Weekly Fish Reports

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

One Name, One Fish

July 26, 2015

Seafood is the most valuable and highly traded food commodity in the world. Sensible, science-based management of commercial fishing is vital to ensure the health of ocean habitats and fisheries. But the strong fisheries management framework being built in the United States is being undermined by illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Seafood fraud encompasses any illegal activity that misrepresents the seafood you purchase. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing operates outside of international and domestic rules and laws. The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing and Seafood Fraud is poised to make important decisions that will enhance sustainability, protect honest fishermen and seafood businesses, and ensure that consumers are protected from economic fraud and food with health risks. Oceana came out with a report this week suggesting one simple step the federal government can take, requiring the use of species specific names, or one name for one fish, throughout the seafood supply chain, from the fishing boat to the dinner plate.

For documentation requirements and traceability, or tracking the fish through the supply chain, the Latin scientific name is universally recognized regardless of language and is already used on many regulatory documents around the world, providing a unique identifier for every species. For consumers, the common name or scientific name would provide more information about their fish choices. Using one name for one fish prevents ambiguity, whether intentional or unintentional, about the exact type of fish being sold or served. The tendency to use ambiguous names for seafood sold in the U.S. can lead to confusion and undesired consequences. Without requiring species-specific naming, seafood loses its identity through the supply chain. Species-specific names can also help consumers who would like to support local domestic fisheries but are not supplied with the information to do so, and it would be easier to prevent and deter seafood fraud.

F/V South Bay out of Morro Bay, CA
       photo Corey Arnold

Wellfleet, MA littlenecks and razorclams seved with guanciale, fregola di sarda, and spigarello by Chef Bruce Kalman at Union Restaurant in Pasadena, CA

Considering the fact that over 90% of all seafood consumed in the US comes from outside the US, along with lack of traceability in the opaque seafood supply chain, the seafood you eat may be connected to slavery. Fishing operators in over 50 countries around the world are crewing ships through human trafficking networks – using "debt bondage, violence, intimidation and murder to keep crews in line and maintain cheap seafood," according to one of many recent reports exposing this exploitation.

A year-long Associated Press investigation into pervasive labor abuses in Southeast Asia's fishing industry has found more than 800 current and former slaves rescued or repatriated. Thailand's booming seafood business alone runs on an estimated 200,000 migrant workers, many of them forced onto boats after being tricked, kidnapped or sold. It's a brutal trade that has operated for decades, with companies relying on slaves to supply fish to the United States, Europe and Japan.

The UK Guardian has established that Rohingya migrants trafficked through deadly jungle camps have been sold to Thai fishing vessels as slaves to produce seafood sold across the world. So profitable is the trade in slaves that some local fishermen in Thailand have been converting their boats to carry Rohingya migrants instead of fish. According to those sold from the camps on to the boats, this was frequently done with the knowledge and complicity of some Thai state officials. In some cases, Rohingya migrants held in immigration detention centers in Thailand were taken by staff to brokers and then sold on to Thai fishing boats.

There is really only one way to stop this madness; know where your seafood comes from and choose traceable, sustainable wild seafood from traditional US fishing communities.

Our new friend Rob Seitz of Morro Bay, CA is both a commercial fisherman and published poet. One of his poems, “Giving Thanks,” appreciates ling cod for growing his “…children’s muscles and minds stronger and keener….”. Rob also agrees that while being blessed with some of the world’s best fisheries, Americans often don’t appreciate them.

All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team


Good News and Bad

July 19, 2015

“My favorite saying about Bristol Bay is ‘Gee, I have never seen that before’,” quote the lifelong sockeye fisherman. After a very disappointing early harvest, sockeye have been returning in massive numbers. Landings last week broke records on five days, bringing the total sockeye catch to nearly 30 million fish in an unusually late run -- and the reds were still coming. The early landings were smaller fish, while the late boom fish are larger. Meanwhile the Alaska Supreme Court ruled this week that the Save Our Salmon initiative to stop Pebble Mine was in violation of state law. We hope this is but a small victory in a losing battle for the proposed operators of the world’s largest open pit mine.

America has a gift like the Bristol Bay salmon run, one of the great wonders of the world, yet more than 90% of all seafood consumed in the United States comes from outside the US, and most of the wild salmon harvested in Alaska ends up shipped overseas.  Our food system is broken in many ways, and it is up to us to fix it.

2014 has been officially declared the hottest year on average ever recorded. Rapid changes are occurring and the most northern Arctic waters are becoming accessible for the first time in more than 800,000 years as sea ice melts with the onset of global warming. Some scientists predict the Arctic will be ice-free before mid-century, opening the sea to an influx of ships from distant ports – and the accompanying potential for illegal and unregulated fishing. In another sign of improving international ocean cooperation, Canadian officials will join their counterparts from the United States, Denmark, Norway and Russia in Oslo next week for the anticipated signing of an agreement to block their own ships from dropping their nets in the central Arctic Ocean until the completion of a full scientific assessment of the fish stocks and how they can be sustainably harvested.

Lifelong Sockeye fisherman Grahame Nicholson near Nanek on Alaska's Bristol Bay

Underloved fish tacos served at NYC's new hit Seamore's

The home meal kit delivery business is growing by leaps and bounds, and we applaud our friends at Plated for the great work they are doing. “Did you know that 90 percent of the seafood sold in the United States is imported?” asked Plated founder Nick Taranto. “It’s usually farmed using a bunch of chemicals, and I don’t want to eat that crap, and neither do millions of other Americans.” And a shout out to our friend Meatball Shop co-founder Michael Chernow who just opened Seamore’s, an homage to his Montauk fish shack roots. Serving all underloved species at modest price points, Seamore’s is looking like a big hit right out of the gate. Glad to be part of some really good ideas.

All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team


Smart Catch

July 12, 2015

An innovative pilot program aimed at helping restaurants to serve more sustainable seafood is launching this month in Seattle. Funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Smart Catch is certifying restaurants that commit to serving sustainable fish. To earn Smart Catch approval, restaurants will have to serve or be on their way to serving 90 percent sustainable fish. This program, developed by our cohorts at Future of Fish, aims to make it easier for diners to “choose with their fork”, and help chefs benefit from “doing the right thing”. Sea to Table thinks this a great idea and hope, with the pilot’s success, to help implement it nationwide.

Mother Nature is proving unpredictable as ever as the highly anticipated Bristol Bay boom sockeye salmon run has so far been a bust. Instead of a twenty year high, the harvest has been below the five year average.  Even with a late surge, disappointing numbers are now expected.

We all are aware of the great health benefits of eating seafood, but Americans on average annually consume only 14 pounds of seafood while eating more than 50 pounds of beef, 50 pounds of pork, and 80 pounds of chicken. And 13 of those pounds are either shrimp, farmed salmon, canned tuna, or a generic whitefish, with over 90% coming from outside the United States. Our domestic waters offer hundreds of abundant, sustainable, and delicious “underloved” species. Makes no sense. For the health of our bodies, our pocketbooks, our planet, our fisheries, and the people of our traditional fishing communities on all of our coasts, we should all love more seafood species.

Underloved Wild Blue Catfish was a big hit at the American Culinary Federation Competition at Skidmore College

Americans eat on average only 14 pounds of seafood a year, almost all imported

When the National Park Service was proposed, “it was a really crazy notion,” said Jane Lubchenco, prominent marine scientist and former administrator of NOAA, to an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “It was so far from people’s thinking that wilderness was important to protect in and of itself.” This is how we should be thinking globally about the oceans today. Cooperation among nations over marine management is growing, and the concept of limiting fishing in international waters is gaining traction. Even some seemingly insurmountable problems show glimmers of hope. As man continues to dump up to 14 million tons of plastic into the oceans each year, scientists have now observed zooplankton actually eating plastic. So much to eat.

All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team

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