Mother Jones illustration; Getty
Companies like Impossible and its competitor Beyond Meat have gotten most of the attention in our pages for plant-based meat-like products, but when it comes to alternative seafood our stories have mainly focused on invasive species, or on farming kelp or on seaweed farming. Thanks to Mother Jones for stretching our attention to the alternatives to fresh caught or even farm-raised seafood that simulates the kinds of fish that have been over-harvested:
This is why we can’t have nice things.
Do you love burgers—but not the animal cruelty and environmental degradation that go into making them? I come bearing good news: Someday, you might be able to get your meat fix, without all that bad stuff. Scientists can now grow animal flesh, without raising—or in most cases killing—an animal. This food, called “lab-grown meat,” “cell-based meat,” “cultured meat,” “cultivated meat,” “clean meat,” or as comedian Stephen Colbert jokingly called it in 2009, “shmeat,” has set off a flurry of media attention in recent years. Dozens of lab-grown meat companies have materialized, most aiming to solve the problems associated with large-scale beef, pork, poultry, and seafood production.
Finless Foods, a 12-person food-tech startup founded in 2017 and based in Emeryville, California, claims to be the first company to focus on lab-grown fish, although a handful of other startups have since joined them. In October, 28-year-old Finless Foods co-founder Mike Selden gave me a tour of their facility, and I dished about it on the latest episode of the Mother Jones food politics podcast Bite:
Selden and his co-founder Brian Wyrwas, both products of an agricultural biochemistry program at UMass Amherst, started the company, he says, to “make something good.” Continue reading
A new study finds that tuna harvests, including of some species considered “vulnerable,” have increased by an astonishing 1,000% in the last 60 years — a rate that some scientists warn is unsustainable. NiCK/Getty Images
Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this warning:
If you’re in the mood for a tuna poke bowl or an old-school tuna niçoise salad, here’s a tip: Don’t hit up the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. It has been nearly six years since chef Jonathon Sawyer became a “tuna evangelist” after attending a meeting of like-minded chefs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was there that he made the decision to forgo tuna — both in his personal life and on the menus at all four of his restaurants.
It wasn’t always easy. Turning down the chance to eat famed chef Eric Ripert’s mouthwatering thin-sliced tuna over a foie gras torchon took some Superman-like strength, but for Sawyer, the mission is an important one. He’s not trying to get people to give up tuna altogether. Rather, he’s trying to raise awareness of the sheer quantities that are coming across our collective plates and serve as a gentle warning that all that fish is coming from a limited resource.
It turns out that his effort is hitting a seafood sustainability bull’s-eye. Continue reading
Belize’s system gets fishermen on side in helping to maintain the health of the ocean. photo credit: Tony Rath
Thanks to the Guardian for this story about Belize’s marine conservation efforts and how they can serve as a model for other countries.
Fish stocks are stable and reef health improving, in part thanks to Belize’s substantial ‘no-take’ zones. Now greater legislation is needed to secure progress
Across the turquoise water by the mangrove, forest ranger Allan Halliday spots a fishing skiff. “We’re going over to say hello,” he says, before abruptly changing the boat’s direction. But his real task is to check the couple on board have the license to fish in this part of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, one of nine designated zones in Belize.
“We aren’t complaining but others do,” says Alonzo Reymundo, of the rules that now restrict Belize’s 3,000 commercial fishers to two geographic areas each. He and his wife Anselma have been fishing off southern Toledo for 30 years and their boat is laden with 50 or so pounds of shrimp – more than enough, he says, flashing his license. Today’s catch will be sold as bait and fetch around 330BZ$ (£135), he says.
But not all encounters are as friendly for the rangers from the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (Tide), whose job includes enforcing the managed access (MA) programme that since 2016 has given traditional fishers the rights to secured grounds if they obtain licenses and report their catch. Illegal fishing has declined, says Halliday, but at night there are illicit incursions from Guatemala and high-speed chases around the reserve’s 500-square miles of pristine sea – a vast space to monitor for just four rangers alternating shifts at their station on Abalone Caye.
Covering all of Belize’s waters, the MA scheme is unique, says fisheries administrator Beverly Wade. “Belize is the only country in the world that has successfully divided all its territorial waters, including functional fishing waters. We direct all fishermen into two of nine areas to build an architecture from the ground up, where a constituent takes ownership of resources because their livelihood depends on it.”
The programme is just part of a groundbreaking approach to ocean protection that has won the tiny country in Central America a reputation as a world leader. Continue reading
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:
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?
The 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.
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:
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:
Low light imaging data being used to expose unregulated and unreported fishing on the high seas
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
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:
Thanks to for this story about how a Robotic Fish Moves Like The Real Thing — So It Can Observe The Real Thing:
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.
“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
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
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):
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
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:
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:
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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
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):
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
Anthropocene has a good summary of this recent scientific study on freshwater fish as a potentially robust, sustainable food supply that has been neglected:
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