Wednesday, February 08, 2012 9:30 AM
What would it take to shape a planet on which people, other living things, and the systems that support us can sustainably coexist? For a special issue,
magazine invited experts from around the world to share their thoughts on how we might craft solutions to some of earth’s toughest challenges. Wendee Holtcamp spoke with ocean advocate Alexandra Cousteau, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and the granddaughter of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, about how to create sustainable ocean fisheries.
What would it take to create sustainable ocean fisheries?
It is going to take coordination at the highest levels, coordination between different government entities responsible for managing resources. Nations are struggling to set catch limits and quotas, while still trying to figure out how many fish are there. We don’t know enough about the oceans, yet we’re reducing the amount of money we’re spending on research. A lot of very smart people around the world are working on the problem of sustainable fisheries, but we need to invest more in science. We also need to get the fishermen on board. We need to get them to embrace devices like the Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), and to use nets with wider filaments so they’re catching their target species, rather than tighter nets that catch everything. It will take fishermen staying out of marine protected areas and catching the species they’re allowed to fish and not overexploited species. If we’re able to get everyone on the same page, we still can achieve sustainability. But we are running out of time.
How are we doing so far?
Right now we are failing miserably. It’s a free-for-all out in the ocean. There’s no ownership of common spaces, and there’s a “get it before the next guy gets it” mentality.
What can consumers do to help?
People should avoid fish that are overexploited, such as Chilean sea bass, swordfish, shark, irresponsibly caught shrimp and all sorts of other species on the brink. In the U.S. alone we have almost 700 different species that are not only safe to eat but also tasty, but we eat the same dozen species every time because we know what they look like, we know our family will eat them. We need to make different choices. If it continues to go on as now, we’re going to see some major collapses.
How does your organization, Blue Legacy, work with sustainable water issues?
Last year, we converted John McCain’s Straight Talk Express into a biodiesel mobile workstation, and then went on a 17,100-mile expedition across North America, stopping on many spots along the way to tell the water stories of local communities and local water-keepers. Through film and expeditionary filmmaking, we work to reconnect people with the water in their life, water that shapes the land they live on, shapes the places they live, the communities they have and the quality of life they depend on. The short films are distributed primarily online to media partners, schools, nonprofits and all sorts of organizations so they can tell their stories online to advance their objectives in the communities they serve. When we stopped in a community, we made that day all about them.
Has having a baby affected your outlook?
When I think about projections on what we’ll have in 5, 10, 50 years, all of a sudden that’s a time frame of Clémentine’s life, and those milestones are very poignant. When I was young, I had great opportunity to see a lot of extraordinary places, but now they’re gone or fundamentally different from how I knew them. That grieves me. There were places that broadened my view of the world, and as we lose those places we impoverish ourselves. I want there to be places she can spend weeks exploring tide pools, and pristine creeks where she can catch tadpoles. I want her to know those things. Our generation is the last generation to be able to save some of these treasures we have. It’s our “space race” to protect the quantity and quality of water systems. If we fail, her generation will have lost some really irreplaceable natural places and species.
Published in association with
, a print, online and multimedia magazine for environmental thought leaders produced by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Image by Bil Zelman.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 4:33 PM
“Save the whales” may have become something of a schoolyard taunt for anti-environmentalists to hurl, but make no mistake: Some activists are still out there, saving whales. Foremost among them is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has harassed, butted, and even boarded whaling ships in its mission to deter illegal whaling.
Sea Shepherd founder and leader Paul Watson is described as an “anti-Ahab” in Prospect by writer Philip Hoare, who explains that the bold group managed to put a large dent in Japan’s whale take last season:
In February, the Japanese fisheries minister announced that Sea Shepherd’s actions, which include boarding whaling ships, forced the curtailment of the 2010-11 season on safety grounds. As a result, many fewer whales were caught. Sea Shepherd put Japan’s catch at 30, compared to the country’s fleet’s self-declared quota of 900. Campaigners quickly claimed a victory in the making.
Loare notes that soon after this, one of Japan’s four major whaling communities was devastated by the tsunami, “knocking out a pillar of the nation’s whaling industry,” the New York Times reported.
It remains to be seen if the one-two punch of Sea Shepherd’s campaigns and the tsunami will have a lasting effect on whaling by Japan, which often skirts legality by falsely claiming to be whaling for scientific reasons. In the meantime, a documentary about Watson and his merry band of whale savers, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, is opening in Germany and heading for U.S. release. View the trailer here:
(article available to subscribers only),New York Times, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Thursday, August 19, 2010 3:15 PM
The chemical bisphenol A is seemingly everywhere—it’s in our receipts, our toys, our food containers, even our bodies—and it’s increasingly suspected as a factor in many health problems. Now the nasty stuff is even in lobsters, and it may be killing them off.
tipped us to a story in U Conn Today on the research of Hans Laufer, a molecular biologist who believes that waterborne chemicals including BPA is contributing to the shell disease that is killing off lobsters in Long Island Sound. Laufer, reports U Conn Today, has
found that by interfering with hormones crucial to young lobster growth, chemicals such as bisphenol A can slow the lobsters’ molting patterns and interfere with regular development, leading to body deformations, susceptibility to disease, and potential death.
As for those BPA-laden receipts, Treehugger has some promising news, reporting that three large European grocery chains are planning to phase out BPA in their receipts. The move may add to the momentum to do the same in the United States. In the meantime, wash your hands very well after handling receipts from CVS, Whole Foods, Safeway, the U.S. Postal Service, Walmart, Chevron, McDonalds, KFC, and—get this—the U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria. See the Environmental Working Group’s website for a full breakdown of which receipts are the most, and least, toxic.
Source: U Conn Today, Treehugger, Environmental Working Group
Image by tuppus, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 3:49 PM
Large, invasive Asian carp are overwhelming the Mississippi River and heading for the Great Lakes—and one way to help stop their spread is to eat them, a host of observers are suggesting. But the American palate is not attuned to carp as a delicacy, and the fish’s PR problems begin with its inelegant, harsh-sounding name. So why not rename it? It worked for orange roughy, which once was known as the slimehead, and “rock salmon,” a.k.a. the spiny dogfish.
Big River magazine, which covers the Upper Mississippi, has had a field day with its carp coverage, which recently included a Name That Carp contest that is now down to its finalists. The common carp is the more established but less aggressive invader, while the silver carp is the gigantic, leaping variety that really has river watchers worried. Here are the suggested names:
winged silver roughy
Entries are closed, but Big River is asking the public to vote on these finalists and will announce the winning names in the July-August issue.
It’s not the only publication with carp on its mind. The Chicago Reader did an entire carp issue that included a ten-chef carp challenge. One chef, Phillip Foss of Lockwood restaurant, took the competition to heart and began putting carp dishes on his menu that attracted favorable attention from the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal.
But Foss isn’t going along with this renaming business. The Reader notes that “he was excited about selling Asian carp,” but that he wasn’t going to start calling it silverfin, as some boosters already have suggested. “He wasn’t going to sugarcoat it.”
Foss tells the Reader, “This fish has a lot of strikes against it. But this is not a bad-tasting fish. … You want to get it out of the water—why not fish it? Eat it for dinner tonight.”
Sources: Big River, Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal
Top image by Michael Boyd, www.mboydphoto.com
. Carp dish image courtesy of Phillip Foss from his blog The Pickled Tongue.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 4:13 PM
Ever feel like we’ve just totally screwed ourselves with the oceans? I’m not even talking about BP’s gushing well: It’s this recent report from the Telegraph that U.K. nutritionists are now advising pregnant women to eat more fish.
Fish, of course, contains mercury, a heavy metal pollutant that comes from human industry (and, to be fair, from some natural sources like volcano eruptions). Pregnant women, children, the elderly—nutritional convention has been to watch how much you eat. Except seafood also is a rich source of omega-3s, and nutritionists now say that the fatty-acid benefits, especially for pregnant women, could outweigh the heavy-metal risks.
What benefits, you say? The star of the omega-3 cast is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and as The Economist tidily explains:
DHA is a component of brains, particularly the synaptic junctions between nerve cells, and its displacement from modern diets by the omega-6 acids in cooking oils such as soya, maize and rape is a cause of worry.
Many researchers think this shift—and the change in brain chemistry that it causes—explains the growth in recent times of depression, manic-depression, memory loss, schizophrenia and attention-deficit disorder. It may also be responsible for rising levels of obesity and thus the heart disease which often accompanies being overweight.
Stateside nutritionists are also changing their minds. A group has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to adjust its stance on pregnant women’s diets, and the Department of Defense plans to launch a program to augment soldiers’ diets with omega-3s, The Economist reports. Low levels of DHA are a suicide risk factor for people in the service.
So here’s the positive take-away, if there is one: Should you wish to get more fish-based omega-3s into your diet, eating lower on the fish food chain is the best way to make that happen, keep mercury levels low, and, oh yeah, stop straining the ocean’s ecosystems by gobbling up big predators like tuna, swordfish, and grouper. (For what it's worth, there are also plant-based sources of omega-3s, although there have been studies that shed doubt on whether they are as beneficial as the fish-based ones.)
For some excellent reading about eating lower on the fish food chain, follow the link to an excerpt from Taras Grescoe’s book Bottomfeeder, which is one of the most illuminating studies I’ve read on how to eat fish ethically. (And he’s a big fan of the omega-3s.)
Sources: Telegraph, The Economist, Bottomfeeder
Image by L. Marie, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:07 PM
Perhaps you’ve seen urban anglers in your city—you know, the folks dropping a fishing line into waters along rip-rapped canals, seedy waterfronts, and murky riverways. Many of these anglers are recent immigrants, and many of them are fishing not so much for sport as for dinner. The Northern California environmental magazine Terrain reports on the difficulty that environmental officials have had in warning these communities that their catch may be seriously harming their health. Warning signs can be misinterpreted, and even when they’re clear, cultural traditions often trump their message.
Any urban bay, lake, or river is a virtual “cocktail of mean and nasties,” says marine scientist Timothy Fitzgerald of the Environmental Defense Fund, and many are polluted with toxins including mercury, PCBs, and pesticides. And yet,
Big American cities are also home to ethnic populations who love seafood and are accustomed to catching what they eat, rather than buying it retail. Many subsistence fisherfolk living in Northern California see no reason to break cultural tradition, especially during an economic downturn when passing up free meals feels like madness.
The story is part of an excellent cover package called “Sea Change” that includes articles on seaweed harvesters, rising sea levels, a program for tagging and tracking sea predators, and the general state of the oceans. As you might guess, it’s not always cheery reading, but it’s important for anyone concerned about the fate of the world’s waters and their intricate web of life.
, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, March 02, 2009 2:11 PM
There’s an ironic tragedy involved in eating at a Red Lobster in the Gulf Coast: Patrons, just a short distance from some of the best fishing grounds in the world, are likely eating imported shrimp from China, Indonesia, or South America. This situation hurts local fishermen and destroys the environment, but still, many people do it.
Just one acre of shrimp farm can produce from 6,000 to 18,000 pounds of shrimp in 3 to 6 months, according to Jim Carrier in Orion. That extreme output drives down the price of seafood, making it more difficult for local fishermen to make a living. Mangroves and local environments are destroyed to make way for the farms, which are heavily treated with antibiotics and chemicals to keep that many animals alive in the same place.
“If you get cheap shrimp now, it's from a turbid, pesticide-infested pond somewhere in the developing world,” Taras Grescoe told Salon.com last year, “and it's guaranteed you're contributing to the misery of all humans by buying that stuff.” Grescoe, whose book Bottomfeeder was excerpted in Utne Reader, still believes that ethical seafood is possible. For tips on how to find seafood that’s both ethical and sustainable, visit Utne Reader’s sustainable seafood project.
, licensed under
Sunday, October 12, 2008 7:11 PM
Phil Werst knows a lot about sustainable cuisine. As the general manager of Minneapolis’ Common Roots Café, Werst is charged with designing made-from-scratch menus that make flavorful use of local bounty and organic ingredients. Several times a week, you can find the eco-minded chef cycling back from the farmers market, his bike trailer loaded down with the season’s goodies.
We told Werst about our Sustainable Seafood special project—an online repository of recipes, news, and resources inspired by our recent excerpt of Bottomfeeder: How to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood—and the chef agreed to dream up something delicious for Utne.com’s readers. This past Saturday, he showed Utne librarian Danielle Maestretti and me how to prepare Baked Trout with Roasted Root Vegetable Farro Risotto and Butternut Squash Puree.
A word of warning: I nearly died of happiness when I shoveled the first bite of Werst’s dish into my mouth. The roasted root vegetables heartily stood up against the dense, nutty warmth of the farro risotto, and the butternut squash puree, a food too often prepared overly sweet, was refreshingly spiked with apple cider vinegar and a hint of cayenne. And the fish, well. Fresh from Star Prairie Trout Farm, the trout wasn’t just amazingly tasty—it was surprisingly easy to prepare. (If you’ve never removed pinbones before, Werst demonstrates the technique in a video below.)
Baked Trout with Roasted Root Vegetable Farro Risotto and Butternut Squash Puree
Trout and Farro Risotto: 4 medium carrots; 2 bulbs celery root; 4 medium parsnips; 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus some for drizzling); 1 medium yellow onion, diced; 2 cloves of garlic, chopped; ½ teaspoon chili flakes; ½ teaspoon fennel seed; 2 cups organic farro, dry; 1 cup mild white wine; 1 quart vegetable stock; 3 cups arugula; 1 tablespoon unsalted butter; 3 whole trout; Salt and pepper
Butternut Squash Puree: 1 medium butternut squash; 1 cup vegetable stock (plus some for thinning); ¼ cup apple cider vinegar; Pinch cayenne; 2 tablespoons maple syrup; Salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
The butternut squash will take the most time in the oven, so begin by chopping the squash in half and laying it face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the squash in the oven. You’ll roast it until a knife inserted offers little resistance, 45 minutes to an hour.
Peel the carrots, parsnips, and celery root bulbs. Slice the parsnips in half lengthwise, and then again; remove the woody core. Chop all the vegetables into quarter-inch cubes. Toss them with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and some fresh-cracked pepper. Transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put them in the oven. They’ll roast for 15-20 minutes, but keep an eye on them. The cubes should be tender but not crispy.
While your vegetables are roasting, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. As the stock warms, place a large pot over medium heat—this is where you will cook the risotto. When the large pot is hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, stirring until translucent. Add the chili flakes, fennel seed, one tablespoon salt, and farro. Stir for two minutes and then add the white wine. Stir until the wine is almost completely dissolved. Ladle in warm vegetable stock 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Remove from heat when the grain is cooked but still slightly chewy. Stir in the unsalted butter and set to the side.
Provided they’re done cooking, pull the squash and the roasted root vegetables out of the oven and set aside to cool—it’s time to prepare your trout. You can purchase trout fillets with the pinbones already removed, but it’s really quite easy to prepare your own. Werst demonstrates the technique:
Place the trout fillets skin-side-down on a parchment lined baking tray. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and season lightly with salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Depending on the idiosyncrasies of your oven, the fillets will take 8 to 12 minutes to bake. When they are done, the flesh will be opaque pink and firm to the touch. Bake until cooked through and remove from the oven.
While the trout is in the oven, remove the seeds from the cooled squash. Scoop out the squash meat and put it in a food processor. Add 1 cup of vegetable stock and apple cider vinegar. Puree for 30 seconds. Add cayenne and maple syrup. Puree again. The squash should be silky smooth and slide easily off of a spoon; add additional stock as needed. Salt to taste.
Stir the roasted vegetables, arugula, and ½ cup butternut squash puree into the farro risotto. Salt and pepper to taste.
In large pasta bowls, place one cup farro risotto in the center, and gently transfer a trout filet on top of the grain. Drizzle generously with butternut squash puree. Note: Excess puree, thinned with additional stock, will make a delicious soup.
Monday, October 06, 2008 12:25 PM
Forget Oktoberfest, here comes Octoberfish: a month-long celebration of sustainable seafood from the consumer group Food & Water Watch. The international nonprofit has put together a calendar of events, including simple direct actions (such as sending an e-mail against fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico) and sustainable seafood menus.
To read about why eating seafood ethically is environmentally essential, visit our Sustainable Seafood Special Online Project, which includes an illuminating excerpt from Taras Grescoe’s book Bottomfeeder. Stay tuned, too. Next week, we’ll post an exclusive sustainable seafood recipe from chef Phil Werst, general manager at Minneapolis’ locavore haunt, Common Roots Café.
Image by tarotastic, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, January 14, 2008 2:39 PM
If you like to eat out and seafood is on the menu, the Blue Ocean Institute has made it easier to pick the most sustainable entree. Just send a text message to 30644 that includes “Fish” and the type of seafood you’re thinking of ordering, and the Fish Phone will shoot back a message telling you how ecofriendly your choice is.
I was curious about halibut, one of my favorite types of fish. I whipped out my cell, texted the Fish Phone, and got an immediate reply: “Pacific Halibut (GREEN) few environmental concerns, MSC certified as sustainable; Atlantic Halibut (RED) significant environmental concerns.”
You can also download a wallet-size version of the seafood guide if you don’t want to pay for a text message.
(Thanks, Sierra Club.)
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