The Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts Excerpt from Viking Penguin Appendix 1

Seafood with a Clear Conscience
In developed countries, there has never before been such a great variety of seafood on offer. Globalization serves up the delicacies of shoreline, reef, and open sea from the farthest reaches of the planet to anybody willing to pay. Supermarket counters groan under a cornucopia of shellfish and finfish that please the eye and ravish the palate. I am often asked if it is possible to be a seafood lover and a lover of life in the sea. As an enthusiast of both, I have to answer yes, but it is a qualified yes. Buyers with a conscience must choose carefully, because as I showed in this book, for many species on offer, the price paid by the environment for their capture is far greater than the ticket price. There are four main problems to look out for in choosing seafood: • Is the species in trouble in the wild where the animals were caught? • Does fishing for the species damage ocean habitats? • Is there a large amount of unwanted bycatch taken with the target species? • Does the fishery have a problem with discards— generally undersized animals caught and thrown away because their market value is low? It is difficult to give blanket advice on what to buy and what to avoid, since fisheries for the same species can have very different impacts depending on how and where the animals are caught. But I will attempt a few rules of thumb here. Avoid large, long- lived species that mature late in life, as they are easily overfished. Examples include skates, sharks, swordfish, marlin, some tunas (like bluefin and bigeye), wolffish, halibut, and sturgeon (caviar). Sharkfin soup is a big no, not just because sharks are in steep decline everywhere, but because the fins are often cut from living animals whose bodies are thrown overboard to suffer lingering death. Avoid all deep- sea species because they are very easily overfished and slow to recover. They tend to be long- lived, slow-growing, and mature late in life. However, added to these problems, deep- sea fishing causes immense habitat damage and has severe bycatch problems. Almost none of the bycatch survives because of extreme pressure and temperature changes experienced on being brought to the surface. Examples include orange roughy, Patagonian toothfish (also known as Chilean seabass), oreo dories, scabbardfish (espado), grenadiers (hoki), black halibut, redfish, and deep- water prawns. Many fishing methods have terrible impacts on habitats and other marine life as I have said throughout this book. Bottom trawls, scallop dredges, and hydraulic clam dredges tear up or bury fragile marine life growing on the bottom like corals, seafans, and sponges. Gill nets hang like ghostly walls in the water and drown thousands of marine mammals and seabirds, as well as catching many worthless species that are thrown away. Prawn and shrimp fisheries have the worst bycatch record, with five to ten times the amount of usable catch tossed overboard, sometimes more. Think about how much of a pile those dead and discarded animals would make on your plate the next time you tuck into a meal of wild- caught shrimp or prawns! Choose animals caught with minimal damage to the environment. “ Hand- picked,” “ diver- caught,” “hook and line- caught” (although beware as this can mean longlines; handlines are best), “pole and line,” “creel,” or “ trap- caught” species are usually good bets. Avoid trawls, dredges, gill nets, longlines, and drift

nets. Schooling species like herring, pilchard, and anchovy are caught using nets but they are very clean fisheries with almost no bycatch, and are an excellent choice on health grounds (high oil content and little in the way of toxins since they eat low in the food chain). “ Dolphin- friendly” tuna brands are not always what they seem. As I explained in the book, much of the tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific still involves surrounding dolphins with purse- seine nets. Even though few dolphins are killed outright, animals are stressed and mothers get separated from their young. Pole and line caught tuna is the best choice; look for it on the tin. Th e same caveat emptor goes for fresh tuna steaks in the supermarket, most of which will have been caught with longlines or purse seines. Many of those purse seines are now set around fish aggregating devices that have been deployed for days or weeks by the catching vessel to attract tuna. The trouble is they also gather together turtles, sharks, whales, and dozens of other species that may also be caught and killed. I covered the many problems of aquaculture in chapter 17 so I will only give a brief recap here. Suffice to say that many farm- raised fish are certainly not guiltfree, and they may come loaded with contaminant chemicals used to prevent disease in overcrowded pens. Some fish farms are stocked with fry or young caught from the wild, like some prawns and bluefin tuna. Aquaculture also has direct impacts on the environment including pollution from chemicals, excess feed and wastes produced, alien species introductions, and habitat destruction to make way for ponds or cages, not to mention the human rights abuses associated with unscrupulous businesses in some parts of the world. Shrimp farming has caused vast areas of mangrove forest to be cleared along tropical coasts. You probably wouldn’t want to eat anything that has come out of particularly filthy places, like China’s Bohai Sea. However, not all aquaculture is bad. Choose fish that feed low in the food chain, such as tilapia and carp. Avoid predators like salmon, groupers, and tuna because they will usually have consumed far more wild- caught fish over their lives than the weight of flesh produced. However, some (usually high- end) suppliers do produce ethical varieties of these fish fed on things like fish trimmings or purpose- grown worms. Choose shellfish such as mussels and oysters. Farming shellfish can do favors for coastal water quality, as these animals filter plankton and other organic matter from the water. While organic farms cause less contamination of the environment from use of chemicals, the animals still produce polluting feces and are often still fed on wild- caught fish. Organic is a better choice, however. Knowing all this is one thing, but applying it is another matter entirely. A problem we all face at the fish counter is a dearth of key information, namely where and how was the fish caught (and sometimes what the type of fish it is in the first place as DNA testing shows a significant fraction are mislabeled, even in reputable stores). Don’t be afraid to grill your fishmonger on the provenance of their fish. If this all seems too much to remember when buying fish or ordering dinner, you can download wallet- sized cards with advice on fish to buy and those to avoid, or use cell phone apps from the list below. One of the pioneering and still best efforts to rate sustainability of different fish species is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, based in California (www. montereybayaquarium. org/ cr/ seafoodwatch. aspx). It produces wallet cards which list species to avoid and good choices. A U. S. national card and six regional guides are available, several in English and Spanish. There is also a sushi guide (www. montereybayaquarium. org/ cr/ cr_ seafoodwatch/ download.aspx). Now there is also a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Android app that brings you up-to-date recommendations for ocean- friendly seafood and sushi. Th e newest version, with Project FishMap, lets you share the locations of restaurants and markets where you’ve found sustainable seafood. As the map grows, you’ll also be able to see what others have found near you.

Another U. S.-based organization that recommends sustainable seafood is the Blue Ocean Institute (www. blueocean. org/ seafood/ seafood- guide). They also produce cell phone and iPhone applications (www. blueocean. org/ fishphone). For the best seafood choices within Europe, the UK Marine Conservation Society’s Fishonline (www. fishonline. org) is a great resource. There are many other guides produced for other parts of the world in local languages. The following Web site provides links to guides from the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and South Africa: (overfishing. org/ pages/ guide_ to_ good_ fish. php). Finally, Fish2Fork (www. fish2fork. com) is a campaigning guide for those who want to eat fish in restaurants sustainably; it was founded by Charles Clover, who wrote The End of the Line. Currently it rates restaurants in the UK, United States, Spain, France, and Belgium.

A Word on Eco-labelling Some fish are provided with eco- labels that are designed to alert consumers to sustainable fish. The most recognizable, and so far only independent label is that of the Marine Stewardship Council (www. msc. org). As I described in the book, fish given the MSC label are supposed to come from fisheries that are exploited in accord with the following principles: Principle 1: Is the stock at levels considered to be sustainable over the long term, and is it well managed and monitored? Principle 2: Does the fishery damage habitats or kill other species, including marine mammals and sea birds? Principle 3: Are good management procedures in place to regulate fishing and ensure rules are followed? Although the MSC has been criticized (by myself included), especially with respect to not fully implementing Principle 2, it is still a good guide to the sustainability of the labeled fish itself, and is almost always a better choice than fish without the MSC label. Finally, Is Seafood Safe? Fortunately, you can avoid the worst of the problems from contaminant chemicals in seafood the same way you can avoid some of the worst overfishing problems: avoid big predators like tuna, swordfish, and marlin, and eat low in the foodweb by choosing species like herring, anchovy, pilchards, tilapia, and mussels. If you are worried about how to balance the health benefits of fish with the contaminant dark side of seafood, there is an outstanding source of information: the SeaWeb KidSafe Seafood program (www. kidsafeseafood. org). Their Web site contains a host of information on the best choices to avoid contamination and promote sustainable fishing, as well as lots of background on the pollutants involved.

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