Posts Tagged 'seafood'

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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National Seafood Month: What Does Sustainable Seafood Mean?

national aquarium conservation expert update
How are you celebrating National Seafood Month?

In this region we have so many options: oysters are in season and crabs are still being harvested through the fall months! If you would prefer to have someone else do the cooking, you are in luck; we are surrounded by an amazing array of seafood restaurants. If you’d rather put your culinary skills to the test, our local supermarkets carry almost anything that comes out of the ocean and you are limited only by your imagination.

national aquarium fresh thoughts oysters

No matter what you decide, you should know that the impacts of your choices reach far beyond the particular fish on your plate and that you have the power to help to support both sustainable seafood and healthy oceans. What do we mean by sustainable seafood? Simply put, it is the seafood that is caught or farmed today, in ways that do not compromise the needs of future generations to enjoy that seafood in the years to come. But, there is nothing simple about it.

There are a dizzying number of factors that are considered when determining sustainable seafood – almost as many as the number of organizations and industry groups that have developed their own sustainability certification or eco-label. And while seafood farming, or aquaculture may be one of the best ways to help feed an every-growing human population, it has its own set of unique sustainability considerations.

In the most general terms, a sustainable seafood label for wild-caught seafood needs to take into consideration:

  • Abundance of fish being targeted - ensuring that populations are at or are moving toward target levels based on historical abundance
  • Current management of the fishery - having plans in place and ensuring that rates of fishing removals are within scientifically determined acceptable levels
  • Method of fishing - putting in place sufficient measures to guard against unacceptable levels of bycatch of other species and preventing damage from fishing gear to ocean bottom and other habitats
  • Ecosystem impacts - ensuring that sufficient number of species are preserved for “ecosystem services” such as when the target species is important to other species in the marine environment, for example as ocean filters or as forage for other species

The sustainability of farmed seafood also must consider:

  • Sustainability of the food needed to grow target species to market size (often including smaller wild-caught fish)
  • Habitat impacts of the farms themselves, including impacts on natural habitats, pollution from concentrated waste, use of antibiotics and other treatments, and potential disease transmission threats
  • Possibility of escape into local waterways and impacts to native fish populations and habitats
  • Adequacy of and compliance with local aquaculture regulations.

How to make sustainable seafood choices

With all of these considerations, how are we supposed to choose the right seafood to feed our families? Which choice will provide a healthy meal without compromising the health of our oceans?

Over the past several years a few tools have been developed to help consumers wade through the available information and to help make informed decisions. While there are several certification programs available, the three that are the most consumer-friendly are the Marine Stewardship Council Eco-label, NOAA Fisheries FishWatch site and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.

monterey bay aquarium seafood watch

Monterey Bay’s National Seafood Watch guide.

The Seafood Watch Program has developed a science-based tool to quickly identify which seafood choices are Best Choices (green), Good Alternatives (yellow) and choices we should Avoid (red). Depending on your level of interest, you can quickly identify healthy seafood choices or choose to explore the wealth of information made available through their seafood ranking system.

noaa fishwatch

NOAA’s FishWatch website.

Fishwatch provides current facts and figures on status and management programs for all federally managed fisheries. The United States and our domestic fishermen deserve particular credit for our sustainable fishery management policies. Effective in 2012, each federally managed fishery adheres to scientifically determined catch limits and has in place measures to prevent overfishing and where necessary, rebuild depleted stocks.

While these programs are both robust and constantly updated, they have limitations in their ability monitor every commercial fishery. There is no substitute, therefore, in knowing where you seafood comes from, knowing the issues, and learning to make informed decisions on your own.

The next time you visit your local grocery store, check out the seafood case. You’ll probably notice that most of the fish are labeled “wild-caught” or “farmed” along with the location of the fishery or farm. Some stores even have certification labels on the fish they sell. If you don’t see any of this, ask why. Let them know that choosing the right seafood is important to you. Let them know that you want them to be your partner in providing healthy seafood choices for your family – while supporting healthy ocean ecosystems!

Have questions/concerns about purchasing sustainable seafood? Leave them for me in the comments section! 

Laura Bankey national aquarium conservation expert

Thoughtful Thursday: It’s National Seafood Month!

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October is National Seafood Month – a chance for us to highlight and celebrate healthy food choices and healthy oceans.

fresh thoughts meal

At the National Aquarium, we are working hard to improve the health of our ocean ecosystems and the sustainability of our fish stocks. Healthy marine ecosystems provide many benefits, none more obvious than the seafood we eat.

Across our country we have a long history of close connections to our local seafood. From Maine lobster, pacific salmon and Gulf of Mexico red snapper, to Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, people and communities grew to thrive and depend on local seafood production. And these relationships have helped us to better understand the need to care for both our oceans and the fish they support. But like much of the food we buy, even as choices have multiplied, our connections to seafood have gotten more complicated.

Think of your last seafood meal. Really think.

Chances are you remember how it tasted, how it was prepared, the people that shared the meal with you, possibly even the nutritional value of your choice. Chances are also that you did NOT think about the long and often complicated journey involved in getting that seafood to your plate, your choice of fish and where and how it was caught or farmed.

Most likely, you aren’t even sure if that fish came from the United States (currently over 80 percent of our seafood is imported.) You also may not even know for sure that you really got the type of fish that was advertised. Yet informed purchasing choices are among the most powerful ways that each of us can support both sustainable seafood and healthy oceans.

During each week in October, we are going to highlight different subjects related to making thoughtful seafood choices. We’ll talk about fisheries, sustainability, supply chains, traceability, eating local, pirate fishing, human health and economics. Seafood can be a really healthy food choice – but we want to make sure we maximize those health benefits for our families. We also want to ensure health benefits for our oceans. Check back each week to learn about the issues facing our seafood choices and how we can work together to make a difference.

Laura Bankey

Fresh Thoughts: Sustainable Seafood Q&A with Chef Chris Becker

About next week’s featured Fresh Thoughts chef, Chris Becker of Fleet Street Kitchen

A Baltimore native and veteran of several of the city’s most highly regarded restaurants, Chef Chris maintains deep

chef-chris-becker

relationships with local farmers, foragers, and fishermen. His contemporary American cuisine at Fleet Street Kitchen is defined in conjunction with the seasonal produce of Cunningham Farms, the restaurant owner’s farm in Cockeysville.

A graduate of the Baltimore Culinary Institute, Chef Chris spent time in the kitchens at The Brass Elephant, Linwoods, and The Wine Market in Locust Point. He was noted as one of the top “Chefs to Watch” by Baltimore Magazine and identified as one of “Ten Professionals Under 30 to Watch” by the b newspaper.

At Fleet Street Kitchen, Chef Chris combines both traditional and modern techniques, creating elegant dishes that reflect his intense devotion to his craft.

Can’t wait for next week’s dinner? We chatted with Chris about how sustainable seafood is changing the culinary scene throughout the mid-Atlantic region: 

What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?

Because I’m new to Maryland seafood, I’m really excited to start using soft-shell crab, which is one of Maryland’s local sustainable seafood products. It’s a really interesting ingredient and very versatile in the way it can be presented, so I’m sure you’ll see it on the menu at Fleet Street Kitchen soon.

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

I think more and more chefs are becoming conscientious about sustainable seafood and this in change is influencing our guests to think about it as well. Because we’re by the Chesapeake Bay, I think it’s easier for people to make the connection between how we fish and the seafood we serve. People are definitely appreciating it more. At Fleet Street Kitchen, we make sure all of our seafood choices are based off the Seafood Watch list and only select the seafood listed as “Good” or “Good Alternative.”

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

All the great product that’s not sustainable makes it difficult. There’s some great tasting seafood that is overfished. We recently had to stop using monkfish, because it is now in the red on the Seafood Watch List. It’s unfortunate, but it it makes me more creative and exposes people to different types of fish that perhaps they wouldn’t necessarily try.

What is one sustainable seafood ingredient you hope to see more of in restaurants (including your own) this year?

Lionfish & Snakehead. Both are invasive species that are threatening key ecosystems. Lionfish are damaging coral reef ecosystems across the oceans and are actually a great tasting fish. It’d be great to see more of it on Baltimore menus. Snakehead are doing the same here in the Chesapeake Bay. There has been a lot of great press about using snakehead in restaurants. I’m definitely hoping to use both at Fleet Street Kitchen.

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

My hope is to pass along Fleet Street Kitchen’s passion for sustainable seafood and for people to make the connection between the way seafood is harvested and what is on their plate. It’s also important for people to know that they can ask if a fish is sustainable in a restaurant. This lets a restaurant’s chef and staff know that there’s a demand for conscientious ingredients. Most restaurants will appreciate this, even if they aren’t currently serving sustainable products.

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


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