Don’t Take The Bait

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Is the evidence for fish-eating better than simply taking a fish oil pill? Composite: Getty

Paul Greenberg, author of The Omega Principle: Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet (Penguin Press), is making the rounds with an important argument; get the short version here in the Guardian:

Fool’s gold: what fish oil is doing to our health and the planet

Omega-3 is one of our favourite supplements – but a huge new study has found it has little or no benefit for heart health or strokes. How did it become a $30bn business?

9781594206344.jpgThe omega-3 industry is in a twist. Again. Last week, Cochrane, an organisation that compiles and evaluates medical research for the general public, released a meta-analysis – a study of studies – to determine whether or not omega-3 pills, one of the world’s most popular dietary supplements, reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. After comparing 79 trials involving 112,059 people, the researchers could find “little or no difference to risk of cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, coronary heart disease events, stroke or heart irregularities”.

I can’t say that I was particularly surprised. Over the past 15 years, more than 20 studies have shown a similar lack of effect. But what does surprise me is how we continue to look at the world of fish and seafood through the amber lens of a fish oil capsule. Omega-3s do something in our bodies – and probably something important. But without the larger context of the marine organisms that contain them, omega-3s get lost in the noise of human metabolism and modern marketing.

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Fishing Brinksmanship

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Using purse seine nets to fish for bluefin tuna, Turkey. Two-thirds of species are overexploited in the Mediterranean. Photograph: Gavin Newman/Alamy

Thanks to Damian Carrington, Environment editor at the Guardian, for bringing this to our attention:

One in three fish caught never makes it to the plate – UN report

Global fish production is at record levels thanks to fish farming, says the UN FAO, but much is wasted and many species are worryingly overfished

One in three fish caught around the world never makes it to the plate, either being thrown back overboard or rotting before it can be eaten, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Continue reading

A Familiar Pleasure That May Save Species

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Fish tanks in the basement of a home in Erie, Colorado containing dozens of threatened species, including some that are extinct in the wild. COURTESY OF GREG SAGE

Thanks to Adan Welz and colleagues at Yale e360:

Basement Preservationists: Can Hobbyists Save Rare Fish from Extinction?

Freshwater fish are the most endangered group of vertebrates on earth. Now, networks of home-based aquarists are trying to save some of the most threatened species, keeping them alive in basement aquariums in the hope they might someday be reintroduced into the wild.

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Michael Koeck [center left] gives a tour of the 90 tanks he manages in the basement of the Haus des Meeres aquarium in Vienna. CREDIT: JUTTA KIRCHNER

In August 1940, just after the first-ever British bombing raid on Berlin in World War II, Hitler decided to construct colossal Flakturme — fortified anti-aircraft towers, supporting gun batteries and radar dishes — in important cities of the Reich. Their walls were up to 3.5 meters thick, which is why Flakturm V-L in Vienna proved impossible to demolish after the war, and why we now know that the basement of a Nazi blockhouse is the perfect place to keep 90 glass tanks full of obscure Mexican fish. Continue reading

Technology To Battle High Seas Ecological Crimes

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China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea account for well over two-thirds of high seas fishing. Photograph: Laura Lezza/Getty Images

If you are trying to watch what you eat for sustainability and impact, Justin McCurry, in Tokyo writing for the Guardian, has this story to keep in mind:

The ‘dark fleet’: Global Fishing Watch shines a light on illegal catches

Low light imaging data being used to expose unregulated and unreported fishing on the high seas

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These vessels (indicated with blue boat icons) in the Natuna Sea off Indonesia were detected by VIIRS, and are suspected to not be using VMS. The red lines indicate VMS tracks from the same day.

New data is being used to expose fleets of previously unmonitored fishing vessels on the high seas, in what campaigners hope will lead to the eradication of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

Global Fishing Watch (GFW) has turned low light imaging data collected by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into the first publicly available real-time map showing the location and identity of thousands of vessels operating at night in waters that lie beyond national jurisdiction. Continue reading

Paddlefish, Pioneers Of Sustainability

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Janie Osborne for The New York Times

Thanks to Jim Robbins, whose work we have appreciated not least for its culinary intrigue, but especially for the sustainability angles:

Why Did The Robot Swim Like A Fish?

Thanks to for this story about how a Robotic Fish Moves Like The Real Thing — So It Can Observe The Real Thing:

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SoFi, the robotic fish, swims in for its close-up. MIT computer scientists hope SoFi will help marine biologists get a closer (and less obtrusive) look at their subjects than ever before. MIT CSAIL

Scientific advancement: It’s all in the wiggle.

OK, it’s a lot more complicated than that. But when a team of researchers at MIT unveiled their robotic fish Wednesday, one of the keys they emphasized was the graceful undulation of the prototype’s tail — which, besides being rather eye-catching, serves a crucial role in the robot’s ultimate mission: giving scientists the ability to unobtrusively observe marine wildlife remotely.

robot-fish.gif“Because the fish moves through undulating movement rather than thrusters, the impact it has on how the water moves around it is much more like what is expected of physical fish,” Daniela Rus, director of the school’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, tells NPR. Continue reading

New Twist in the Invasive Lionfish Saga

I’ve posted previously about the lionfish invasion that is threatening coral reef and other marine ecosystems throughout the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Southern Atlantic Seaboard of the United States.

Much has been made of the spectacular invasive success of the two species of Indo-Pacific lionfish that have established themselves throughout the Wider Caribbean.  Not only are the invaders being found at population densities more than ten times those typical in their native range, but they also have been found to grow more rapidly, reaching sexual maturity more quickly, and growing to greater size than do their Indo-Pacific cousins.

Several studies have looked at the genetic make-up of invasive lionfish and have concluded that the populations found in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Southeastern seaboard of the United States are all closely related, stemming back to fewer than ten females. Continue reading

Caviar’s Alternative Harvesting Methods

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Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar markets three types of caviar, one from the wild Acadian sturgeon, and two types — green and gold — from its farmed shortnose sturgeon. Nancy Matsumoto for NPR

Thanks to Nancy Matsumoto and the folks at the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA):

To Help Keep Sturgeon Sustainable, Farm And Fishery Work Together

It’s the end of only the first week of the official Atlantic sturgeon fishing season on the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada. But the two fishermen who supply Cornel Ceapa’s Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar company have already landed close to half of the season’s catch. Continue reading

Cod Recovery Is A Redemption Story

 

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David Milne, skipper of the MSC-certified trawler Adorn, holds a cod in Peterhead fish market. Photograph: Eleanor Church/Marine Stewardship Council

Cod seems as good as any other creature to feature in a redemption story. The editor of the Environment section at the Guardian shares good news on one lucky population of cod that got the attention they needed, seemingly just in time:

Sustainable British cod on the menu after stocks recover

A recovery from near total collapse has led North Sea cod stocks to be labelled as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council for the first time in 20 years Continue reading

Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo

We’ve mentioned Cabo Pulmo here several times in the context of marine conservation, as well as from a personal visit. Although I still haven’t had a chance to go out on a scuba diving expedition here, a couple weeks ago Jocelyn and I were able to accompany some Villa del Faro guests on a snorkeling trip outfitted by Cabo Pulmo Sport Center, which is run by members of the Castro family mentioned in the posts linked above. The tour took two hours, but I’ve condensed the experience into almost fifteen minutes of video that I took on a rented GoPro:

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Community, Collaboration & Conservation in Mozambique

Thanks to contributor Phil Karp for sharing this great example of how peer-peer knowledge exchange can help to replicate and scale up innovative solutions.

For communities, by communities

Experience from around the world shows that managing fisheries and marine resources works best when responsibility is placed in the hands of local communities. This is particularly true in low-income countries, where there is often limited capacity and infrastructure for fisheries management and conservation.

Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) are areas of ocean managed by coastal communities to help protect fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity. Found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical seas, and encompassing diverse approaches to management and governance, their sizes and contexts vary widely, but all share the common theme of placing local communities at the heart of management.

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One Possible Future of Fish

Open-ocean aquaculture could reduce environmental concerns associated with aquaculture in coastal waters. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

We’re always looking for well-balanced discussions on innovative but occasionally controversial forms of food production.  Open ocean aquaculture is an example, and we appreciate the Food & Environment Reporting Network for offering just that, suggesting that many of the environmental concerns with aquaculture are mitigated by using deep water locations.

President of the New Orleans–based Gulf Seafood Institute, Harlon Pearce knows better than anyone that wild fisheries alone can’t supply U.S. consumers’ growing demand for fish. Which is why he’s doing his best to bring everyone to the table to achieve one goal: farming the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading

Surf Spawning Spree

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Female grunions twist their bodies tail first into the sand and lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs, which males then fertilize. Credit Doug Martin

Thanks to Joanna Klein and the Science section of the New York Times for this explanation of a full moon mating phenomenon:

Silver Fish Surf the Waves to Spawn on California Beaches

Every year, thousands of little fish ride waves onto Southern California’s beaches at night to lay and fertilize eggs. High up in the sand, they squirm, wriggle and wrap around one another. As they dance beneath the moonlight, the beach transforms into a twinkling tapestry of spawning silver bodies. It’s known as the grunion run, and within a few hours, the show is over. Continue reading

Salmon On Northeastern USA Rivers

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American shad in fishlift in Holyoke Dam on Connecticut River in Holyoke, MA. Courtesy of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Of all North America’s Atlantic salmon rivers none compared in size or productivity with the 407-mile-long Connecticut River that drains Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. But early in the 19th century all strains of salmon uniquely adapted to this sprawling system (at least 25) had been rendered extinct by dams. Continue reading

Clean Water Should Not Be Politicized, But When It Is We Love Trout Unlimited More Than Ever

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Leigh Guldig

Please take a few minutes to read what follows to the end, and share it as far and wide as you can. Our thanks to Chris Wood–president and chief executive of Trout Unlimited, which needs and deserves our support for exactly the reason stated below–for writing, and the New York Times for publishing this clear statement:

THE eastern brook trout, whose native haunts in the Appalachians are a short drive from my home in Washington, is a fragile species. It requires the coldest and cleanest water to survive, and over the past two centuries, its ranks have been decimated by all that modern society could throw at it. Today it lives in a fraction of its historic range.

One reason? Thousands of miles of prime brook trout streams have been polluted by poorly regulated historic coal mining, and what has been lost is difficult to bring back. Groups like Trout Unlimited have worked with partners to restore more than 60 miles of wild trout streams damaged by acid mine drainage in Appalachia. But it is hard, painstaking work — it has taken the better part of two decades and millions of dollars, and the fact is that it would take many lifetimes to revive all the streams in need of resuscitation. Continue reading

Better Nets, Better Fishing

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Portland’s Gulf of Maine Research Institute has designed a trawl net that aims to target species that can still be profitable while avoiding cod. Courtesy of Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Thanks to the salt folks at National Public Radio (USA):

Fishermen Team Up With Scientists To Make A More Selective Net

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Some New England fishermen are pinning their hopes on a new kind of trawl net being used in the Gulf of Maine, one that scoops up abundant flatfish such as flounder and sole while avoiding species such as cod, which are in severe decline.

For centuries, cod were plentiful and a prime target for the Gulf of Maine fleet. But in recent years, catch quotas have been drastically reduced as the number of cod of reproductive age have dropped perilously low. Continue reading

Freshwater Fish, Forgotten Food

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WorldFish/Flickr

Anthropocene has a good summary of this recent scientific study on freshwater fish as a potentially robust, sustainable food supply that has been neglected:

We’re overlooking a giant piece in the global food security puzzle

When we think of sustainable fisheries, we tend to focus on oceans and even aquaculture. But there’s an important source of fish protein that’s often overlooked: freshwater fish. An expansive new study finds that fishing pressure and other threats to freshwater fish is greatest precisely where biodiversity is greatest. It also reveals that a very high proportion of the world’s population—particularly the poor and malnourished—depend heavily on this resource for food security. Continue reading

Bass, Harbinger Of Hope

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Its numbers fluctuate, but the striped bass is far more common than it was just a few decades ago. Credit Getty Images

Thanks to Mr. Taft and the New York Times for this note of reversed fortunes for the fish, and for the anglers who champion them most vocally:

Striped Bass of the Hudson

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With the jutting jaw of a mob kingpin and the pinstripes of a Wall Street executive, striped bass swim through the brackish waters of New York Harbor like old-school New Yorkers — as if they own the place. Continue reading

Get Jolted By Understanding Fish Better

9780374288211_custom-a8005fb568cedbbcdfa556084e27717de66bba19-s400-c85The morning walk’s provided a different sensation from the learning component of the morning walk a few days back, giving me a jolt of new appreciation for all that I have no clue about related to life underwater; the jolter was an ethologist, of all things:

…The knifefishes of South America and the elephant-nose fishes … [are] both electric-producing, so they have EODs, which are electric organ discharges, and they use those as communication signals, and they communicate in some pretty cool ways. They will change their own frequency if they’re swimming by another fish with a similar frequency, so they don’t jam and confuse each other. They also show deference by shutting off their EODs when they’re passing by a territory holder…

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Protecting Your Skin but Damaging the Reefs

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Image via scidev.net

Sunscreen helps protect us from harmful sun rays, especially during the summer months when we habitually frequent the beach and enjoy the undulating caress of rolling waves. What we don’t usually take into account, however, is the impact that our “protective” sunscreen has on marine life, specifically coral reefs. Studies have shown that ingredients in sunscreen, such as oxybenzone for example,  leach the coral of its nutrients and bleach it white. This not only kills the coral but also disrupts the development of fish and other wildlife.

Chemical compounds in sunscreen lotions cause irreparable damage to reefs, which are crucial to the livelihoods of 500 million people in the tropics, scientist and policymakers said at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on 3 September. Hawaii is leading a legislative effort to ban the use of sunscreen that contains oxybenzone or similar harmful agents at its beaches. Continue reading