Fish sustains a large portion of the world’s population. It’s high in protein making it one of the healthiest food options available. That’s the rub; what is healthy for us is not necessarily healthy for seafood sustainability. At a time when the human population is rapidly growing, how can we insure that there will be sufficient seafood in the future? To better understand the issues, here’s everything you need: a smorgasbord of sustainable seafood ideas served up on one platter.
How to Feed the World and Make Seafood Sustainable?
We normally think that aquaculture grows tasty marine delicacies like shrimp and salmon for top restaurants and supermarkets in the developed world. It does, but fish farming is also feeding the world’s hungry.
In “Let Them Eat Carp,” EcoWatch reports on the rapid expansion of aquaculture, comparing the 13% of commercially farmed seafood consumed worldwide in 1990 to the 50%+ consumed in 2014. How much of this production goes to affluent tables and how much is consumed locally is a hotly debated issue. Advocates for the aquaculture industry emphasize that small-scale farms producing protein for local consumption now amounts to 70-80% of global production.
EcoWatch says that yes, the vast majority of farmed fish is consumed in the countries where it is produced. It has become an important part of the diets of billions of poor people that cannot afford other nutrient-rich foods like meat and eggs.
The international trade in three major aquaculture products, including shrimp, salmon and Vietnamese pangasius, makes up less than 10% of the global production of farmed fish. But it’s this 10% that is the focus of most scientific research and subsequent publications. Why? Possibly because that is the priority of developed countries that import the 10% and fund the research.
It is understandable that these markets want to insure the health and sustainability of the products they import. However, that bias certainly overstates the importance of farmed fish for export. (photo – Daily Scandinavian)
In Bangladesh, for example, the explosion of fish farming over the last three decades has resulted in a drop in price and increased affordability of fish for poorer households. Find out more about this revolution in aquaculture and who the small and medium-sized commercial businesses are that are creating this change.
Can Fish Farming Be Environmentally Friendly?
This article in the Japan Times: The Future of Fish Farming, describes the environmental challenges facing aquaculture and suggests several options that can make fish farming sustainable into the future.
With an appetite for sushi, the Japanese have loved, wild, but severely over-fished Blue Fin Tuna to the point of extinction. Can this species be successfully farm raised? Watch this very interesting video on a hi-tec, experimental aquaculture farm in Australia that is attempting to commercially produce Southern Blue Fin Tuna.
This Year’s Trends in Sustainable Seafood!
An article in conservationfolks.com asks: What’s the Outlook for Sustainable Seafood in 2018? So we checked in to find out what’s trending and below we’re giving you a quick overview of the issues we will see much more of this year.
- Producing Farmed Fish Sustainably: At the top of the list is Sustainable Fish Farms with the hope that aquaculture can be made environmentally safe and at the same time provide relief to the severely overfished populations in the wild, giving them sufficient time to recover.
- Fish on Ice: Avoid fresh fish and choose frozen, they have just as much flavor and nutritional value. And frozen fish are more sustainable than fresh. The stigma of eating frozen fish will be a thing of the past.
- Feeding Farmed Fish Insects: We have looked at humans eating insects why not fish? The Seafood Industry is looking at insects and microalgae as feed alternatives to fish oil and wild fish.
- If You Must Eat Fresh, Eat Local Fresh: At least this will reduce the greenhouse footprint of the international shipping industry that is required to bring that South African lobster tail to your dinner table.
Fresh Fish is Not Always Safer
If you think always eating fresh fish is safer than eating farmed fish, think again. A recent article in ScienceDaily points out that there are “High levels of microplastics found in Northwest Atlantic fish.” (photo – oporkka/fotolia)
This new research discovered that 73% of mesopelagic fish caught (those species inhabiting intermediate depths in the sea, 200-1000 meters deep) had extremely high levels of microplastics in their stomachs.
And these fish are fish that are eaten by the fish that we eat, meaning that these microplastics can pass up the food chain and onto your plate. Giving us another good reason to wage war on plastic pollution in our ocean.
Environmental Impact of the Seafood Industry
We now have good news of one of the giants in the seafood industry joining in the battle to curb marine plastic pollution. Fishsite.com tells us that one of the world’s leading seafood companies, Thai Union has joined forces with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, GGGI to improve the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems by reducing the threat of abandoned “ghost” fishing nets from its’ ships. Research indicates that upwards of 70% of floating plastic debris originates with the fishing industry.
“Reducing abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear is key to ensuring the seas are sustainable now and for future generations. It has obvious impacts on global food security and the seafood supply chain, as well as an impact on the livelihoods of coastal communities.” Said Dr. Darian McBain the director of sustainable development at Thai Union.
New cookbook highlights the need for sustainable seafood
They love seafood in British Columbia, after all there’s a lot of sea around.. Now they have a new cookbook by prominent B.C. chef Ned Bell, that not only offers tasty recipes but explains the necessity of eating sustainable seafood. Bell worked with a team of marine biologists and experts at the Vancouver Aquarium, to determine what the latest research says about sustainable seafood and ocean stewardship.
Bell’s recipes need only fish available on the West Coast of North America including “shellfish, geoducks, mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, goose-neck barnacles, herrings, sardines, anchovies and sea urchins are all sustainable options.” His recipes might also call for edible plants from the ocean, saying “there are about 10,000 edible plants in the ocean that can be cooked to perfection.”
The title of the book: Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast, ” Bell says is a play on words, “I want to lure people into the conversation around healthy lakes, oceans and rivers.”
Bell insists that determining seafood’s sustainability is easily done by following the recommendations of Ocean Wise, a Canada-wide ocean protection initiative for which Bell is ambassador. Also the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and SeaChoice launched by David Suzuki are also excellent sources of information.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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