Weekly Fish Reports

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

Pirate ship scuttled off the coast of West Africa

April 12, 2015

In a remarkable follow up to recent stories of fish pirates and slavery at sea, more than 300 slave fishermen were set free in Indonesia, and a notorious pirate ship was intentionally sunk by its crew to avoid prosecution this past week.

An amazing adventure came to a dramatic end last Monday: The captain of a rogue fishing vessel that had been tailed by activists for more than three months apparently sank his ship off West Africa rather than face arrest with a load of illegally caught fish.

The Law of the Sea Convention recently ruled that flag states would from now on be held responsible for the illegal fishing carried out by their ships. Until now, flag states have not been held responsible for the damages, financial or environmental, wrought by boats fishing illegally. The F/V Thunder, which has changed names more than a dozen times over its decade long career as a toothfish poacher (aka Chilean Sea Bass), was registered in Lagos, Nigeria—except that last week, the Nigerian authorities delisted it, which made it a stateless, officially pirate vessel for the last few days of its life.

Siddharth Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd Group, said that the captain of the rogue ship Thunder, a Chilean, had told him that it sank because it had suffered a collision, an unlikely story. “We had crew on their boat and they noticed that all the doors had been tied open, which is the opposite of what you do if you’re taking on water after a collision,” he said. “Then the officers had neatly packed bags, so I have no doubt this was a planned, very intentional scuttling designed to remove evidence,” Chakravarty said. “The crew of the Thunder, including the officers, were cheering and chanting from the life rafts as it sank.”

The same trawlers that had enslaved countless migrant fishermen for years carried more than 300 of them to freedom last Saturday, following a dramatic rescue from a remote Indonesian island that many men believed would likely be their final resting place. "I'm so happy, I wanted to go home for so long," said Aung Aung, 26, who lifted his hair on the left side of his head to show a fat, jagged scar stretching from his lip to the back of his neck — the result of a machete attack by his captain's son. "I missed home and especially after I was cut ... I was afraid I would die there."

The Burmese men were among hundreds of migrant workers revealed in an Associated Press investigation to have been lured or tricked into leaving their countries to go to Thailand, where they were put on boats and brought to Indonesia. From there, they were forced to catch seafood that was shipped back to Thailand and exported to consumers around the world, including the United States.

F/V Thunder sinks 
Photo by Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd Global


This photo released on April 8 by Indonesia’s Ministry of Fishery show hundreds of rescued foreign fishermen, who were gathered during an operation at Pusaka Benjina Resources.
(Ugeng Nugroho/Ministry of Fishery/AFP)


Gulf of Mexico fishermen are threatened by a daily wave of foreign illegal fishing vessels and they are calling on Congress to take action. "Illegal fishing is a direct threat to the livelihoods of thousands of hardworking Americans along the Gulf coast and we must do more to protect our coastal economies, our coastal businesses, and our fishermen," said Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) near Madiera Beach, FL last week.

In NY they call them porgies. In Boston they call them scup. Call them what you will, they are a delicious, abundant and underloved species. Our fishermen friends in Point Judith, RI spoke with NPR about building a better market for scup (closer to Boston), and we could not agree more.

Last week Forbes published an interesting follow up to Oceana’s fish fraud report describing the concept of incorporating language specifically prohibiting seafood fraud into international trade treaties, while Food & Water Watch called on the FDA to declare GMO Salmon Unsafe to Eat.

Before joining the Sea to Table team, Jacob Tupper was a salmon fisherman in Sitka, AK. In a recently discovered video, Jacob describes why the Coho salmon that Sea to Table delivers stands above the rest. Pretty impressive stuff.

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


The Blue Crab Blues

April 5, 2015

One of the most delicious ways to enjoy the fruits of the Chesapeake is by eating a Maryland crab cake. The iconic blue crab is the official Maryland state crustacean and prized catch, supporting the livelihoods of local watermen.

Unfortunately, Oceana’s new seafood fraud investigation has found that even Maryland’s favorite seafood dish is not safe from a bait and switch. When diners are expecting the fresh, distinctive flavor of the Chesapeake blue crab, they may instead be served a completely different species. Oceana’s new report found that at least 38% percent of the crab cakes sold as locally sourced blue crab instead were imported species, most of which are fished unsustainably.

One surprising find from this investigation is that 90% of all Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)  the US imports are from the countries of Indonesia, China, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, places where the Callinectes species is not found, and are actually Indo-Pacific Portunus pelagicus crabs. “Without traceability that tracks seafood from the fishing boat to the final consumer, this type of fraud will continue to occur,” Oceana said in the report. “Requiring more transparency and full chain traceability will help to ensure that all seafood sold in the United States is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.”

Our friend Steve Vilnit, head of Maryland’s “True Blue” program, said results of the latest study are “definitely disappointing.” He relies on restaurants to submit receipts to show that they are buying local crab. Now, he’s looking into a DNA testing machine. Trust but verify.

Chesapeake waterman Norman Gowes has been trot-lining blue crab for 53 years

Food And Wine Best New Chef 2015 finalist Alex Figura of Lower48 in Denver CO's dish of skate wing landed by the F/V Shamrock in New Bedford, MA


A senior Chinese official has vowed to “break the long-established monopoly of developed countries” and make China the world’s top fisher of the high seas. China, according to Yu Kangzhen, China’s vice minister for agriculture with responsibility for fisheries, has increased its catch four-fold since 2000. Remarkably, in the past 30 years, China has increased the scale of its long-distance fishing 300-fold. Control of high seas fishing resources will be central to China’s future as a seafood “great power,” said vice minister Yu. However, some of his calculations will raise eyebrows with conservationists: he told a Beijing forum that there are enough wild seafood resources in global seas to satisfy the protein needs of 30 billion people; also, the Antarctic can yield 100 million tons of krill per year – the equivalent of the entire current global wild seafood catch.

According to the UN, the U.S. eats about 7.5 million tons of fish per year. Japan, which has about a third the population, eats 7.3 million tons. That sounds like an overwhelming quantity—until you realize that China eats a whopping 50 million tons per year. China eats more fish protein than the next 10 countries combined. Nothing more clearly defines the interdependency of all the peoples on earth than their common interest in the health of our oceans. It is critical to all that the world’s fishing nations are engaged in promoting scientific fisheries management.

A heartfelt shout out to Chef Katie Button of Cúrate, and Nightbell in Asheville, NC, Chefs Michael Fojtasek & Grae Nonas of Olamaie, Austin, TX, Chef Paul Bergland of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, MN, Chef Philip Krajeck of Rolf and Daughters in Nashville, TN, and Chef Alex Figura of Lower48 Kitchen in Denver, CO. It gives us great pride that these Food and Wine Best New Chefs 2015 all prepare and serve their guests fish caught by our fishermen. Our fishermen love it too.

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


Seafood Slavery

March 29, 2015

Next time you are in the grocery store and you see a can of tuna on sale for $1.29, consider the concept of  a fisherman receiving nothing for his work, and the tuna being harvested with a wanton disregard for the health of the fish stock. The problems with worldwide tuna management are long standing and well known, but the revelation that Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons, and Sysco are selling tuna from fishing vessels manned by slave labor is a shocking story that exploded internationally this week.

These are not isolated incidents. We have spoken before of such horrors, but maybe a wave of public awareness can begin to make a difference. Vice reported this week on rampant slavery on Burmese shrimp farms. The NY Times Roger Cohen described conditions on catfish farms in Vietnam. A very concerning story has emerged about krill, the small crustacean that supports the entire food chain of the Southern Oceans being used for fish farm feed.  China currently harvests about 32,000 metric tons of krill annually from Antarctica’s waters, topped only by Norway and South Korea. Under China’s plans, detailed in the state-run China Daily, the world’s most populous country would increase those catches 30 to 60 times, harvesting up to 2 million metric tons yearly.

As countries around the globe begin to realize that healthy sustainable wild fisheries are to the advantage of all people and governments, we may be able to start to see international cooperation. Maybe we could be reaching a tipping point where a spotlight on these issues could begin real change.

Bun Lai's unique invasive species sushi
Ipswich Razor Clams from Cape Cod at Vermont's Duo Restaurant, prepared by Chef Andrew Hunter with preserved lemon and bacon.

Our most creative friend Chef Bun Lai highlighted the Feeding the Future event at Connecticut College serving sushi made from Wild Silver Salmon from Sitka, AK and invasive Wild Blue Catfish from the Chesapeake. And this week students at Bard College in NY’s Hudson Valley feasted on Acadian Redfish tacos. Now if springtime would only come……….

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

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