Weekly Fish Reports

Sea to Table's Weekly Fish Report provides weekly information on landings and species availability from each of our partner fisheries.

Big Fish Ideas

October 26, 2014

A new study by Arizona State University researchers examines the persistence of antibiotics in farmed fish. The study looked at the most consumed seafood species in the US and found the presence of five antibiotics. The results showed oxytetracycline in farmed tilapia, salmon and trout, 4-epioxytetracycline in farmed salmon, sulfadimethoxine in farmed shrimp, ormetoprim in farmed salmon and virginiamycin in farmed salmon that had been marketed as antibiotic-free, and that there is evidence that farmed salmon and other farmed fish deliver concentrated doses of POPs (persistent organic pollutants) such as PCBs, dioxin and DDT. This reaffirms the fact that while aquaculture in many instances is improving, it is built on the same paradigm as industrial meat production with the same dramatic problems. These issues are most prevalent outside the US, where over 90% of all the seafood Americans eat originates.

Food First published an article this week asking the question ‘What is the real cost of the shrimp we consume?’ The expansion of shrimp aquaculture—fueling and fueled by booming markets for cheap seafood —has long been recognized as an ecological disaster for producer countries. The massive adoption of shrimp aquaculture has laid waste to ecologically sensitive zones—contributing to the destruction of coastal mangrove forests, the loss of local biodiversity, slave labor, and rampant pollution through the discharge of shrimp pond effluents into local ecosystems. Moreover, concerns about the risks associated with the massive use of antibiotics and chemicals in shrimp farming have raised concerns about the health impacts of consuming imported shrimp.

Unloading the F/V Teeha Marie last Wednesday in Tarpon Springs, Florida
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro, in cooperation with a People’s Republic of China Fisheries Law Enforcement Command officer, seizes a Chinese fishing vessel suspected of illegal high-seas drift-net fishing 460 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan.

With rising worldwide demand for seafood, some argue that we need to accept some of aquaculture's shortcomings. But we think that with increasing focus on international fisheries management, the ocean is far smarter than man at manufacturing fish. A proposal by Crow White and Christopher Costello, two University of California research scientists, advocates a stunning idea to reverse the trend: close the high seas to fishing altogether.

White and Costello, found that such a policy could actually provide a triple-bottom-line benefit, increasing not only global stocks of high-value species, but also fisheries harvests and profits from them. The idea is that closing the high seas to fishing would allow fish populations to rebuild, and because the fish migrate, it would also generate a “spillover effect” as some fish from protected international waters find their way into the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of each nation, where they could be harvested.

Using computer models, the investigators “found that closing the high seas could more than double both populations of key species and fisheries profit levels, while increasing fisheries yields by more than 30 percent. From a policy perspective, the results are incredibly important because they indicate a win-win-win—food, profit, conservation—scenario from closing the high seas; further, even though the main study focus was on the profitability of fisheries, this policy would represent possibly the largest conservation benefit ever enacted in the world’s oceans.”

That is a big fish idea.

All the best,
from the Dimins and the Sea to Table team


Sustainable Skate

October 19, 2014

In a success story for U.S. fishery management, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has changed the rating for Atlantic trawl-caught winter skate from Avoid (red) to Good Alternative. After a decline in the 1990s, the winter skate stock has increased significantly and is now above the targeted level used to determine the health and abundance of the population. This is great news for challenged New England fishermen.

More encouraging news as the United States has declared almost 500,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean as the largest marine reserve in the world, completely off limits to commercial resource extraction including commercial fishing. This reminds us of the vastness of the oceans, and how very little we actually know about them. The mysteries of the deep were visited last month as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explored the deep-sea ecosystems off the U.S. Atlantic Coast with its ship Okeanos Explorer, returning with fantastic photos of many rarely seen creatures.

In another sign of warming seas, the UK Guardian reported an estimated 35,000 walruses spotted on a barrier island in north-western Alaska on 27 September by scientists on an aerial survey flight as summer sea ice continues to fall. “Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore,” said Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the US Geological Survey. Until 2007, it was unheard of for walruses to leave the sea ice for dry land for prolonged periods of time. But the retreat of sea ice has seen “drastic changes” in behavior, Jay said. 

Estimated 35,000 walrus near Point Lay, Alaska  Photograph: Corey Accardo/AP
Captain Mike Fox landing the season's first stone crab claws in Tarpon Springs, FL

Near Beaufort, NC our fishermen are landing summer flounder inshore by pound-net, as seen in this video. And across Core Sound at Cape Lookout this amazing video shows a massive school of sharks feasting on bluefish right on the beach.

Stone crab season opened this week in Florida with some good landings. This is an inherently sustainable fishery, as the crabs found in traps have one (so delicious) claw broken off, with the crabs returned to the water where they re-grow their claw in about nine months. Stone crabbers up and down the west coast of Florida have blamed the last two poor seasons on marauding packs of octopus who allegedly have figured out how to open crab pots and remove the precious content.  Stone crab lovers everywhere hope this is only a myth. 

All the best,
from the Dimins and the Sea to Table team


Catfish and Dogfish

October 12, 2014

When wild blue catfish were introduced into three Virginia rivers in the 1970s as a game fish, no one foresaw that the catfish would acclimate so well. Having vacuumed their way through local flora and fauna — even some precious Maryland blue crabs — they now outnumber other fish 3-1 in bay tributaries, having become the dominant fish species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Now considered an invasive, our friend Steve Vilnit of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources says catching and consuming them is the best way to reduce the fish’s population.  “Developing a market through which food service helps to decrease populations of invasive species is an important tool in the battle against this threat to the natural ecosystem,” said Vilnit.

Thankfully wild blue catfish has a mild, sweet flavor, and because it is not exclusively a bottom-dweller, the taste is clean and delicate. The abundant fish are easy to capture, the nets and traps used when fishing have almost no by-catch, and fishermen can make money while offering catfish at an attractive price. Wild blue catfish from the Chesapeake have earned a green rating from Seafood Choices of the Blue Ocean Institute.

Chesapeake Bay Wild Blue Catfish     courtesy Virginia Sea Grant
Atlantic Spiny Dogfish landing in Cape Cod at the dock in Chatham MA

Another underloved species is the Atlantic spiny dogfish. New England fishermen tell us that you can’t drop a line into George’s Bank without finding a dogfish on the hook.

According to NOAA catch and landing figures, spiny dogfish remain abundant and healthy. In Massachusetts, the Division of Marine Fisheries considers the dogfish stock near an all-time high in abundance and health, and the Marine Stewardship Council has certified the fishery sustainable. With Atlantic cod populations dwindling, east coast fishermen need to find other species to support their communities.

Up until now there has been virtually no domestic market for dogfish, with almost the entire catch being sent to Europe. In fact, the Europeans fiend for dogfish so much, they depleted their native populations years ago. In the UK, it’s known as “rock salmon,” and is used widely for fish and chips. Germans call it “sea eel,” while the French gobble it up as saumonette, or little salmon.

“The flavor of really fresh dogfish that’s been properly butchered and packaged is tremendously delicious” reports our friend Evan Mallett, chef and owner of Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, NH.

We think telling these stories and utilizing these abundant, delicious, healthy, and inexpensive fish is a great way to serve fishermen, fishing communities, chefs, and diners alike.

All the best,
from the Dimins and the Sea to Table team

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