Seafood harm reduction


in Science, The environment

For those who haven’t taken the plunge into vegetarianism or veganism, but who are concerned about the ecological consequences of fish consumption, there are some good resources online. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has printable pocket-sized seafood guides, highlighting which species are harvested in relatively sustainable ways and which should definitely be avoided. The Blue Ocean Institute also has a number of resources, including a website for looking up species and a guide that can be downloaded.

Species that are particularly threatened (as well as often caught in highly unsustainable ways) include:

  • Bluefin tuna
  • Chilean Sea Bass (this is an industry name for Patagonian Toothfish)
  • Groupers
  • Orange Roughy
  • Atlantic Cod
  • Atlantic Halibut
  • Oreos (the fish, not the cookies)
  • Rockfish
  • Sturgeon Caviar
  • Snappers
  • Atlantic Salmon (note, all Atlantic salmon in the U.S. is farmed)
  • Sharks

While it is inadequate to think about marine conservation in terms of single species, such lists do provide a reasonably accessible way for consumers to scrutinize their actions. In the long run, however, marine resources need to be thought about in terms of whole ecosystems that need to be protected from threats including over-exploitation, toxins, and climatic changes.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. October 6, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Every single thing we do seems to produce environmental damage. The only solution seems to be to lower human population numbers to below the level that the environment can simply absorb the fallout from.

Tristan Laing October 6, 2007 at 3:34 pm


Why didn’t you include ocean farmed salmon, both Atlantic and Pacific varieties?

Tristan Laing October 6, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Great new banner by the way.

Milan October 6, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Why didn’t you include ocean farmed salmon, both Atlantic and Pacific varieties?

I took this list from The Monterey Bay Aquarium. My own list is dramatically harsher.

Milan October 6, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Great new banner by the way.

Thanks. Bridges are ideal for these things.

The old banners are on the wiki.

Tristan Laing October 6, 2007 at 8:09 pm

Bridges are formal.

(read: formal-logical, formal (Semantic), formal: the form of an object, or “ideal forms” “platonic”, form-design)

Milan October 6, 2007 at 8:14 pm

They also fit a 700ish by 150ish JPEG pretty well.

Emily Horn October 8, 2007 at 12:38 am

Yes, beautiful banner.

Re: … marine resources need to be thought about in terms of whole ecosystems that need to be protected from threats including over-exploitation, toxins, and climatic changes.

One of the more encouraging areas where all this is taken into consideration is in the Australian Great Barrier Reef. The government and other environmentally concerned groups have co operated to readily educate the population and tourists about the reef before visiting it. Though, in recent years there has been a distressing amount of coral bleaching (an unfortunate response to climate change) human awareness has made significant strides in protecting the area.

I think rigorous education is a more likely answer than population control. If we could turn Blue-Tuna fishing into a wildly popular tourist activity, they’d be set for life.

Anon October 8, 2007 at 3:04 pm

If we could turn Blue-Tuna fishing into a wildly popular tourist activity, they’d be set for life.

Isn’t it already?

I don’t see how even more pressure on an already vulnerable and non-farmable species could possibly help.

Anon October 8, 2007 at 3:06 pm

As for the coral reefs, the Stern Review projects that with temperature increases of between 0.5 and 2.0 °C coral reef ecosystems will be “extensively and irreversibly damaged.”

Educating tourists won’t make a lick of difference if heat and acidic waters are making the fundamental biological processes of the reefs impossible to perpetuate.

Anon October 8, 2007 at 3:09 pm

Big fish disappearing from oceans

The world’s oceans have lost 90 per cent of prized tuna, swordfish and marlin since industrialized fishing began, Canadian scientists warned Wednesday.

Fisheries biologists Ransom Myers and Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax analyzed nearly 50 years of data on predatory fish catches worldwide.

Their findings debunk the notion that oceans are picture perfect blue frontiers teaming with life. “What we’ve done is sliced the head off of the world’s marine ecosystem and we don’t know the consequences,” said Myers…

“You need to reduce fishing efforts by any means so these fish stocks and fish community can recover to anything that resembles a healthy marine ecosytem,” said Worm…

The trends echo a 1994 estimate by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that almost 70 per cent of marines stocks were overfished or fully exploited. A UN-sponsored summit in South Africa called for global fisheries to be restored by 2015.

. October 9, 2007 at 3:14 pm

Better late than never for bluefins
European Commission springs to action

For bluefin tuna to have any chance of survival, we’ve got to make sure proper legislation is in place to protect them and, more importantly, that it’s enforced adequately and effectively.

With that in mind, it’s a welcome sight to see the European Commission threatening countries like Italy and France with legal action for failing to adhere to fishing quotas and not accurately reporting catches.

The Commission’s decision, though welcome, is long overdue.

. October 10, 2007 at 10:09 pm

A proposal in the making
New developments in WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations

“Some new ideas by Brazil and Argentina during the Doha round negotiations at the World Trade Organization have left me feeling rather optimistic about the ability of the WTO to actually help address one of the world’s biggest environmental problems: global overfishing.

Their proposal is a real attempt by developing countries in the ongoing negotiations about fisheries subsidies to establish some rules to prevent countries from subsidizing their fishing sector without regard to the fish!

The proposal still needs work. But finally, leadership by the developing world to try a find a workable approach to ensure that development keeps the best interest of marine life and habitat in mind while also tending to the needs of people.”

. November 13, 2007 at 12:08 pm

FISHERIES: As bluefin tuna supplies fall, diners eat more

Sushi diners in China, Europe and the United States are eating more bluefin tuna than ever before despite the fact that consumers in Japan are denied access to the favored fish following years of overfishing.

Bluefin tuna are fished to the brink of extinction in some areas because they produce the most succulent sashimi-grade flesh, which is eaten raw either as sushi or on its own as sashimi.

Wholesale tuna prices, up about 20 percent in the past year, are so high at the moment that Japanese restaurant owners say they cannot pass on the full cost to customers.

For the next four years Japan’s annual fishing quota has been slashed in half for southern bluefin tuna, and its quota for Atlantic bluefin also was cut by almost one quarter.

But in the United States, which is the second-largest market for fresh tuna, imports have continued to rise this year. That, in turn, is driving up demand and prices. It is also putting added pressure on tuna stocks that were overfished for decades

. January 22, 2008 at 11:07 am

There are no economic reasons to subsidize a fishing fleet. None. The only economic rationale for subsidies is the existence of positive externalities generated by the market outcome. A positive externality exists when a 3rd party, someone not involved in the transaction, gains from the transaction. Some (e.g., me) argue that public education generates positive externalities in the form of reduced crime, technological improvement, and etc (note: there is no self-interest involved in this argument).

I see no way that the rest of society benefits from my seared tuna consumption. I also expanded my analysis to crusted grouper with some sort of sauce, grilled shrimp on a salad, fried dolphin sandwich (lunch) and (nod to Tim) steamed crabs. Finally, I investigated the fried seafood platter: oysters, shrimp, soft-shell crab and whitefish. Unless you enjoy watching me eat this dishes, there are no positive externalities generated.*

In fact, the economic model of the fishery says to tax fishing effort or implement other policies to reduce fish catch. A tax is the antonym of a subsidy. So, those silly Europeans, much like George Costanza, are doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing.

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