Posts Tagged 'sustainable seafood'



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

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Patrick Morrow

About next week’s featured Fresh Thoughts chef, Patrick Morrow of Ryleigh’s Oyster:

Patrick MorrowMorrow was born and raised in Texas and North Carolina. And it shows through in his broad-shouldered, but still sophisticated cuisine. Attention to detail, inventive ingredients, and a skillful balance of elements within each dish are hallmarks of Chef Morrow’s style, and they keep his menus fresh.

His adamant focus on local and sustainable produce, meats and seafood began during his tenure as sous chef at VIN in Towson and then as executive chef at Ryleigh’s Oyster in Federal Hill. After firmly establishing Ryleigh’s Oyster as part of the Baltimore food scene, Morrow left to open Bluegrass Tavern, a restaurant of his own conception, where he operated as executive chef during the opening year to the delight of restaurant critics and patrons alike.

Always keeping an eye to the horizon, seeking new challenges and tackling new cuisines, the restaurant group responsible for Ryleigh’s Oyster has recently been able to lure Chef Morrow back into their folds. He is currently embarking on several new projects for the group.

In preparation for next week’s dinner, we chatted with Patrick about how sustainable seafood is changing the culinary scene throughout the mid-Atlantic region:

What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?
It’s tough to choose just one favorite ingredient, but would have to say the farmed oysters would be at the top of my list.

How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?
I think in the recent years, chefs have become more aware of what they are buying and how they are sourcing the foods they purchase. So you are seeing an increase of sustainable seafood on different menus.

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?
The hardest part was finding a good seafood supplier that understood what we were looking for and was willing to supply us with the highest quality sustainable seafood available.

What is one sustainable seafood ingredient you hope to see more of in restaurants (including your own) this year?
Maybe it’s the Southerner in me, but would love to see more people using catfish!

If everyone could walk away from our Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be …
Just to spend extra time figuring out a little more about the seafood products that they are buying and how there is a lot of alternatives out there.

How can people better understand sustainable seafood issues concerning oysters?
I think with increased education of how the wild oyster beds are depleting and side effects that it has caused in the bay. And to show people alternatives to wild oysters, with the growing number of high quality farmed oysters in the market place.

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

Fresh Thoughts is BACK!

Due to popular demand, two dates have been added to our 2013 Fresh Thoughts Sustainable Seafood Dining Series! Chefs from Ryleigh’s Oyster House and The Capital Grille are set to headline the additional events in September and November of 2013.

National Aquarium Fresh Thoughts

Each dinner of the series is themed around sustainable seafood, and will feature a cocktail reception, cooking demonstration by the guest chef, and a fine dining experience that includes a four-course menu created solely for the event. Guests are invited to come early to explore the exhibits, including Blacktip Reef!

Ryleigh’s Oyster House, located in historic Federal Hill, specializes in serving fresh, quality seafood, meat, poultry, and produce in a comfortable relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant has been recognized by the Restaurant Association of Maryland as one of the “Stars of the Industry” and received praise from The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper and WJZ.

Executive Chef Patrick Morrow will host an oyster-themed dinner on September 24, 2013.

The Capital Grille, located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, is famous for its dry-ages steaks, exceptional seafood and award-winning wine list. The restaurant has been named to OpenTable’s Best American Cuisine Top 50 List, and has received accolades from WineSpectator and UrbanSpoon.

The Capital Grille will host a dinner on November 19, 2013.

Tickets for each dinner are $79 for National Aquarium members and $99 for non-members. Tickets for the September 24 and November 19 dinners can be purchased online or by calling 410-576-3869. 

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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