Passionfish launches “The Kitchen Aquatic” ™ multi-media series

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P’fishers, we’re creating a new TV series called “The Kitchen Aquatic“(tm) featuring adventures in seafood cookery, spiced up with tales of ocean and seafood sustainability in action! The “fun with friends” book we’ve been developing, Ocean Tapas, will spawn from “The Kitchen Aquatic”, among other creative properties in the works.
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Inquire about fundraising opportunities by contacting us:
carl “at” passionfish “dot” org, patti “at” passionfish “dot” org, andrew “at” passionfish “dot” org
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Confused about Omega 3s? Read on and ask questions of our food and nutrition expert.

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We at Passionfish are not nutrition scientists but we have heard from the medical establishment for years now that essential fatty acids (EFAs) can help stave off illness and disease.
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I have posed some questions to Christopher Speed. Please read his answers carefully and take heed– or ask more questions below in our comments section. Chris founded Minami Nutrition USA, where he launched a unique supercritical CO2 extracted omega-3 supplement. He has a Master of Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Sydney, continues his academic work as an Associate Editor of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention and is an adjunct Lecturer at New York University Nutrition School.
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Chris was the food and nutrition strategist for Oldways Preservation and Exchange, where he helped increase awareness of the healthfulness of a number of traditional eating patterns which ranged from Asian to Mediterranean diets.
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Christopher Speed


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Chris was the first Global Director of Food and Nutrition Sciences at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, where he provided counsel to many food brands, raw ingredient manufacturers and prepared food/quick service restaurants so that they may best navigate the ever-changing nutrition landscape.
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My questions to Chris and his answers are below. Also, to long-time P’fish supporters, you will remember Chris as he was a very engaging panelist at our first multi-stakeholder forum held in San Diego in 2003.
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QUESTION: Tell me about essential fatty acids (EFAs). What are these compounds, where are they found, and why are they considered essential?
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ANSWER: Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats required by all mammals deriving from food. Like vitamins, these are not produced within the body, and must come from the diet. There are omega-6 and omega-3 types of essential fatty acids that compete with each other when metabolized and produce hormones that affect nearly every cell and tissue in the body [1]. The amount eaten of these fats in our diet determines the proportions of them in our body.
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During human evolution there was always abundance in seafood and plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids with very little dietary contribution from omega-6 fatty acids. In modern times the opposite is true, with a higher contribution of energy coming from omega-6 than omega-3, because industrialized agriculture has produced foods that contain higher amounts of omega-6 fat (2-5) with fewer consumers opting for seafood and plant based omega-3’s. This essential fatty acid “imbalance” between omega 6 and omega-3’s is thought to underpin diverse chronic diseases and disorders [6-8].
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QUESTION: EFAs are found in plants and animals. Are there any known differences on human health when EFAs of different origin are added to one’s diet? Pros and cons of flax vs. fish oil, for example.
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ANSWER: Both plant and seafood based EFAs support health and wellness. Plant based omega-3 are called ALA (alpha linoleic acid), whereas seafood omega 3’s are called EPA (eicosapaentanoic acid) and DHA (docosapaentanoic acid). ALA is the essential fatty acid the body can’t make so you need it from food, and the body can then convert ALA to EPA to DHA or you can simply consume preformed EPA and DHA from whole seafood and supplemental sources (9,10).
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QUESTION: The amount of EFAs found in animals varies based on their diet. Is it uniformly true that grass-fed and wild animals have higher levels of omega-3’s than those that are grain-fed?
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ANSWER: Soybean/corn/grain fed animals are likely to have very different fatty acid proportions than do grass-fed animals. The general rule of thumb is that grass-fed meat will most probably have lower levels of omega-6 in their tissue. Chicken and other poultry contain the highest amounts of omega-6 as they tend to produce omega-6 in their own tissue regardless of what they are fed. (11)
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QUESTION: EFA fish oil supplements indicate that their source of omegas may come from cod liver, mixed fish, salmon, etc. Is there significance to the species of fish from which EFAs are extracted?
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ANSWER: Fish like mackerel, herring, anchovies, tuna and salmon are typically higher in the two important marine omega-3’s EPA and DHA than do most other fish. Pollock, krill, squid and algae are new to the omega-3 arena and offer interesting options for the consumer. (12-14)
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QUESTION: EFAs are concentrated and cleaned using various mechanical, molecular, and chemical mechanisms. What bearing does the method of processing and purification of EFAs have?
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ANSWER: The two most common methods of processing and purifying EFAs are via molecular distillation and supercritical CO2 extract. If the manufacturers follow Good Manufacturing Practices, then there is no difference in purity and quality of their oils. (12-15)
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QUESTION: EFA supplements can be found in triglyceride or ethyl ester form, packaged as a liquid, in capsules, and with enteric coatings. What differences in absorption exist between ingestion of these different molecular and physical forms?
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ANSWER: Throughout the fish oil industry, bold marketing statements are being made about the superiority of various marine sources used, such as salmon, cod or anchovy krill because they contain a specific form of omega-3 being used (such as an ethyl ester or triglyceride form). It doesn’t require that much research to conclude that the proof used to support many of these statements is pseudoscience. Very few of these organizations are supporting their aggressive marketing messages with published, clinically proven, peer reviewed research, that has had its methodology and findings critiqued by experts in the field (16). For this reason, independent experts conclude that:
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• at the current time, there is a lack of credible evidence which supports the assertion that the triglyceride form of omega-3 fish oil is, in any clinically significant way, more advantageous or beneficial than the ethyl ester form
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• marketing claims being made about the superiority of the triglyceride form are misleading (particularly as it relates to absorption, utilization, and stability)
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• measurements of absorption and bioavailability of omega-3’s only prevents us from focusing on the critical issue – their clinical outcome in regards to impact on health or health conditions.
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• both ethyl ester or triglyceride forms are both efficacious forms of omega-3 for the general population.
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QUESTION: Advice on when, how much, and at what age EFA supplements should be taken varies. Can you clarify recommended dosage rates, frequency, and whether consuming with food or water is important?
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ANSWER: In reality the best time to consume omega-3 supplements is when you can remember to do so daily and to make it a part of your routine. Omega-3 benefits don’t lie in when you take them, but whether you take them at all and continue to do so throughout your lifetime, because their positive effects take months to years to take full effect. A recent consensus concluded that most Americans need to consume 1,000mg of EPA and DHA per day. It was also agreed that in order to take away the full benefits from omega-3, consumers should be vigilant to lower their current omega-6 intake to optimize tissue levels of omega-3 and reduce the pro-inflammatory effect of omega-6. (17)
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QUESTION: The idea that there is a healthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs in the diet is debated among experts. What is the status of the science regarding EFA ratios and how do we find out our Omega blood balance?
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ANSWER: At the turn of the recent millennium industrialized agriculture has produced a single food source, soybean oil, that now delivers 20% of all calories in the typical US diet – contributing 9% of all calories from omega-6 fat, alone (2-5). As a result, this unintended omega-3 and omega-6 imbalance drives hormone effects on nearly every cell and tissue in the human body and influence many aspects of human physiology and pathology (18). Increasingly, science is determining that pro-inflammatory hormones produced from such a high amount of omega-6’s is not safe.
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One study has indicated that greater intakes of an omega-6 from 1960 to 1999 in five countries predicted a 100-fold greater risk of homicide mortality (19). “The increases in world omega-6 consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression, and cardiovascular mortality” (19). The list of health problems related to omega-3 deficits with elevated omega-6 has grown to include atherosclerosis, thrombosis (20), arrhythmia, heart attacks, stroke, immune-inflammatory disorders, asthma, arthritis, cancer proliferation (21), obesity (22), psychiatric disorders, depression, suicide, homicide (23,24), oppositional behavior, unproductive workplace behaviors, length of stay in hospitals (25) and annual healthcare claim costs (26,27).
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It is now increasingly understood that actively lowering omega-6 intake must be carefully considered and that alternatives to soybean variants are sought. Additionally increasing omega-3’s among the population through greater seafood intake /supplement usage is important. The worldwide fisheries and aquaculture industries can help increase tissue concentrations of omega-3 on a population level to substantially decrease health care costs by reducing the illnesses that account for the largest burden of disease worldwide.
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QUESTION: The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that 62% of Americans own a pet. Are there health benefits or drawbacks to feeding EFA supplements to domestic dogs, cats, fish, birds, equine, reptiles, and small animals?
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ANSWER: Mammals in particular benefit from omega-3 supplementation. Other species have differing requirements for essential fatty acids and veterinarian support must be sought for each.
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QUESTION: The sustainability of wild fish stocks is a growing global concern. How can one rest assured that fish oil supplement production isn’t contributing to collapse of wild fisheries?
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ANSWER: One way is to become an informed consumer and to make each fish oil supplement manufacturer accountable to sustainability concerns. The Marine Stewardship Council provides an on-pack “trust mark” for companies that wish to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices. This is a great way to support the choices of people when they buy fish oil based supplements/seafood as you are assured that your brand is working with partners that transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis (28).
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Thank you, Chris!
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Well, P’fish fans, you can see that Chris has provided essential fatty acids for thought. Since he provided references, I am going to place them in the comments section below. After spending the past decade or so on the issue of ocean and seafood sustainability, which includes our own human health as an important consideration, this topic of omegas is of great interest to me and others.
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I am about to take a blood test that measures my ratio of omega 3s vs omega 6s. I will report back here on the results ASAP.
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Please pose questions in our comments section for Chris as I know that health and nutrition are among your top concerns.
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Patti

SweetSpring Salmon: Freshwater Coho to the Rescue!

P’fish’ers, the future is here. Below is an interview with Per Heggelund, Founder and President of SweetSpring Salmon, Inc. The company produces freshwater coho (silver salmon) inland in spring water. It’s delicious, it’s mild, it’s nutritious — and it meets the highest sustainability criteria. In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has listed it as “Super Green“, surpassing even its “best choice” seafood options.
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Above: Per Heggelund, Founder and President of SweetSpring Salmon. Photo by Theresa Vernetti.
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QUESTION: Many view salmon farming very negatively. What makes SweetSpring’s freshwater coho salmon sustainable?
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ANSWER: I view sustainability of our freshwater coho in the context of our long-term commitment to Pacific salmon and freshwater conservation. Our salmon conservation effort is focused on reducing harvest pressure on wild salmon stocks without disrupting their migratory paths and environment. The SweetSpring Salmon system is capable of achieving this goal because we operate land-based, self-contained freshwater facilities and we rely on a minimum of wild forage fish meat in feed.
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Similarly our freshwater conservation effort utilizes leading edge recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) and wastewater treatment to minimize water usage and waste discharge. Combined, this focus allows us to produce the best and safest alternative to Alaska wild salmon as recognized by Seafood Watch at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
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Our closed containment facilities recirculate the purest spring water, the quality of which we carefully and continuously monitor. We build our facilities and tanks far from native salmon runs and our coho cannot escape. The feed blend we’ve developed is one on which the strain of coho we’ve bred thrives. We achieve an exceptional food conversion ratio using fish meal from by-products and vegetable proteins. Also part of what we’re doing that’s unique is farming a saltwater species in freshwater. This is only possible because of years of attentive husbandry have enabled us to identify and cultivate a strain of Pacific coho salmon that thrives in the purest of our sweet-spring water.
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I think it’s worth noting that even the environmental activist organization Farmed & Dangerous has endorsed our practices and embraced the opinion of SeaChoice that “closed containment aquaculture is a solution scientists, conservationists, and citizens that want to keep wild salmon around have been asking for, for a really long time.”
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We are proud of the healthfulness of our fish and the environmental sustainability of our production. We attend to every detail, a difference you can taste.
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QUESTION: What does sustainable mean to you, in the context of fisheries?

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ANSWER: Fisheries management should strive to sustain the natural abundance of our aquatic environment and its renewable resources for future generations. This goal requires that we don’t overexploit our resources or damage their restorative underpinnings. Nature is resilient but not limitless. Human activities tend to exceed the carrying capacity of the very ecosystems that we depend on for our survival. So our negative impacts on all wildlife including fish and shellfish increase with increasing population.
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To strike a new balance in fisheries, consumers must endorse conservation by lessening their demand for wild stocks and focusing on restoring fish habitats. Freshwater coho raised in land-based facilities have the potential to help us do both.
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QUESTION: Why is freshwater grown SweetSpring coho “Super Green®”?

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ANSWER: SweetSpring coho are both good for the ocean and people. This two-part statement is reflected in our dual attainment of a “Best Choice” green rating awarded by the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Seafood Watch program and further distinguished as “Super Green®.” Being green means having:
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• Best management and regulatory practices
• High-quality, nutritious feed with low impact on marine resources
• No escapements affecting wild stocks
• No disease transfer to wild stocks
• No detrimental habitat impacts
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Being “super green” requires a focus on food safety and high health:
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• Low levels of contaminants (PCB and Hg)
• High levels of essential omega-3 fatty acids
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Of the six seafood categories that are rated by MBA as “Super Green®,” only two are salmon: SweetSpring coho and some wild-caught Alaska salmon.
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QUESTION: How significant is aquaculture to the seafood industry?
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ANSWER: Its importance is enormous and growing. Aquaculture production is the world’s fastest-growing source of animal protein. It currently provides more than half of all seafood consumed globally, according to the UNFAO (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
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Additionally, the United States faces a staggering seafood trade imbalance. Considering simply salmon, the U.S. imports annually almost $2 billion worth. Most of this is farmed in ocean net pens, but some is also Alaskan wild salmon that has been transported to China and Thailand for reprocessing and exported back to the USA.
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QUESTION: Where are SweetSpring coho raised?
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ANSWER: Presently our coho salmon are grown at three U.S.-based, state-of-the-art closed containment facilities: Our original location in southwest Washington, which taps the glacial-fed springs of Mount Rainier, and two other sites situated in north-western Montana under the watchful eye of Hutterite colonies. Others are planned across North America’s heartland and close to major metropolitan markets to minimize the environmental impacts of transportation.
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QUESTION: What do you mean when stating “complete traceability from egg to plate”?
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ANSWER: We take salmon husbandry seriously. We monitor every crop of SweetSpring coho, harvesting and processing them carefully. Each shipment is marked and traced to confirm it is properly handled en route and to ensure it arrives fresh to the consumer.
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QUESTION: How flavorful is SweetSpring salmon?
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ANSWER: SweetSpring freshwater coho (silver salmon) have a mild flavor and delicate texture. Andrew Spurgin, an award-winning chef in San Diego and nationally recognized caterer, recently put our salmon through its paces. He roasted it in salt, bincho charcoal grilled it, sautéed it, poached it in olive oil, and smoked it. It excelled on all accounts. Our farmed coho are simply wildly good!
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[note from Patti: Andrew is my Passionfish co-founder. We recently promoted SweetSpring's freshwater coho for our annual Poisson d'Avril event held in San Diego.]
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QUESTION: How healthful is SweetSpring salmon?
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ANSWER: SweetSpring freshwater coho possess high levels of essential omega-3 fatty acids and extremely low levels of contaminants such as mercury (Hg), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). SweetSpring coho are raised in pure spring water and fed a custom blend of vegetable proteins, fish by-products, fish meal and essential omega-3 fatty acids. This unique feed formulation lessens reliance on the practice of using wild forage fish in the form of fishmeal and fish oil. Our feed is free of genetically modified crops (i.e. non-genetically modified) and our coho are hormone-free.
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QUESTION: Who started the SweetSpring Salmon company?

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ANSWER: It started with AquaSeed Corporation that I founded in 1988. Last year my partners and I renamed it SweetSpring Salmon, Inc. to better match our focus on salmon and water conservation and the marketing of our Super Green coho. At SweetSpring I act as President. Our CEO is Dr. Phillip David. Phil brings a strong background in livestock genetics.
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My arrival here took a circuitous route beginning in the town of Andenes, on the remote island of Andøya, Norway. My family there dates back four generations in the seafood industry. My hometown, which is 186 miles (300 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle, has been an important fishing village since the Iron Age and was one of the largest fishing ports in Norway early in the 1900s. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to travel to New York State on a high school exchange program. I returned to the U.S. a few years later to attend the University of Washington. At the UW I earned both a master’s degree from the College of Environment, School of Fisheries’ Department of Food Science and later an MBA.
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Nearly three decades ago, I recognized that the US seafood consumer was demanding a year-around fresh supply of salmon that eventually would outstrip the limited seasonal availability that is supported by sustainable wild stocks. Thus began my pursuit of sustainable aquaculture focusing on Pacific salmon breeding combined with salmon and freshwater conservation.
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QUESTION: What is the history of SweetSpring Salmon, Incorporated?

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ANSWER: The origin of our company as AquaSeed started with a focus on Pacific salmon breeding, production and marketing of coho eyed eggs (salmon embryos) and Chinook captive broodstock. Shortly after I founded AquaSeed, we purchased Domsea coho pedigree stock from Campbell Soup Company’s Domsea Farms, Inc.
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Our Chinook program focused on conserving endangered Columbia River Spring Chinook. This program made us a national leader in private salmon conservation. AquaSeed maintained backup seed stock to assure the continued viability of unique Pacific salmon species that were struggling to survive under difficult circumstances. AquaSeed became the only private company to operate Safety Net (i.e. gene banking) programs for Pacific salmon listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and regulated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, U.S. Department of Commerce. Now as SweetSpring Salmon we are applying what we’ve learned on the job of responsibly raising Pacific salmon for human consumption. We are wild salmon conservationists as much as salmon growers.
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QUESTION: Where can I purchase SweetSpring Salmon freshwater coho?
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ANSWER: Until our production increases, SweetSpring salmon may seem more rare than hen’s teeth. If you have the chance to travel to Canada, our fish can be found in Overwaitea supermarkets throughout British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. In Seattle, Washington, Mashiko Sushi and La Spiga serve our salmon. And in California, it is carried by seafood wholesaler Royal Hawaiian Seafood and offered in fine restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as OneMarket and Fog Harbor.
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Thanks, Per!
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P’fish’ers, here’s a photo of a fillet of SweetSpring’s freshwater coho before I pan seared it last night:
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And here it is right before I scarfed it (it was absolutely DELICIOUS):
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Bering Sea Canyons: Interview with Merrick Burden, Marine Conservation Alliance

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During the next year, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will undertake a scientific review of what is known about the Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons in the Bering Sea. These immense underwater canyons cut into the edge of the vast and flat continental shelf off mainland Alaska. Zhemchug is, in fact, the largest canyon on the planet. It has two main branches and is nearly 2 miles (2.6 km) deep, 144 miles (233 km) long, and 62 miles (100 km) wide. By contrast, the Grand Canyon in northwestern Arizona is about 1 mile (1.6 km) deep, 277 miles (433 km) long, and 18 miles (28.8 km) wide. East of Zhemchug is Pribilof, a slightly smaller canyon, the edge of which is about 16 miles (25 km) south of St. George Island, the southern most of the two Pribilof Islands.
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The following discussion with Merrick Burden, Executive Director of the Marine Conservation Alliance provides helpful context. The Alaska-raised Burden comes to the Marine Conservation Alliance from an extensive fisheries background, including time on the water as well as on land, where he worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Most recently, Burden was the senior fisheries economist for the Environmental Defense Fund.
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[Editor’s note: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recently made seafloor and coastal maps easily viewable online here]
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QUESTION: Tell me about the Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons in Alaska’s Bering Sea. Why are these canyons unique ecologically?
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ANSWER: The Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons are two of sixteen submarine canyon features that exist in the Bering Sea. These immense features channel nutrient-rich water from the deep basin of the Bering Sea up the continental slope and onto the relatively shallow continental shelf. The result is an abundance of plankton which is the first link of the food chain for the region.
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QUESTION: As you’ve noted, the Bering Sea is among the most productive waters on earth. What explains this phenomenon?
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ANSWER: The productivity of the Bering Sea is the result of several interrelated phenomena. One of the largest drivers of this abundance occurs at the continental shelf break. Here, water from the deep basin upwells at the edge of the Alaska continental shelf, one of the broadest such shelf regions in the world. The infusion of nutrients in this area supports large populations of plankton which contribute to making the Bering Sea among the most productive seas on earth.
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Another main contributor is the seasonal sea ice that develops in the Bering Sea in the winter. When this ice melts, lower salinity water is introduced. The mixing of this lower salinity water also fosters plankton growth. This productivity supports some of the largest fisheries in the world, most of which have been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
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QUESTION: There is an abundance of marine life in the Bering Sea. What protections exist for bottom dwelling (i.e. benthic) and open ocean (i.e. pelagic) invertebrates and vertebrates, such as corals, sponges, fishes, sea birds, and marine mammals?
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ANSWER: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council uses a combination of tools to protect the marine life of the Bering Sea. These include area closures (a spatial management measure), gear restrictions (to limit contact with the sea floor and incidental by-catch), hard catch limits (closing fisheries when quotas are achieved), rights-based management regimes (quotas that are allocated among fisheries, i.e. “catch shares”), a ban on fishing for forage fish, and an overall “ecosystem cap” (limiting how much can be removed from the Bering Sea in total on an annual basis). Both on-board observers and technology means are employed to continuously monitor the effectiveness of these measures.
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QUESTION: Tell me about the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC). Who comprises the NPFMC, what pressures do they face to maintain or to close this area to commercial fishing, and are they free to consider all options, including a permanent marine reserve, seasonal protections, or specific catch quotas?
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ANSWER: The NPFMC is comprised of 11 voting members—including Federal representation from NOAA, state representation from the Fish and Game/Wildlife Divisions of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, and other seats filled by members of the public—and four non-voting members that help to advise the Council: the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Department of State.
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When the Council takes up the issue of Bering Sea canyons, they will likely do so under the Essential Fish Habitat provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Through that policy vehicle, the Council has a suite of tools available to it, such as the establishment of habitat conservation areas and requirements that vessels deploy certain types of gear. They can recommend research priorities for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in order to better understand these areas. They can also decide whether the status quo is acceptable. Their task is to use the best available science to determine whether existing management measures are sufficient to maintain sustainable fisheries, or whether additional measures may be necessary.
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The key question the Council will wrestle with may not be whether these canyon features are important or not, but rather how does fishing impact them and is that impact acceptable? In order to begin answering that question, a scientific review is needed to examine the current state of the science and to ensure the science can be used properly in fishery management decision-making. This science-based process is essential to arriving at sound decisions that weigh all the necessary factors in determining what level of impact is acceptable or not. It is important that everyone with a stake in this issue participate in the process and support balanced scientific investigation.
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QUESTION: The local, regional, and national economic importance of the Bering Sea’s commercial fisheries, and of these two canyons, is profound. What fishes are caught in this region, how are these species used, and how long have they been commercially fished?
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ANSWER: The Bering Sea hosts a very diverse array of marine species, including approximately 25 commercially important species. These include groundfish species (e.g. cod, flatfish, and pollock), crab species (e.g. king and snow crab), scallops, Pacific halibut, salmon, and herring.
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The economic importance of the region has been growing since the 1880s when the US first began fishing cod. Large scale harvesting operations developed in the mid-1950s when Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Soviet vessels were prevalent. In the early 1970s, the total commercial catch peaked at nearly 2.3 million tons. Management decisions have since reduced that tonnage, resulting in a sustainable harvest of between 1.5 and 2.0 million tons annually for many years. This success is something we believe should be celebrated as the type of economic benefit and resource stewardship that responsible fishery management can bring.
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QUESTION: The Bering Sea pollock, cod, halibut, flatfish, sablefish, and salmon fisheries are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner, as judged by the independent Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
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Considering that harvesting or producing any food will have both positive and negative consequences, how do US fishery managers weigh the impacts of commercial fishing?
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ANSWER: It is important to first understand that fishing, by its very definition, has an impact on nature. To continue to feed the planet with seafood, the conversation that we as a society need to have is not whether human impact is okay, but rather how much impact is okay. In some cases, what is acceptable and what is not is relatively straightforward. For instance, over harvesting the resource is unacceptable.
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Other types of impacts are less clear, such as the impact fishing may have on the ocean floor. For instance, we try to avoid disruption to organisms like corals, but have thus far decided that fishing impacts to mud and sand on the ocean floor are acceptable. Getting there required us to consider the importance of seafloor structure and structure-forming invertebrates (such as corals), the role they play in helping other marine species, and the impact fishing gear can have on them.
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The result has been the creation of habitat conservation areas where we know there are high densities of corals that serve as habitat, and the shifting of fishing activity toward those muddy and sandy bottoms mostly free of corals. These are the types of thought processes the Council will consider when weighing the impact of fishing.
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QUESTION: Describe what happens when a habitat protection area is created in the Bering Sea. Are there other implications that need to be considered when contemplating these protections?
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ANSWER: Marine habitat protections in the U.S. vary widely in the legal protections they afford to natural and cultural resources and ecological processes. Accordingly, they can have a variety of impacts that can be seen as both positive and negative. Some are established as a precautionary measure and serve to maintain the status quo where little to no fishing may have occurred.
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Other habitat protection areas shut down highly productive fishing grounds. In this latter situation, secondary and tertiary effects must be considered. For instance, if fishing vessels are forced to move away from productive fishing grounds and toward those that are less productive, they must compensate by fishing more intensely or more extensively. This increases the cost of fishing, and therefore the price that the consumer will pay for that seafood.
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What may be more important, however, is the fact that more time on the water in less productive areas can increase bycatch of unwanted species, as well as increase impacts to the habitat in the areas that remain open. This occurs while fishing vessels are following fish throughout the Bering Sea. As those fish move through closed areas, fishing vessels move to the second or third best area where their “catch per unit effort” is smaller and more time must be spent to catch a given quantity. It is important that managers consider the possibility for these types of unintended consequences.
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[Editor’s note: A nice map published in August 2009 by the National Marine Protected Areas Center depicts the location of MPAs in Alaskan waters.]
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QUESTION: Some environmental activist organizations have villainized commercial fishermen and women and accused them of clinging to a dying way of life. Tell me how it really works, or does the characterization have a ring of truth to it?
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ANSWER: Commercial fishing may be the last industry that relies solely on the natural environment to produce food for the world’s human population. In contrast to fishing, terrestrial farming significantly alters the land and replants it with crops that may not be native or capable of surviving without tending.
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Any conversation about doing away with fishing needs to include a discussion of the alternative ways of producing that lost source of protein if we don’t have wild fisheries. I’m doubtful we would be very pleased with the alternatives and their impacts. Try to imagine the type of industry necessary to replace the millions of tons of seafood produced in the Bering Sea and North Pacific each year. Those that want to severely restrict commercial fishing often miss this big picture perspective.
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All of this is not to say that the track record of commercial fishing is perfect. It isn’t, but in places like the North Pacific and elsewhere it appears we are getting it right. We can learn the lessons from these successes and replicate them in parts of the world that are looking for ways to make their fisheries sustainable. Where fisheries are done in a sustainable manner, these should be touted as victories for fishermen, the conservation community, and our global society.
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QUESTION: The DeepWorker submersibles that Greenpeace sent to the bottom of Zhemchug and Pribilof canyons in 2007 found some corals and sponges across a largely mud and sand ocean bottom. These dives also detected evidence of trawl and longline gear impacts on some corals and sponges.
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What is the extent of the impact that fishing has had in these areas and conversely, what conclusions might be drawn when corals and sponges are found in long-fished areas?
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ANSWER: It’s difficult to accurately quantify the extent of fishing impact in these areas. In the submersible explorations you reference, around two-tenths of one percent of video frames taken from those submersible dives recorded the presence of corals. Fishing gear disruption of any kind was detected in an even smaller number than that.
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However, the authors of the study define a line or track through mud as “fishing gear disruption,” so what most of us envision when thinking of “fishing gear disruption” is almost certainly even lower than what is described using this definition. The conclusion that could be drawn from these observations is a success story: responsible commercial fishing has coexisted alongside the benthic communities in these areas for decades.
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QUESTION: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the University of California at Santa Barbara were also involved with the Greenpeace 2007 research cruise.
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Is a consensus arising on what, if any, subsequent scientific studies should be conducted? Are collaborative efforts underway or is there the risk of dueling “my scientists” versus “your scientists”?
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ANSWER: All parties should embrace collaborative research efforts between agencies, the industry, and the conservation community. A wealth of information, expertise, perspectives and opinions reside among all of us who are interested in the marine environment. If shared, this knowledge and commitment could accelerate and expand our understanding of marine ecosystems and the role of commercial and recreational fishing. Healthy discourse on such issues is important and vital.
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However, for scientific advancements to play a thoughtful part of the civic process of setting public policy, an impartial review is necessary. When it comes to federal fishery management, NOAA and the NPFMC’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) are central to vetting the quality of the science. Decision makers rely heavily on an unbiased review from agency staff and the SSC to characterize scientific information and to help articulate the implications of different policy pathways. Without an unbiased perspective from NOAA and the SSC, the decision-making process would become suspect and in jeopardy of being compromised.
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QUESTION: The global appetite for seafood shows no signs of abating. If fisheries closures force more of the seafood demanded by US consumers to be imported, which other countries manage their fisheries as well as we do ours?
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ANSWER: Some have started to say that U.S. fisheries are the most heavily regulated fisheries in the world. Whether that’s true or not isn’t clear, but what is safe to say is that U.S. fishery management is now one of the more sustainable models in the world (though there is still room for improvement). This is a victory in many respects, but if it results in seafood consumption shifting from U.S. produced seafood toward seafood produced from a less sustainable model, then we will have merely exported an environmental problem and punished U.S. fishermen that are doing things right. Closing off more fishing grounds in the Bering Sea would illustrate the point.
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To date, we have developed numerous habitat conservation areas in the North Pacific that cover hundreds of millions of acres, some of which had been valuable fishing grounds. Each time productive areas are closed, the cost of fishing goes up and the ability to make up the catch formerly coming from the closed area is called into question. Eventually cost will rise too much, or the industry will not be able to catch what it had in the past, and consumers will be forced to look to other regions or nations for seafood. Demand will start to increase for seafood that may have been caught in a less sustainable regulatory environment and we will, in a sense, reward those with less sustainable practices.
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[Editor's note: The US currently imports 86 percent of the seafood that our population consumes.]

Our annual Poisson d’Avril a hit in San Diego!


Pfish’ers,
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We held our annual Poisson d’Avril (April Fish Day) in conjunction with the San Diego Ocean’s Foundation Gala on April 26. We had a lot to celebrate! First off, our very own Andrew Spurgin earned the Foundation’s prestigious Roger Revelle Award for his tireless work on ocean and seafood sustainability over the past 15 years+.
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The Gala featured a dozen amazing local chefs and their culinary teams serving up delicious seafood. Marine science graduate students provided information about the featured products. We host the same types of engaging and entertaining gala events at Passionfish, such as our 2010 forum + feast held at Hotel Coronado.
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As part of our mission at Passionfish, we bring new sustainable fish and shellfish products to the marketplace. This year we introduced SweetSpring Salmon to the San Diego chefs and purveyors. SweetSpring Salmon is a freshwater coho raised inland in spring water. It is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Super Green” list since it is so good for the ocean and for human health.
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Our Poisson d’Avril this year featured a wonderful diversity of fish-shaped chocolates by SugarTowne, a woman-owned business in Santa Monica, Calif. These were gobbled up by the Gala guests in no time!
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For photos, check out our Facebook page! All of the photos, including the one above, were taken by the very talented Theresa Vernetti.