I was recently interviewed for an article for the new Granville magazine here in Vancouver (I enjoyed the experience and odd coincidence that I was also born and raised in Granville, Ohio). The author, Isabelle Groc, did a great job exploring the complications of sustainable seafood in an information era. She touches on the fact that sustainable seafood is currently only for yuppies (a waitress she quries about sustainable seafood tells Groc she might have better luck "at the more fancy restaurants") and that seafood is wildlife (a chef she interviews says, "[Salmon are] not like cattle. It is both the beauty and the conundrum that they are wild."). My own appearance in the article:
To Jennifer Jacquet, a researcher with the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia, North American consumers' choices do not even make a significant difference in saving the ocean environment as the future growth in seafood demand lies in markets such as Asia, which are typically unresponsive to seafood awareness campaigns. "Vancouver consumers can feel less guilty about their own individual impacts but they can't mobilize change on the water," she says. Jacquet and others suggest that conservation groups should focus their efforts on lobbying the government to ban unsustainable fishing and pushing for better labelling standards and improved seafood traceability.
One campaign I've fallen for recently is from Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR)--a B.C.-based NGO, who last week floated in San Francisco Bay with this big banner condemning Safeway's sale of farmed salmon. As seafood has become more global, so have campaigns to stop destructive practices. More than 85% of salmon farmed in British Columbia is sold to U.S. markets, with the majority landing in California. Just after Halloween, Living Oceans held protests at Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg Safeway stores dressed in costumes to convey it was the "Day of the Dead" for wild salmon who have to compete now with floating factory farms.
Correction (Nov. 19): The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) sponsored the Safeway campaign, which includes the Living Oceans Society, but also the David Suzuki Foundation and seven other groups, including a First Nations Tribal Council from the Broughton Archipelago.
Is that really her name, Groc? Is she a fan of Stranger in a Strange Land? Could she even grok such a novel?
I would like to point out that, in fact, the seafood choices we make here in North America do affect what happens in the Asia seafood markets, very much so.
In 2006 in the U.S. alone, the states imported 5.4 billion pounds of edible fishery products, valued at $13.4 billion. A full 57% of those imports were from Asia, with 21% from China and another 15% from Thailand. More than half of what seafood we consume in the United States comes from Asia. If we don't make thoughtful seafood choices here, we cannot send a strong message back to Asian farmers and fisheries managers about the importance of considering feed, filtering effluence, escapes and overcrowding on the one hand (fish farming), and fishing gear, by-catch (the unintended fish that get caught but not consumed) and over-fishing on the other hand (wild fisheries).
The seafood choices we make in North America make a BIG difference.
The statistics provided above are from Fisheries of the United States 2006, a publication of NOAA.
Please visit www.seafoodchoices.org for even more good information about seafood and sustainability. Thank you,
Thanks for writing. While I believe North American and European consumers are capable of sending signals in the market place that they would prefer sustainable fish, I do not believe this will make a difference on the water. Part of my reason has to do with the fact that growth in seafood is occurring in places where sustainable seafood is the least of concerns, such as Asia. The Asian market has not responded greatly to our demands because 1) there is no price premium evident for sustainable fish 2) there is so little scrutiny by the government by what/how things are caught that, if there was a price premium, exporters could simply lie to obtain it.
A good example of this is Thai shrimp. The EU decided they did not like the way Thailand was shrimp farming, so Thai shrimp farmers simply labeled their shrimp as wild. Then, the EU decided they would boycott all Thai shrimp, so Thailand just sent its shrimp to Malaysia where it was re-exported as Malaysian shrimp. I have more about such cases of market failure in this article in the Tyee as well as in this peer-reviewed paper in Marine Policy.