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Sustainable seafood
bobfish - 10/17/2008 4:50 PM
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Category: Educational
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Before I begin I would like to make it clear that I am not opposed to commercial or recreational fishing at all. I am a recreational fisherman myself and have taken my fair share of dinner from the sea. I have also eaten my fair share of surf and turf from my local restaurants. I only wish to educate those of you who care enough about the ocean, our playground, to make smart choices when buying seafood from the store or at a restaurant. In the end, I will refer you to several web sites that promote sustainable seafood and take the guess work out of what fish is safe to eat and are caught in a sustainable manner. It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog and as usual I hope to educate my fellow divers in an effort to get more people involved in ocean conservation issues. The topic for this blog is sustainable seafood. In order to set the stage I would like begin with an analogy of what is going on in our oceans; let’s say a group of hunters wanted to go into the forest to get some pigs. The way they are going to do it is by dragging a huge 500 yard X 500 yard net across the forest back and forth for miles and miles until their net is full. The other way they are going to do it is by circling several miles of forest with a large net and then pulling the net smaller and smaller until it is full of animals big and small, from the ground to the tree tops, catching everything in its path. The last way they are going to do it is by laying out 80 miles of baited hooks through the forest that will catch everything including some of the pigs they want. They plan on repeating this until their huge trucks are full as well. In each of these processes thousands of unintended animals, also known as incidental, or by catch, will be caught, including endangered animals, and birds. In the end, most of what is caught will be dead or dying and thrown back into the forest which has now been destroyed by the gear used to catch the pigs. The only difference with the analogy I gave and what is going on in the oceans is that most people would see the effects of what was going on in the forest, and as you can imagine we would all be appalled, and would demand a stop to such a wasteful practice. Except for the pig hunters who would cry foul and complain to politicians about disrupting their livelihood and means to earn a living. This is in fact done in the oceans, and no one but the fisherman and some conservation groups know the real damage being done, not just to fish stocks, but to the habitat the fish need to continue to be productive. Several commercial fisheries, such as Atlantic cod, have already collapsed to mere fractions of what they once were. Instead of allowing these fish to reproduce so that they can be fished again, they continue to be caught, and will until the last fish is in someone’s boat. This is called extinction. Currently there are a number of fish species that are feared extinct due to extensive commercial fishing. You might ask why this is important to us as divers. Think about the ocean as our playground. We enjoy the benefits of its diverse beauty and life forms, including a variety of fish. Some of us also like to hunt in these waters for sport and for food. Our playground is being destroyed by people we rarely see or have contact with; although we continue to support their destruction by ordering seafood that is caught in ways that kill non targeted species, or bycatch, such as sea turtles, manta rays, sharks, dolphins, and yes, sometimes whales. Overfishing is a world wide problem and in order to understand it completely you would have to understand a number of aspects pertaining to fishing both commercially and recreational that include, but are not limited to; fish biology, commercial fishing gear types and how they work, such terms as total allowable catch (TAC), maximum sustainable yield (MSY), and how the ecosystem works to support a fishery. You would also have to understand the politics of fishing. I only wish to inform you so that you are better able to make your next seafood decision based on sustainability and avoid fish that are overfished, over exploited, or are currently experiencing overfishing. The best way to determine this is to ask questions next time you go to the store, or your favorite restaurant. You may already notice that your local supermarket fish case tells you where the seafood came from, and in most cases whether it was wild caught, or farm raised. The decision to eat wild caught or farm raised will be a topic for one of my next blogs. If you can’t wait, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium web site which has extensive information on farmed fish, pros and cons, and a free DVD should you decide to get involved in the educational process. What I am trying to convey with this blog is that you can have your fish and eat it too. The following web sites are useful in determining what kind of fish you can eat with a clear conscious, knowing that you are doing your part to help the oceans, our playground, maintain healthy stock levels of fish. These web sites are updated on a regular basis and also have other useful information such as recipes that utilize sustainable seafood as well as additional information on the importance of sustainable seafood and issues pertaining to overfishing. Monterey Bay Aquarium (, Marine Stewardship Council (, Ocean Conservancy (, Blue Ocean Institute (, National Audubon Society ( Bob Smyth Advocate for wild, healthy oceans