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Seafood faces collapse by 2048: Science reports


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CNN News article

Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few decades.

If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, the populations of just about all seafood face collapse by 2048, a team of ecologists and economists warns in a report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.... "At this point, 29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed -- that is, their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating," ..  "If the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime -- by 2048."  Seafood has become a growing part of Americans' diet in recent years. Consumption totaled 16.6 pounds per person in 2004 ...

Is this something new to you?

Are you as concerned as this news breaks today? :huh:

Or have you actually seen this coming for some time now?

I find this news disturbing and, although, I was tangentially aware of it, it seems to be shocking when I read the report in the Science Magazine ..

Adam Balic, weigh in for us? :rolleyes:

Edited by Gifted Gourmet (log)

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Having grown up in Nova Scotia in the eighties and nineties, the cod collapse left a psychic scar on me. "In Cod We Trusted".

I rarely eat seafood, assuming the whole practice of fishing is unsustainable. Not necessarily a logical jump, but I can't help but default to that. Especially after reading "Collapse".

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I knew that this would eventually happen, but I didn't think it would be this soon. At least I'll be sorta close to death when this happens.

I eat fish every day, except for the weekends. What happens when there are no delicious fishies to eat? I will feel very sorry for the Japanese and the Koreans (more so for the japanese)

crap I forgot about farm raised fish - ew gross. Just kidding, I will eat anything. So what fish can you farm raise and which fish can't be farm raised? I'm assuming that it would be difficult (and costly) to farm raise some sharks.

Edited by SheenaGreena (log)
BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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The article lumps two somewhat different problems together. Fishing in national waters is more amenable to technical solutions, as illustrated by the return of rockfish to the Chesapeake Bay. Fortunately, crabs and oysters are predominantly found in national waters.

On the other hand, over-fishing in international waters will probably continue until most commercial fisheries collapse. This will leave farm-raised fish and near-shore fishing as the primary seafood sources. The problem is that no one "owns" international waters. Instead, they are available for common use by all. Garret Hardin’s 1968 Science article, The Tragegy of the Commons, explains the economics underpinning the problem (substitute “fishing boat captain” and "catch more fish" for “herdsman” and "add another animal"). An excerpt:

The rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit — in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Wikipedia has a good selection of links, including a link to the original article.

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The crab fishermen off Alaska can only catch so many crab per season. It used to be an all out race, but now quotas are assigned per boat.

I'm not worried -- people who make predictions like this, and so far into the future, are so often wrong.

I did read something the other day about how more and more sharks are being killed for shark-fin soup (at $100/bowl). I think cutting fins off sharks and throwing them back, all because they're supposedly an aphrodisiac is despicable.

Edited by johnsmith45678 (log)
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The crab fishermen off Alaska can only catch so many crab per season. It used to be an all out race, but now quotas are assigned per boat.

I'm not worried -- people who make predictions like this, and so far into the future, are so often wrong.

I did read something the other day about how more and more sharks are being killed for shark-fin soup (at $100/bowl). I think cutting fins off sharks and throwing them back, all because they're supposedly an aphrodisiac is despicable.

I mean, if you are going to cut their fins off to make soup that is okay, but at least use the rest of the body. As my parents always say: "it's a sin to waste food"

I'm sure you can eat that species of shark, correct? Or you can make alot of wasabi graters

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I concur that many of the things we human beings are doing to our planet and its life forms is a horror. There is, however, an upside to all of this.

In 1968 the most highly respected Jean-Jacques Cousteau concluded from his researches that "...in the last half century we have managed to kill off no less than half of everything that lives in the sea". Frankly, I had heard no statistic that so frightened me about the ecology of our planet.

Thirty six years have passed and many respected research institutes have concluded that Cousteau was correct but that in the intervening years other forms of life in the sea have thrived, thrived to the point where the sea is now richer in potential protein bearing life than ever before in this history of our planet.

Not all that long ago, I feasted (quite literally) on a meal consisting largely of plankton, seaweed, young coral beads, and of fish and eels that I had never even dreamed existed before. I agree...I would hate to give up oysters, lobsters and fresh tuna but my guess is that those too will find new forms for us, many of which will be true delicacies.

I am not at all dismissing the harm we are doing to our planet. What I am dismissing are many of the relatively unfounded doomsday theories that abound these days. Let us keep in mind that about 2,000 years ago, Lucullus (from whose name the term Lucillian feast has derived) predicted that by the time of his grandchildren there would be no more fish left on the planet.

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The model of the tragedy of the commons is a little different than the model of commercial fisheries. In the herdsman example, grass is free. Therefore the way to make more money as a herdsman is to have more sheep. Then the sheep eat the grass and destroy the common resource.

Fishing doesn't work that way. In order to catch fish, one must expend tremendous resources. The process is to a large extent self limiting: the harder it gets to catch fish, the more expensive the fish become at market, so people buy less of it. They switch to other fish, especially farmed fish, which are cheaper and more available. There's only so much that can be done to increase the efficiency of catching fish. Eventually it's just not worth going after the remaining ones. The main way a species would get fished to extinction would be if some group of people had a non-rational need for it, such as a religious ceremony, and were willing to pay any price. Otherwise, species won't get fished to extinction but will, rather, get fished to the point of commercial non-viability, which is not the same.

Of course, the claim that all fish and seafood species will collapse is ludicrous. If present trends lead to that result, present trends will not continue. For one thing, any fish that can be farmed will be relatively safe because as its numbers decrease in the wild the price of the farmed version will become relatively cheaper. For another thing, fisheries within the control of a nation can be and are regulated. For still another thing, international mechanisms are becoming somewhat more potent, with the high-end consumers (who support the markets for expensive fish -- they don't sell much bluefin tuna in Africa) boycotting and otherwise rejecting endangered species.

The available fish and their relative prices will surely change, as they always have, but we are neither going to run out of fish to eat nor run out of fish in the ocean. Dire predictions like this one, calculated to grab headlines, represent the kind of flawed science that demonstrated itself unworthy on hundreds of occasions in the 20th century and before.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The model of the tragedy of the commons is a little different than the model of commercial fisheries. In the herdsman example, grass is free. Therefore the way to make more money as a herdsman is to have more sheep. Then the sheep eat the grass and destroy the common resource.

Fishing doesn't work that way. In order to catch fish, one must expend tremendous resources. The process is to a large extent self limiting: the harder it gets to catch fish, the more expensive the fish become at market, so people buy less of it. They switch to other fish, especially farmed fish, which are cheaper and more available. There's only so much that can be done to increase the efficiency of catching fish. Eventually it's just not worth going after the remaining ones. The main way a species would get fished to extinction would be if some group of people had a non-rational need for it, such as a religious ceremony, and were willing to pay any price. Otherwise, species won't get fished to extinction but will, rather, get fished to the point of commercial non-viability, which is not the same.

Of course, the claim that all fish and seafood species will collapse is ludicrous. If present trends lead to that result, present trends will not continue. For one thing, any fish that can be farmed will be relatively safe because as its numbers decrease in the wild the price of the farmed version will become relatively cheaper. For another thing, fisheries within the control of a nation can be and are regulated. For still another thing, international mechanisms are becoming somewhat more potent, with the high-end consumers (who support the markets for expensive fish -- they don't sell much bluefin tuna in Africa) boycotting and otherwise rejecting endangered species.

The available fish and their relative prices will surely change, as they always have, but we are neither going to run out of fish to eat nor run out of fish in the ocean. Dire predictions like this one, calculated to grab headlines, represent the kind of flawed science that demonstrated itself unworthy on hundreds of occasions in the 20th century and before.

Well put.

With apologies to John Prine:

We are living in the future

I'll tell you how I know

I read it in the paper

Fifteen years ago

We're all driving rocket ships

And talking with our minds

And wearing turquoise jewelry

And standing in soup lines

We are standing in soup lines

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I haven't read the Science paper yet (will in about an hour), but heard BBC World News (on NPR) do a 20 min piece on this. Fat Guy has a good point, but we need to extend it: while there is National Regulation, fish don't recognize national boundaries and water claims ... until there is coordinated International Regulation, both limiting the catch of adolescent fish and the total quantity removed, we will have large commercial floating factories moving offshore and ignoring any local regulations.

Farming fish is an ancient (the Chinese have done it for millenia) and excellent solution ... provided the farmers raise these fish in a natural manner. Feed that contains hormones, vitamins, and ground unnatural products [eg, land animal remains] results in farm raised fish with an off taste and unknown future health issues. Most of us can recognize farmed salmon from fresh, by color and by taste. We can't recognize it by taste, but farmed salmon raised in warm water has far less Omega-3 and Omega-6 than does cold water fish (if you can, choose Norwegian or Canadian raised salmon over Louisiana salmon, for that reason). Sea farming, like land farming, needs to focus on crops that do well in their locale and climate ...

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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Fishing doesn't work that way. In order to catch fish, one must expend tremendous resources. The process is to a large extent self limiting: the harder it gets to catch fish, the more expensive the fish become at market, so people buy less of it. They switch to other fish, especially farmed fish, which are cheaper and more available. There's only so much that can be done to increase the efficiency of catching fish. Eventually it's just not worth going after the remaining ones. The main way a species would get fished to extinction would be if some group of people had a non-rational need for it, such as a religious ceremony, and were willing to pay any price. Otherwise, species won't get fished to extinction but will, rather, get fished to the point of commercial non-viability, which is not the same.

If this were true, then shouldn't it be impossible to fish a species to extinction, or near-extinction? The collapse of the cod stocks (which were never expensive) dramatically shows otherwise. The simple fact is that for many/most species we can fish with such efficiency that a stock will collapse before it is no longer worth it economically to continue fishing.

Of course, the claim that all fish and seafood species will collapse is ludicrous. If present trends lead to that result, present trends will not continue.

This strikes me as a very dangerous way of thinking.

The available fish and their relative prices will surely change, as they always have, but we are neither going to run out of fish to eat nor run out of fish in the ocean. Dire predictions like this one, calculated to grab headlines, represent the kind of flawed science that demonstrated itself unworthy on hundreds of occasions in the 20th century and before.

Dr. Worm and his collaborators (including Ransom Myers, who recently published a similar story on the abundance of marine predators) are well-respected in their fields and have published many articles on this topic. While controversial, the predictions are based on hard data and cutting-edge modelling techniques.

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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The model of the tragedy of the commons is a little different than the model of commercial fisheries. In the herdsman example, grass is free. Therefore the way to make more money as a herdsman is to have more sheep. Then the sheep eat the grass and destroy the common resource.

Fishing doesn't work that way. In order to catch fish, one must expend tremendous resources. The process is to a large extent self limiting: the harder it gets to catch fish, the more expensive the fish become at market, so people buy less of it. They switch to other fish, especially farmed fish, which are cheaper and more available. There's only so much that can be done to increase the efficiency of catching fish. Eventually it's just not worth going after the remaining ones. The main way a species would get fished to extinction would be if some group of people had a non-rational need for it, such as a religious ceremony, and were willing to pay any price. Otherwise, species won't get fished to extinction but will, rather, get fished to the point of commercial non-viability, which is not the same.

Of course, the claim that all fish and seafood species will collapse is ludicrous. If present trends lead to that result, present trends will not continue. For one thing, any fish that can be farmed will be relatively safe because as its numbers decrease in the wild the price of the farmed version will become relatively cheaper. For another thing, fisheries within the control of a nation can be and are regulated. For still another thing, international mechanisms are becoming somewhat more potent, with the high-end consumers (who support the markets for expensive fish -- they don't sell much bluefin tuna in Africa) boycotting and otherwise rejecting endangered species.

The available fish and their relative prices will surely change, as they always have, but we are neither going to run out of fish to eat nor run out of fish in the ocean. Dire predictions like this one, calculated to grab headlines, represent the kind of flawed science that demonstrated itself unworthy on hundreds of occasions in the 20th century and before.

Supply & demand. Adam Smith.

Cooking is chemistry, baking is alchemy.

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In 1968 the most highly respected Jean-Jacques Cousteau concluded from his researches that "...in the last half century we have managed to kill off no less than half of everything that lives in the sea".  Frankly, I had heard no statistic that so frightened me about the ecology of our planet.

Thirty six years have passed and many respected research institutes have concluded that Cousteau was correct but that in the intervening years other forms of life in the sea have thrived, thrived to the point where the sea is now richer in potential protein bearing life than ever before in this history of our planet. 

Not all that long ago, I feasted (quite literally) on a meal consisting largely of plankton, seaweed, young coral beads, and of fish and eels that I had never even dreamed existed before.  I agree...I would hate to give up oysters, lobsters and fresh tuna but my guess is that those too will find new forms for us, many of which will be true delicacies.

I think the fact that we're fishing our way down the food web is symptomatic of the problem, and no cause for rejoice. It's a classic ecology problem: first to go are the top predators (shark, tuna etc..), then the formerly "trash" fish they fed on (who enjoy a temporary and artificial increase in abundance, because we wiped out all the predators), and so on ...

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Of course, the claim that all fish and seafood species will collapse is ludicrous. If present trends lead to that result, present trends will not continue. For one thing, any fish that can be farmed will be relatively safe because as its numbers decrease in the wild the price of the farmed version will become relatively cheaper. For another thing, fisheries within the control of a nation can be and are regulated. For still another thing, international mechanisms are becoming somewhat more potent, with the high-end consumers (who support the markets for expensive fish -- they don't sell much bluefin tuna in Africa) boycotting and otherwise rejecting endangered species.

The available fish and their relative prices will surely change, as they always have, but we are neither going to run out of fish to eat nor run out of fish in the ocean. Dire predictions like this one, calculated to grab headlines, represent the kind of flawed science that demonstrated itself unworthy on hundreds of occasions in the 20th century and before.

I don't think they said collapse, but reduction by 90% of historic averages? And that the farmed fish's wild counterpart, what is the commercial fisherman going to do when he gets caught along with the rest of the wild fish he is looking for? These people doing this study just need to collaborate more with other branches of science, to more broadly assess the situation. Sure there are flaws with this model, but equally flawed is the response by the fishing industry.

"The National Fisheries Institute, a trade association for the seafood industry, does not share the researchers alarm.

'Fish stocks naturally fluctuate in population," the institute said in a statement. "By developing new technologies that capture target species more efficiently and result in less impact on other species or the environment, we are helping to ensure our industry does not adversely affect surrounding ecosystems or damage native species.'

It's a virtual admission of guilt. It's like they are confessing, and expecting absolution based on the small pennance of "developing new technologies". Same argument of our current administration in Washington. And they aren't wholly to blame, there is the expanding population of abusers, pollution and global warming which, I'm no scientist, but are probably exponentially more to blame.

Edited by coquus (log)
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as much as i'd like to think otherwise, i'm afraid history argues against adam smith in this case. you need only look at the cod situation in the northeast, or the abalone situation in california. unfortunately, to destroy a fishery it is not necessary to fish it to extinction. you need only fish it to extreme scarcity. At a certain point, "thinning the herd" crosses the line into a few isolated examples of survivors, at which point it becomes extremely difficult for the population to rebound (if only there were singles bars for cod!).

it is convenient to point to the historical fluctuations in fishery populations, and in some cases, that is valid. but historical fluctuations happen independently of overfishing and when the two overlap, the result is disastrous.

granted, at a certain point in the future, the resources expended on catching the fish will result in the fish becoming so expensive that no one will be able to afford them. but is that really the situation we want? or would it be better to implement sensible international legislation now.

the funny thing is that every issue of fisheries management seems to be met with the same responses 1) there is no problem; 2) the problem is temporary; 3) it's the other guy who's the real problem; 4) this will destroy our way of life. but it is rare that you hear retrospectively that the management decision was wrong. the far more common response is: "why didn't they do that earlier" (with the implication: they could have saved us from ourselves).

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Russ: very well put.

Let us keep in mind that about 2,000 years ago, Lucullus (from whose name the term Lucillian feast has derived) predicted that by the time of his grandchildren there would be no more fish left on the planet.
It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. :biggrin: Thanks for the historical perspective.
The model of the tragedy of the commons is a little different than the model of commercial fisheries. In the herdsman example, grass is free. Therefore the way to make more money as a herdsman is to have more sheep. Then the sheep eat the grass and destroy the common resource.

Fishing doesn't work that way. In order to catch fish, one must expend tremendous resources.

To the herdsman, grass is freely available. To the fisherman, fish in international waters are freely available. Grass and fish are therefore common resources - no one owns them or can exclude others from using them.

The fishing boat is a tremendous economic resource for the fisherman. In relative terms, the herd is also a tremendous economic resource for the herdsman. The fisherman (or perhaps the bank) owns the boat, and the herdsman owns the herd. These are therefore privately owned resources.

The key distinction is between owned resources versus common resources. The Tragedy of the Commons only applies to common resources that no one owns or controls. Ownership creates the right to exclude others from using a resource. This is critical because ownership provides an economic incentive to maintain the resource. For example, consider how most folks take care of their personal vehicles versus how most folks treat rental cars.

Perhaps cars aren’t the best analogy for a New Yorker. :wink:

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Interesting little snippet here in New Scientist on how farmed fish accounted for 9% of fish consumption in 1980. Today, a mere 26 years later, that number is almost 50%. That's a major change in a very short period, to my way of thinking.

CNN doesn't mention this interesting fact at all. To discuss why goes beyond food-related topics so I won't go down that road here. But I think it's unrealistic of them to suggest that we may not be eating seafood in another 40 years.

There is a general scientific consensus that the sixth mass extinction of species in our planet's history is well underway, is being caused by human activity, and may be irreversible in many instances. I don't think that you can look at changes in wild aquatic populations without reference to this reality. It's going to change how we eat so I think it's relevant to eGullet even if it's expandiing the scope of this topic.

There's an interesting NS article on this subject here, for those inclined to pursue it.

Back to the topic at hand -

I think the fact that we're fishing our way down the food web is symptomatic of the problem, and no cause for rejoice. It's a classic ecology problem: first to go are the top predators (shark, tuna etc..), then the formerly "trash" fish they fed on (who enjoy a temporary and artificial increase in abundance, because we wiped out all the predators), and so on ...

Actually, when it comes to fishing, we're taking them all. There was a study earlier this year (referenced in, you guessed it, NS) indicating that fisherfolk aren't waiting for the top-of-chain populations to collapse, but are already grabbing the "lesser" species as well. This contradicts the conventional wisdom, but observation will trump theory every time.

On the collapse of cod fisheries -

I can't find my source for this one, but there was yet another interesting study a couple of years ago where marine biologists had figured out that size limits, coupled with natural selection, had contributed substantially to the collapse. The original idea was that you take the biggest cod and leave the rest so that they will continue to breed. What the biologists found, though, was that removing the biggest fish also meant removing the survivors of life in the ocean - those whose genes carried the strongest survival traits - and leaving a higher proportion of less hardy cod behind, thus ensuring a gradual but inexorable weakening of the species.

Things like this give me hope that we'll be able to preserve some species, assuming that we can muster the will to use our increasing knowledge.

In that vein, I'll finish with the NS report on the same study referenced in the CNN article. Notice the different perspective, and in particular the last four paragraphs on the upside of what the study found:

...fish stocks can recover if ecosystems are protected and biodiversity revives....

“...species came back more quickly than people anticipated – in three or five or 10 years."

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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There's a piece in the Seattle Times on this study. Two things about the coverage were interesting to me. First, there's this response from a skeptic:

But other scientists question that forecast.

"It's just mind-boggling stupid," said Ray Hilborn, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

"I'm worried about some areas of the world — like Africa — but other areas of the world have figured out how to do effective fishery management."

For example, most of the harvests in the North Pacific off Alaska — where most Seattle fleets fish — are not in sharp decline.

(About Ray Hilborn)

Second, there's this note on the grab for headlines:

"News hook"

In a note to colleagues that was mistakenly sent to The Seattle Times, Worm wrote that the projection could act as a "news hook to get people's attention."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The United Nations produces a biennial report on the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. Lots of good information, but the overall trend is pretty clear from the 2004 report:

. . . there was an increasing trend in the proportion of overexploited and depleted stocks, from about 10 percent in the mid-1970s to close to 25 percent in the early 2000s.

United Nations - The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (clickety)

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There's an interesting op-ed by John Tierney in the New York Times today, dismissing the study and discussing the use of property rights to protect fisheries. Unfortunately the piece is behind the Times Select paywall. For those who have Times Select the link is: http://select.nytimes.com/2006/11/04/opinion/04tierney.html

A couple of quotes:

The prospect of a world without sushi bars or Charlie the Tuna comes from the new issue of Science, which contains a graph projecting the collapse of all of the planet’s fisheries by 2048 — a wonderfully precise-sounding prediction that has approximately zero chance of coming true.
Many American fish stocks are thriving, as Cornelia Dean reported in The Times. A quiet revolution has occurred in certain American waters, like the halibut fishery of Alaska, and in countries like Canada, Iceland, New Zealand and Australia. Fishermen have discovered the same tool used by settlers on the Great Plains: property rights.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The several points about farmed fish are well made. Let us please not forget though that farmed fish rarely have the qualities (especially of taste and texture, muscle tone and fat-levels) of fish from the wild.

Compare, for example, a fresh Irish or Scottish salmon to one that is farmed in either Ireland or Scotland; a fresh sea bream from the Red Sea to the ones farmed in that same sea; or (lord forgive me) pond raised oysters to those that are found in Brittany.

As to raising fish in our basements, do read Alice B. Toklas' little essay on "Murder in the Bathtub"

Edited by Daniel Rogov (log)
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As far as I know, pretty much all oysters sold commercially are the products of mariculture. Oyster and clam farming that occurs in the open water, as much of it does, is a good example of a type of farming that benefits the environment and produces seafood of similar quality to what would grow wild. Decent summary from Starchefs.com:

Wild oysters and farmed oysters generally taste the same

.....

shellfish aquaculture is actually good for the environment. Aquaculture, think agriculture but in water, produces a large portion of the seafood consumed these days and has been a hot media topic of late. Sustainability and safety issues, for example, seem to have cast this type of farming in a poor light. However, the controversy apparently surrounds the farming of fish, not oysters.

.....

What the mullusks do is clean the water around them, sometimes filtering over 15 gallons a day, removing Nitrogen from the water, which improves light penetration and promotes the healing of damaged seagrasses.

.....

Shellfish farming is sustainable because it doesn’t damage, but helps, the environment.

While some fish produced by aquaculture are lame, and some aquaculture methods are damaging to the environment, I think it's fair to say that aquaculture -- like most things -- is a mixed bag. It produces plenty of delicious fish as well. To use the salmon example you raised, I find Bay of Fundy farmed salmon to be delicious. Also, a lot of "wild" salmon are sort of hybrids in that they're born in hatcheries. Plenty of wild fish are lousy, by the way. They sit for too long on boats, are poorly handled, etc. Farmed fish tend to be more reliable and consistent, without the high highs or low lows of wild -- that's pretty much how agriculture goes.

In any event, no matter how fisheries are regulated, I don't think it's realistic to expect the future to happen without aquaculture being the primary source of fish. I mean, human civilization can't subsist off mostly wild food. Aquaculture is just the natural evolution of agriculture. Wild species can provide for some of our needs but the bulk of our food has to be raised by us.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As far as I know, pretty much all oysters sold commercially are the products of mariculture. Oyster and clam farming that occurs in the open water, as much of it does, is a good example of a type of farming that benefits the environment and produces seafood of similar quality to what would grow wild. Decent summary from Starchefs.com:
Wild oysters and farmed oysters generally taste the same

.....

shellfish aquaculture is actually good for the environment. Aquaculture, think agriculture but in water, produces a large portion of the seafood consumed these days and has been a hot media topic of late. Sustainability and safety issues, for example, seem to have cast this type of farming in a poor light. However, the controversy apparently surrounds the farming of fish, not oysters.

.....

What the mullusks do is clean the water around them, sometimes filtering over 15 gallons a day, removing Nitrogen from the water, which improves light penetration and promotes the healing of damaged seagrasses.

.....

Shellfish farming is sustainable because it doesn’t damage, but helps, the environment.

While some fish produced by aquaculture are lame, and some aquaculture methods are damaging to the environment, I think it's fair to say that aquaculture -- like most things -- is a mixed bag. It produces plenty of delicious fish as well. To use the salmon example you raised, I find Bay of Fundy farmed salmon to be delicious. Also, a lot of "wild" salmon are sort of hybrids in that they're born in hatcheries. Plenty of wild fish are lousy, by the way. They sit for too long on boats, are poorly handled, etc. Farmed fish tend to be more reliable and consistent, without the high highs or low lows of wild -- that's pretty much how agriculture goes.

In any event, no matter how fisheries are regulated, I don't think it's realistic to expect the future to happen without aquaculture being the primary source of fish. I mean, human civilization can't subsist off mostly wild food. Aquaculture is just the natural evolution of agriculture. Wild species can provide for some of our needs but the bulk of our food has to be raised by us.

I had the good fortune when I was executive chef at Mudd's - in 1980 - to be invited down to Pigeon Point, one of the first West Coast aquaculturing programs. Bill Marinelli (I think he's in Seattle now) was the manager at that time and gave me an exhaustive tour of the facility.

I was impressed. It was an ambitious project. The "labs" where the spat were nurtured contained huge clear vats of oyster seed in various colored algae baths. I was literally walked through the procedure from start to finish. The finish occurring in Bill's office where we popped and consumed a few dozen. They were wonderful. Somewhat skeptical when I went down there - having been raised on "wild" oysters in New Orleans - I was now convinced that this was the wave of the future - for oysters, anyway. They were also experimenting with the aquaculture of abalone and scallops at the time. They cleaned the water, they were delicious, hey, what more could a man ask of any bivalve? Sadly, they did not do a thorough enough job of cleansing. The facility ultimately failed because of water quality. I bought the oysters as long as they were available.

Incidentally, much of the same data in the starchefs.com article is identical to that in my introduction to shucking oysters in my 2004 book, Creole Nouvelle. Here's an excerpt:

(Note: The Belon and Kumomoto oysters were not widely available at the time of the writing. Pigeon Point had raised Kumamoto seed for years, though.)

OYSTERS AND SHUCKING THEM

A British clergyman named William Butler was the first to enjoin us, in the late 16th century, not to eat oysters during the months that do not have an “r” in their names. His reasons for this were quite sound. European oysters were full of sand in the summer months—not necessarily unwholesome, just not tasty. American oysters spawn during the early summer, and some oyster lovers actually

enjoy them more during this period. As the summer wears on, the oysters finish spawning and are quite exhausted and underweight. This is the time of year when they are least succulent.

A varmint called Gonyaulax catenella, a dinoflagellate (sounds sort of like a venereal disease transmitted by energetic, masochistic mollusks), has caused a quarantine on wild bivalve harvesting in the waters off the coast of California from May through October. This one-celled organism can cause shellfish poisoning. In Louisiana and the warmer eastern waters of the United States in recent years, the culprit most often has been Vibrio vulnificus. Bacteria that like oysters (but don’t especially like us) seem to thrive in warmer waters. Nearly all these bacteria are neutralized by heat, so if you plan to cook them, you have few worries. If you are a raw-oyster aficionado, as I am, stick to oysters harvested in the coldest winter months. These will be the plumpest and tastiest anyway. All oysters sold in the United States are from government-certified oyster beds.

Of the three commonly available types of oysters available in U.S. coastal waters, only two are easy to find: the Pacific, or Japanese oyster, and the Eastern, or Blue Point oyster. The “Eastern” oyster is found all up and down the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. Today you will find many “artisan” oysters or oysters with a geographic nomenclature attached indicative of some special culinary note or trait.

Oysters like bays and estuaries, and these waterway designations often constitute the nom de table. The third, another West Coast oyster, the Olympia, is in short supply. The Eastern and Olympia oysters are indigenous, and the Pacific was introduced to American waters around 1930. If at all possible, buy oysters in the shell and shuck them yourself. I have taught hundreds of students

how to shuck oysters quickly and easily without wounding themselves using the following method. The large Pacific oysters show themselves to best advantage when baked. For oysters on the half shell, stick with the Eastern type or, should you be lucky enough to find them, the Olympia Oysters are quite high in protein, calcium, and zinc (the latter possibly accounting for their reputation

as an aphrodisiac).

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