New York Times editorial, “Ocean Rescue” sparks sobering commentary

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See the readers’ comments following yesterday’s New York Times editorial titled Ocean Rescue. Population pressure, habitat destruction, pollution, floating islands of plastic, ocean acidification, the persistent mankind-over-earth ideology, politics as usual, etc.: Is there a way out of this mess?

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Alice Waters interviewed on 60 Minutes

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P’fish’ers,
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Did you catch this past Sunday’s “60 Minutes”? In a segment first aired in March, reporter Leslie Stahl interviewed Alice Waters about having a connection to and relationship with our food. I believe in the philosophy of the Slow Food Movement and champion the amazing work Ms. Waters has accomplished and what she stands for — delicious food that we grow ourselves or from people we know and from companies we trust. Even more moving is her promotion of edible school yards and landscapes!
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But, I wonder how her message will be received by a national audience that watched Ms. Waters poach two eggs in her personal kitchen hearth. Nice work, if you can get it! (I freely admit that I love~and covet~her kitchen…and her giant garden. I have a tiny patio garden with budding herbs and veggies).
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My worry about how sustainability is often presented by the media is that it can come across as elitist. This important topic — one that is vital to our individual and global well-being — is too easily dismissible as unattainable. Who wouldn’t want the freshest, most flavorful, most nutritious foods? Yet how many of us have the free time and spare cash needed to poach free-range eggs over a wood fire for breakfast? The chasm between the haves and have nots represents a huge hurdle for mainstream America. I recognize we’re making great strides around the world with the help of retailers like Walmart. Still, I wonder, how do we popularize sustainability using star power but in a way that’s affordable and accessible for everyone?
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What do you think? How can “sustainable seafood” avoid being labelled a luxury and instead become widespread?? We need sustenance from the sea, whether wild or farmed or both.
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And quite honestly, I know, understand and have experienced how media reports (print, broadcast, etc) are edited for impact. Ms. Waters is a leader, the way indigenous peoples were the world over, quite honestly, with their stewardship of the land. She deserves a lot of credit for spending her entire life trying to get people in touch with the earth and the food we put into our mouths.
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Her quote on the show about how people may otherwise spend money on Nike shoes– well, Birkenstocks cost as much. So, I think this is all much ado about the wrong subject. At essence, the subject is sustaining our planet and the creatures that share our planet, enhancing ours’ and their well-being, and enjoying a certain quality of life. And I mean “enhancing our well-being” to mean improving the nutrition, food access, and economics of the poor, TOO. That point is way too often left out of sustainability discussions.

New York Times Blog: the Seafood Eater’s Conundrum

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P’fish’ers, check out yesterday’s blog in the New York Times about the confusion surrounding seafood consumption. I appreciate the contributors’ opinions and wish they had been given more space to more fully express their thoughts and expertise. I like what Ray Hilborn says about looking for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified seafood…and the problem thus far, that it’s hard to find. Let’s hope the MSC’s work grows and that its label gains recognition. We also look forward to farmed seafood that is certified as “sustainable.”
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Let’s not forget that the planet’s ocean resources are meant to sustain life — the plant and animal life both within the ocean as well as all of the land-dwelling creatures including us hungry humans. We ALL depend upon a vibrant, life-sustaining ocean.
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I made a comment in response to the blog (it’s #129 on a growing list). Click here if you want to check it out…or it’s written out below, having fixed my little typos.
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The NY Times blog is a follow-up to an article posted yesterday by food writer, seafood lover and fellow confused consumer Mark Bittman. And, Mark, we feel your pain.
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Here’s my response to the “conundrum” blog:
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This opinion piece has sparked a lot of dialogue — as well as contradictory viewpoints and conflicting information. I don’t think the article as presented could come close to the complexity of what is “sustainable seafood.” The contributors were given little space to write, and the piece doesn’t cover all-important considerations such as seasonality, provenance, quality, taste, and price.
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The concept of ’sustainability’ needs to take into account economic, social, and ecological factors. If not, the concept will never gain acceptance. That’s why people are getting confused about (or simply disregard, as depicted above by various comments) the many recommendations one is supposed to follow. Meanwhile, the recommendations vary wildly and are coming from all angles: from the government, seafood companies, and environmental groups. None of these entities are 100% on the same page — and even within sectors — there is vast disagreement. So those of us who want to eat seafood are stuck between a rockfish and a hard place.
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Our nonprofit, Passionfish, is run by volunteers who have spent the past decade trying to sort out this “conundrum.” Still, it’s as if the issue has not necessarily gained much clarity for consumers.
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We hear that almost all the fish are gone. But, we hear we can still eat some of them. So, we look at all of the data from the news, our doctors, our grocery stores, our iPhones and cause-related mailing lists. We hear, for the most part (as it’s filtered through these sources) that “aquaculture is BAD”; but, at the same time, we hear about mercury, contaminant, etc. problems in the wild fish.
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We also witness that wild fish are expensive. That farmed seafood is more affordable. We hear that seafood is still the healthiest source of animal protein to eat, that it’s a “lean” source of protein, and that it contains heart-and-brain-healthy Omega 3s (essential fatty acids). These are the thoughts passing through our minds as we shop for seafood, for our meat choices for the week.
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I believe the Marine Stewardship Council, as mentioned by Ray Hilborn, is an organization we should champion. It’s true that they have so far certified only a fraction of the wild seafood products in the marketplace.
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But, the MSC is making great progress. We should support their work and hope their label gains acceptance and recognition.
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We also need a trusted certifier for sustainably raised farmed seafood products. Why do we need these certifiers? Sadly, it’s because people do not trust the government recommendations and regulations — even though, as mentioned in the posts above, the United States has among the toughest regulations. Truth is, people do not trust any single source of recommendations, not the business/seafood industry alone, not environmental groups alone, and not our government. Oh, and we don’t trust the media, either.
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Collaboration between and among government agencies, scientists, seafood companies, fishing and aquaculture practitioners, and environmental groups MUST occur for people to buy into or trust a claim of sustainability. Let’s not forget the critical input by nutritionists and economists — it’s a fact that people make their food choices based on three primary criteria: price, taste, and quality. Sustainability as a word or concept means little to most people.
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A note about the wild vs farmed issue: The rich will be able to eat wild-caught seafood (and farmed seafood called “artisan-raised”). The poor and so-called “middle class” in our country and around the world will not. If the dire predictions are true about the demise of the ocean’s wild species, wild fish will be coveted and savored by the rich as a delicacy, the way caviar is marketed (and, so, wild salmon). The rest of us will eat cake.
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To me, that’s a tragedy. The world’s ocean resources are not just for the rich to enjoy. They are meant to sustain life.

Kona Blue Says Attack on Kona Kampachi®’s “Good Alternative Ranking” Unwarranted

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P’fish’ers,
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Please see this week’s Business Wire article citing anti-aquaculture organization Food & Water Watch’s campaign against Kona Kampachi, a yellowtail raised in Hawaii.
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Unfortunately, it can be very confusing to sort out the “good” versus “bad” when environmental groups have varying opinions themselves. For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a well-known card called “Seafood Watch” that lists Kona Kampachi as a good alternative to buy and to eat.
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I wholeheartedly agree with Kona Blue’s president Neil Sims when he says that objective, rational standards for assessing the sustainability of seafood is sorely needed. Thank you, Neil.
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At Passionfish, we have featured Kona Blue and its Kona Kampachi in several of our events and promotions.