A Look Into Ethical Fish Choices

By: Ashley Bode

Twenty years has passed and we are still facing the same issues on our plates. In the 1980s consumers boycotted for dolphin-safe fishing and were promised an improvement. Yet, the general public is still unaware of how, where, and at what cost their seafood is caught. Is it time for us to think of fish as animals and not just a category of food?

According to Mark Bittman, Greenpeace is at it again, boycotting canned tuna in efforts to raise awareness and stop fishing done by long-lines and fish aggregating devices (devices that lure big fish, then detect and communicate how many fish are present); both of which have a by-catch rate between 20 and 25 percent. In many cases, the rate at which by-catch occurs depletes stocks rapidly, a statistic that is often unaccounted for when calculating the amount of fish caught in relation to the limits that have been set.

Tuna fishing isn't the only problem. Consider other dining room table favorites: swordfish, shrimp, grouper and cod. (Did you know Cod is considered endangered and in some waters the population is floating at 1% of the population recorded 40 years ago?) Most of these species are overfished and caught with similar methods, or at least methods that are just as destructive.

If by-catch isn't a problem for you, then consider the destruction of the ocean floor. Deep sea or bottom trawling is unfortunately too common when trying to catch bottom dwelling delicacies like squid, shrimp, rockfish, and monkfish. Boats drag a trawl, or large cone-shaped net reaching to the ocean floor, collecting any and all life that is in the way. Trawls specifically are designed to stir up the bottom of the ocean floor, some sinking in more than 15 centimeters, creating a cloud to disguise the netting, but also attract fish through sound. Fish swim towards the netting and eventually tire, getting caught in the back and pulled up. While there is a large amount of by-catch in trawling, they are equally destructive. It has been reported that nearly 95% of ecosystem destruction on the ocean floor is a result of trawling, ruining coral and sea mountains, and disrupting the last uncharted ecosystem.

While nobody should be told what they can and can't eat, there are certainly ways to make yourself more aware of what is considered a friendly catch and what isn't.  A multitude of resources for finding sustainably-caught fish and shellfish are available online and there are several recent books on the state of the fishing industry. Four Fish and Bottom Feeder are two great resources for learning exactly what goes on aboard a rig and the Monterrey Bay Aquarium has been advising consumers for years on what fish are safer to eat than others.  Check out the documentary End of the Line, narrated by Ted Dansen, about the tuna industry in particular. Most people would be shocked to learn more about what they eat, but undoubtedly more confident in their meal choices.

Are Your Fish Choices Ethical?

Photo: garryknight

Changes for Shrimp Fishing Regulations in Maine

It looks like there could be some changes coming for Maine's shrimping industry. According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, strains on the area's shrimp fisheries over the last few years are causing regulators to consider new rules to limit shrimp fishing in Maine.

Every year, limits are placed on how shrimp can be caught in the region during a season. Last year, shrimpers surpassed that limit by 48 percent. In order to maintain the sustainability of the fishery, regulators are considering limiting entry for fishermen later in the season or for those who don't have a history of fishing in the area.

As opposed to putting a quota on the amount of shrimp that can be caught or imposing limits on the length of fishing season (like what Sweden did when crayfish was being over caught), regulators believe that this will be the best and most effective way to limit boats on the water and maintain a sustainable fishery for years to come.

However, lobster fishermen in Maine are concerned about how these changes could adversely reflect them. A lot of lobster fishers will catch shrimp in their off-season to supplement their incomes and stay in business, but if these kinds of regulations are put in place, that will no longer be an option.

The solution to this dilemma is not clear since, either way, these changes will affect many fishermen. And although some issues are bigger or smaller than others, we often forget the human element of the food we're eating. These regulation issues might seem small to many of us, but they could have drastic consequences for these Maine fisherman.

Sometimes when you pick out some meat or fish at the store, you don't think about the fact that at some point, someone was handling those animals. A farmer or fisherman was growing or catching the food and these people are basing their livelihoods on their ability to sell these products for a profit. We often complain about high food prices, but remember that if you're buying from a smaller company or producer-like the people who operate stands at farmers' markets-you're directly helping these people to make a living and survive while catching or growing the food we love to eat.

Photo: IllinoisHorseSoldier

Food and People Halloween Special - New Orleans with Lisa McLaughlin

This week's photos of Food & People is by Lisa Mclaughlin. Below is what Lisa has to say about the photos and her experience of New Orleans during halloween. Last Halloween found me attending a government conference in New Orleans. It was one of those all too rare conferences that is actually interesting and informative and filled with fascinating folks from around the world, punctuated with lunch breaks for spicy gumbo and olive-spiked muffalettas at Napoleon House and bittersweet coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde. But the only thing many of us could think about on that Friday morning was the fact that there were several seats set aside for a lucky few of us at Galatoire's. Friday lunch at Galatoire's is a New Orleans institution. No reservations are taken and the legendary lines form early in the day. Hats and heels are worn. And lunch frequently liquidly flows into dinner. As soon as our morning session was over, we ran down Bourbon Street and were lucky enough to snag the last remaining seats. Sazeracs were poured, plates of puffy souffled potatoes with bearnaise sauce and Trout Meuniere Amandine, doused in brown butter and coated in almonds arrived. The festive atmosphere of Fridays at Galatoire's has been likend to a genteel riot. Because we did have workshops in the afternoon we had to leave the party early, but the ebullience of the meal followed us through the streets as we passed a wedding parade (the bride wore red) and a group of zombies re-enacting Michael Jackson's Thriller video.

Every Thursday, we'll be posting snapshots from different spots around the world and encourage you to do the same. You can share your photos by emailing us atFoodandPeople@SamuelssonGroup.com You can also submit a post on Tumblr which we review before posting our favorites here on MarcusSamuelsson.com