Today’s post comes from Environmental Intern Kelly Morales. Today Kelly shares information about Sustainable Seafood Day in the Dining Commons and gets into the nitty gritty of why certain fish are sustainable or not.
If you eat seafood in the Dining Commons, then there is a good chance that it is sustainable because last year alone, Residential Dining Services purchased 96% sustainable seafood. Sustainable Seafood is an important part of Residential Dining’s sustainable practices, which is why on January 20th Residential Dining will be celebrating Sustainable Seafood Day. It will be a day highlighting the benefits of enjoying sustainable seafood and educating the campus community on how to acquire sustainable seafood when they are out on their own.
It is an exciting endeavor, but some of you may be confused as to what exactly constitutes “sustainable seafood”. Well, according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, sustainable seafood is “seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that protect sea life and habitats, now and for future generations”. To make it easier for consumers to follow this definition the Monterey Bay Aquarium has released a consumer guide that divides fish into three categories; Best Choice, Good Alternatives, and Avoid (Residential Dining only purchases and serves Best Choice and Good Alternatives). This consumer guide will be available at all dining commons tomorrow. If you don’t want a printed version, be sure to check out their app: Seafood Watch. The printed guide or the app make it easy to figure out what seafood is sustainable. But it doesn’t review specifics of the criteria that are utilized to divide the species into the three categories. That is why I want to talk a little about the criteria that are used to determine sustainability.
For the purposes of this post, I will quickly highlight two criteria for fishing and two for farming to simply give you an idea of what is looked for.
1. Impacts on the Fishery and Stock in Question:
We must take into account the health of the fishery and the stock in question. So we must know how many fish are in the area and take into account the age, sex, and abundance of the fish to know how fishing in the area will affect future generations and the ecosystem as a whole. This means that we must stay away from endangered species or areas in which fish populations are low. We must also know how the fishing or farming methods affect the environment. For example when utilizing the Bottom Trawl fishing method, the seafloor is severely damaged due to the dragging of heavy gear, thus sensitive habitats may be damaged in the process, which have negative effects on the ecosystem as a whole. Instead, methods such as jigging or pole-and-line should be utilized.
2. Impact on Other Species
Another factor we must take into account is the effect the fishing method would have on other species in the area as bycatch, or “all fisheries-related mortality or injury other than the retained catch”, is a big problem when discussing fishing. Methods such as Bottom Trawl or Dredging catch large amounts of fish, but at the same time catch other unwanted species that are then thrown back either dead or severely injured, thus having negative impacts on fish populations in the area which affect the overall health of the fishery as explained in the previous factor. Some species that have fallen under bycatch include sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.
For Fish Farming:
1. Escapes and Introduced Species
One of the main issues found in many farming methods, such as Open Net Pens or Cages, is the risk of having some of the farmed fish escape and interact with wild fish populations. This can be bad because the farmed fish can outcompete the wild fish or lead to “predation, habitat loss, or spawning disruption”.
2. Disease, Pathogen, and Parasite Interaction
With farming there is also the risk of polluting the surrounding area as waste from the farmed fish can pass freely into the environment thus disease can spread to wild fish living near or swimming past the farming area. Thus farming methods such as bag-and- rack or recirculating systems should be used because the farmed fish are not near open water or wild fish. With some distance between the fish, they are separated and can thus be monitored more closely.
Like I mentioned before this was just a quick preview of the criteria that is used. If you are interested in learning more, then a great reference for any questions regarding sustainable seafood would be the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, which can be found at seafoodwatch.org. There you can download the consumer guides and learn more about ocean issues or businesses and organizations that have partnered with the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.
A Few Helpful Definitions:
• Fishery: an area where fish are caught
• Bottom Trawl: a fishing net that is pulled along the seafloor to catch fish, halibut, and sole.
• Jigging: A fishing method that usually occurs at night with the aid of light to attract fish. Utilizes a grappling hook attached to a line, which is then “jerked” in the water to “snag” fish.
• Pole-and-line: a fishing method that utilizes a fishing pole and bait.
• Dredging: Metal-framed baskets that are dragged across the seafloor to collect shellfish.
• Open Net Pens or Cages: Submerged cages that enclose farmed fish such as salmon. Usually found in offshore coastal areas or freshwater lakes.
• Bag-and- rack: A shellfish farming method in which juveniles are “cultivated” in bags on racks above the seabed.
• Recirculating systems: Farming method in which fish are raised in tanks in which water is treated and recycled through the system.