Posts tagged ‘fishing’

June 6, 2011

Snapshot: A Hundred Years of Fishing

Remember a few days ago when I had a sea-cow over the USDA’s recommendations for twice-weekly seafood consumption? Well I took quite a bit of flak for that sentiment, particularly with a few of my seafood loving pals here in Florida.  They asked: “Why are you so dead set in believing that not all seafood is sustainable?” and “We don’t hear much about it.  I’m sure there’s plenty of fish to eat.”

After a few very long discussions, we all had to agree to disagree mostly.  I left the coffeeshops feeling very frustrated.

Maybe if I’d had the above graphic, created by David McCandless for European Fish Week (currently in progress), they’d have been able to understand my point a little more clearly.  On the left, reports extrapolated from fishing surveys from 1900.  On the right, a century of fishing later.. some of it with large fleets and in intense operations with enormous nets, the year 2000.  (Keep in mind, we’ve had eleven further years worth of fisheries impact on these areas.)

You see any blue or purple (the 11+ tons scale) in that 2000 snapshot?  No?  Neither do I.  And while we can’t express specifically that the orange take-levels are sustainable or not (and I can wax philosophic for hours about all the studies out there on this) one thing is very clear:  We are eating a lot of seafood and we are not catching anywhere near as much as we were just a hundred years ago.. even when we had inferior technology (no fish finders, for example).

Wake up and smell the orange roughy my friends.

June 2, 2011

New USDA Guidelines With Tons of Seafood..

The blogosphere is buzzing with the latest iteration of the Food Pyramid – now the Food Plate – put out from the USDA. While I sit rather on pins and needles waiting to hear commentary from Michael Pollan and folk (really, I want to know how they see it) I have to notice one major thing about this new “icon” of healthy eating guidelines:  The USDA really thinks you should be eating a lot of seafood.  A lot.

From their website:

Vary your protein choices.

Choose seafood at least twice a week as the main protein food. Look for seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring. Some ideas are:

  • Salmon steak or filet
  • Salmon loaf
  • Grilled or baked trout

Note that there is no mention of wild caught or farmed, a major distinction, and you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to get a hint of the problems associated with consuming mercury alongside the trout, swordfish, or scallops.

I know, I know.. hoping that the USDA will put up links from their guideline site (a starting point) to say Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch advisories or Blue Ocean Institute’s similar resource would be breathtakingly proactive and farsighted.  But isn’t that the sort of thinking we wanted from our elected officials?  I know it’s what I wanted.

I am waving the flag of celebration tonight that the guide seems to be quite the leap forward from the old food pyramids I used to puzzle over while reading cereal boxes on Sunday mornings at the breakfast table in the 1990s.  (Truly, I can remember wondering how I would eat 10-12 bowls of cereal every day for my pyramid-bottom-grains.)   But I wouldn’t say this is much of a victory.  Not until the seafood selections mention side-by-side the issues with mercury contamination for everyone in the population, not just expectant mothers and very small children, as well as the problems that come with consuming a wild resource and a particular species’ sustainability.