans. How the fish is fished or farmed, where it is fished or farmed, if it is overfished, if other species are accidentally caught along with the desired species: all of these issues make a difference in the overall health of our marine ecosystems. Fortunately, there are tools that are available to help us make the right choices both in grocery stores and in seafood restaurants.

What happens, though, when make the effort to make the right choices, but we are sold mislabeled fish and we end up eating something completely different from what we ordered? This is one of the major aspects of Seafood Fraud, and it happens more often than we think. To raise awareness of this important conservation issue, seafood fraud was the chosen theme of last night’s Fresh Thoughts dinner at National Aquarium, Washington, DC.

According to a study done by our partners over at Oceana, close to 33 percent of the seafood purchased in the US is mislabeled.

This is not necessarily the fault of the restaurant or grocery store. Mislabeling can happen anywhere in the supply chain. A vast majority of the seafood we consume in the US is imported. There are several steps involved in getting a fish caught or farmed in a foreign county onto your dinner plate. Many folks are involved (fishermen, farmers, distributors, importers, exporters, etc) and there are limited resources available to inspect seafood imports. Further more, generally consumers have a limited ability to truly recognize what fish we’re eating. The situation is ripe for us to be taken advantage of.

This hurts us as consumers and as concerned citizens of our blue planet. Often, we are sold cheaper fish in place of premium species that we desire. This trend also hurts honest fishermen, distributors and chefs that are doing their best to make responsible business decisions while providing for their families. Just as importantly, though, is the harm this is causing to our marine ecosystems. Knowing the growing trend for choosing sustainable seafood, sustainable choices are often swapped with seafood that is “red-listed” to take advantage of the willingness to pay a little bit more for seafood that supports healthy oceans.

“The best way to combat seafood fraud is to require traceability – or the ability to track our fish from boat to plate.” said Beth Lowell, campaign director for Oceana, during last night’s event. We as consumers need to be assured of the source of our seafood. In the US, fishermen already provide much of this information upon landing. Unfortunately, there is no accountability in making sure it then is kept intact throughout the rest of the supply chain. And for the vast majority of the seafood that we consume that in imported, there are almost no checks and balances in place to protect the consumer.

So, what can we do? Here are some simple ways you can help combat this issue:

  • We have to let our elected officials know that we are aware of this issue and are concerned about how it is affecting our families, our economy and our oceans. Tell your Senator you want to help them fight seafood fraud!
  • Take steps to understand and decrease the number of steps it takes for the seafood that you consume to get from the boat to your plate. In Maryland, for example there is a True Blue program that identifies restaurants that are selling locally sourced crab meat. Many Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) are also developing across the country. These programs make a direct link to consumers and local fishermen, allowing us to purchase healthy, local seafood while supporting our local economies.
  • Spread the word to friends and family. Awareness is the first, and arguably most critical, step to harnessing real change!

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