February, 2013

Posted on 02/28//13

Emily Mead (in a photo by Keith Ellenbogen) with letters of thanks from the children of Kanton Island

Emily Mead (in a photo by Keith Ellenbogen) with letters of thanks from the children of Kanton Island

 

Weston resident and current freshman at Dartmouth College, Emily Mead, quietly wants to make sure that the children of a small island nation in the Phoenix Islands have the learning tools they need to express their creativity and have some fun.  Summer volunteering at The New England Aquarium, Emily learned that the children of Kanton island, part of the Phoenix Island Marine Protected Area (PIPA)) are so isolated, a thousand miles southwest of Hawaii, that obtaining basic supplies can be a challenge. When The New England Aquarium Marine Coral Scientist, Dr.Randi Rotjan and Ocean Photographer Keith Ellenbogen were planning the 2012 PIPA research expedition to study the thriving marine life, Emily saw an opportunity to reach out to the island’s Minister of Education who then provided her with a wish list from teachers, educators and children.  Along with the scientific experiments, camera equipment, crew and experts, a box carefully stowed in the expedition boat containing a special message and thoughtfully assembled by Emily, was hand delivered at the end of the long trip across the Pacific.

The children of Kanton where delighted that someone oceans away took a special interest in their tiny island and sent letters of thanks, sparking a budding pen pal relationship with Emily Mead. Through Emily’s connection to this far away place, she has learned about the importance of Marine Protected Areas for ensuring revitalization for endangered marine species and economic stability for the habitants of the surrounding islands.

PIPA is one of the largest Marine Protected Area and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It seems so far away but Emily’s story is just one of many that connects us to this beautiful fragile and endangered ocean world.  On April 2nd, Women Working for Oceans (womenworkingforoceans.org) will present “Take Only Pictures and Leave Only Footprints ” with Dr.Randi Rotjan and Photographer Keith Ellenbogen at the Simon’s Imax Theater/New England Aquarium. Randi and Keith will take us on an ocean adventure, featuring the people of Kanton as well as the Phoenix Island Marine Protected Area, highlighting this pristine ecosystem through science and photography that will educate and inspire conservation.

Tickets are on sale HERE or on our “Events” page at womenworkingforoceans.org

 

Posted on 02/24//13

I went shopping last week with a friend who has a membership to BJ’s and was reminded why I have let my own membership lapse.  Once you are sensitive to the single use plastic issue, it seems like the plastic monster is everywhere and that the entire universe is bathed in the stuff.  Natures finest gets wrapped and encased. I thought I would choose a carton of milk over the plastic jug…and, as you can see, this didn’t work out for me.  Selling two at a time with one price and plastic wrapping the two milk cartons together! You have to wonder who thinks this up!

 

Eggs (the ultimate in perfect packaging all by themselves) were covered by the plastic cloak as well.

I decided to try Stop and Shop.  First stop was the produce aisle. I needed some celery for a recipe I was thinking of making.  I caught up with a person stocking the items and asked what she thought about the celery being in plastic and whether or not there was some purpose for packaging them that way and she sweetly said “Oh, thats how they come.” She then looked at the quizzical look on my face and she laughed and I laughed and we had a discussion about how easily we say these things forgetting that produce doesn’t start out its journey in plastic wrap.

I did find a carton of milk!

 

Posted on 02/19//13

NPR photo of Whole Foods MSC label on Swordfish

As a follow up to my last blog post, I am including the second of a three part series about the “sustainability” of the MSC labeling. MSC labeling is again called to task. Hopefully a great idea will maintain/gain some great standards and guidelines for buying fish. What we wish it to be, though, isn’t yet. Certainly listen to the three programs devoted to this topic or read this entire article (and the MSC’s response to the accusations) but here is an excerpt from the next NPR segment:

 

But many environmentalists who have studied the MSC system say that label is misleading. “We’re not getting what we think we’re getting,” says Susanna Fuller, co-director of marine programs at Canada’s Ecology Action Centre. She says the consumer, when purchasing seafood with the blue MSC label, is “not buying something that’s sustainable now.”

If the label were accurate, Fuller says, it would include what she says is troubling fine print: The MSC system has certified most fisheries with “conditions.” Those conditions spell out that the fishermen will have to change the way they operate or study how their methods are affecting the environment — or both. But they have years to comply with those conditions after the fisheries have already been certified sustainable.

Gerry Leape, an oceans specialist who sits on the MSC’s advisory Stakeholder Council on behalf of the Pew Charitable Trusts, says the MSC’s policy is baffling. “It’s misleading,” he says, “to put a label of sustainability on a product where you still don’t have the basic requirements.”

Posted on 02/11//13

Image from sustainablesushi.net

I caught the ending of an interesting program today on NPR that explained and questioned the labeling of fish by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).  I see the labels in Whole Foods and other retail outlets and have always just taken for granted that the label was a signal to me that what I was purchasing was “sustainable.”  I am like you-I want to do the right thing and buy fish that are not endangered or in decline. I also want to support fisheries that care about sustaining species of fish for their own livelihood and our culinary enjoyment. The labeling of fish by the MSC seems like a great idea but doesn’t always fulfill the promise of sustainability.

Unilever, one of the largest producers of frozen fish, and The World Wildlife Fund devised the MSC labeling at the height of the Atlantic Cod decline in the 90s.  “The MSC does not certify fisheries itself. Instead, a fishery that wants the label hires one of roughly a dozen commercial auditing companies to decide whether its practices comply with the MSC’s definition of “sustainable.” Sounds like a wonderful idea….

The comment that struck me as I listened today made my heart sink; ( I won’t get the quote just right and can’t find it anywhere in the article) “When you buy swordfish for dinner are you ok with the fact that three sharks were caught along with it?”  The sharks caught are usually release but the stress causes many of them to die anyway.  My taste for my favorite fish suddenly makes me not hungry. “This touches on one of MSC’s three fundamental rules, even though studies show swordfish are plentiful. The second rule says that a fishery is not sustainable if it does not maintain “the integrity of ecosystems” — which means, in part, that it’s not sustainable if there is too much by-catch,” says Steve Campana, who runs the Canadian government’s Shark Research Laboratory, near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

MSC has engaged the interest of the public by contracting with big companies such as Walmart and Target, which are drivers of change for sure-so maybe this is a good thing for some that are just starting their journey about caring for our fish and oceans.  If labeling is done well, we should rejoice that this system has become popular. But this consumer is now concerned that she doesn’t know enough to trust what she reads and will be questioning labels and doing some more research on this important topic.

 

Posted on 02/08//13

Board Member Lynne Taylor will tell you that after the W2O plastics event, “Plastics in the Ocean, Plastic in You”, she gained valuable information about marine debris and its effect on the oceans from Plastic Pollution Coalition founder, Dianna Cohen. Now, she feels even more passionate to take a stand and say “no” to single use plastic. “I feel like I am now armed to be bolder. If people are informed about the issue, they are willing to try and change their habits. We need  factual information before we can jump on the band wagon. Saying ‘no thanks’ is easier for me now. But we still need to spread the word.”

Lynne’s husband Michael (a board member of the New England Aquarium) and her four boys (ranging in age from 7-13) share Lynne’s desire to do their part to protect our amazing oceans.  Michael, a  pilot, recently helped the New England Aquarium transport sea turtles to the Charleston, South Carolina Aquarium  as part of a rescue and relocation program. The boys have a true love of the ocean from summers with cousins and grandparents on the Jersey Shore.  At home, the boys like to calculate how many bottles of plastic they didn’t use by making soda in their Soda Stream. “When the boys see the plastic on beautiful beaches, I want them to understand why we all need to do our part to protect our oceans.”

Lynne lives in Milton and has a long list of accomplishments, including her work in publishing, public relations, and communications.

 

 

Posted on 02/03//13

Massachusetts is a place where we value our ocean frontage, its beauty, magic, and its ability to give us recreation and sustenance.  At W2O we are watching carefully as the protection of fish stocks collides with the protection/support of our local fisherman and fish related industries.

Off the coast of New England, our stock of Cod, the fish that Massachusetts calls its own, is “on the verge of extinction” according to scientist.  Making real change so that the fish population can recover while supporting the efforts of our local fisherman and fisheries is a topic that our state has struggled with since the beginning of the decline of the once abundant Cod population from decades of over fishing. If confirmed, the new rulings on allowable catch this year will have a huge economic impact on the fishing community. If nothing is done, Atlantic Cod will be the fish that we will regret not saving from extinction.

From the New England Aquarium: “On January 30, the New England Fisheries Management Council met to decide on allowable biological catch (ABC) limits for cod in fishing year (FY) 2013 (which begins on May 1, 2013). This decision had been delayed since last year by the Council’s request for a new Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment to ensure the findings from the 2011 assessment were accurate. The results of the most recent Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod assessments show that both stocks have been overfished, with overfishing occurring every year since the beginning of the time series (1982). These results are in accordance with previous results, both the original Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment and the new one came to the same results.”

Here are some links about this topic (in the news today and some archival information) that might help you understand this huge issue.
http://www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/cod/species_pages/atlantic_cod.htm
 
http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2012/12/20/with-drastic-fishing-cuts-expected-thursday-blame-for-disappearing-cod-shifts-ocean/OydWAwHlQcZwWxL6eIXzSI/story.html
 
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/03/04/in_canada_cod_remain_scarce_despite_ban/
 
http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/hope-remains-for-new-england-fisheries_2013-02-03.html
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/opinion/keep-the-fishing-ban-in-new-england.html?_r=0
 
http://www.savingseafood.org/fishing-industry-alerts/statement-of-the-northeast-seafood-coalition-on-gulf-of-maine-cod-catch-limit-announc-2.html
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jun/03/fish-stocks-information-beautiful