Today I am setting you all up for some serious summer reading. Links to this New England Aquarium refresher on Climate Change is a good introduction to the more scientific facts in Science Magazine’s article “Natural Systems in Changing Climates,” and its comprehensive list of articles that include a wide range of topics taking the mystery out of questions about the impact of human induced changes in our climate. Covered topics include the economic impact and human health vulnerability effected by our warming planet. Important summer reading from W2O.
Scott Wilson of Wilson Farm responded to my query about plastic containers for blueberries with a thoughtful email describing the devotion that Wilson has to being a sustainable and earth friendly company. “Farmers in general are environmentalists by nature and by need. We think of and treat our environment (our land and water) as one would think of and treat their child: as the most important thing in our lives. Truth be told, we have been environmentalists since long before it was a cause. As an example, we have been composting our greens since our inception in 1884. It is with the environment in mind that we run our family farm.”
According to Scott, those plastic containers for blueberries are not the norm-they were used to differentiate two products and now that Wilson’s own blueberries are harvested, they are back to the pulp/paper green containers that we are use to seeing. I hope he can find a solution to that issue for next time and nixsay the plastic which as we all know is seldom recycled and not “biodegradable” but just breaks down into tiny fragments that then seep into soil and ocean. Watching..and not breaking up…yet.
Want to Try Something New? Buy Directly from your Fish Farmer.
There’s an up and coming effort in the United States to get a step closer to the farm. More so, there’s certainly an effort to buy what’s local and think sustainably. So, why not try something new and buy directly from your fish farmer? Remove all doubt in what you’re buying! (Oceana reported that at least 25% of all seafood is mislabeled! eeek!) If you buy from these farms you’ll come home with the most sustainably harvested and freshest fish while supporting an American made product. Even better, you won’t have to sacrifice taste!
The list below is intended for Boston residents, like myself, who are looking for the best and most sustainable seafood available nearby! Remember, while these farms have limited offerings, many of these fish are awesome substitutions for much less sustainable species.
Australis: Turner Falls, Massachusetts
The best source for barramundi! An awesome, closed system farm.
E&T Farms: West Barnstable, Massachusetts
A great source on the Cape for tilapia! They also grow veggies and make honey on site! They’re an aquaponic system-meaning they’re a closed system farm and they grow more than just fish.
Island Creek Oyster Farms: Duxbury, Massachusetts
A great source for oysters and philanthropy! Island Creek Oysters have started their own foundation that helps to start aquaculture systems throughout the developing world. I just visited the farm on Tuesday and accidentally sat in on their team meeting. Oops.http://www.islandcreekoysters.com/
Sky8 Shrimp Farm: Stoughton, Massachusetts
A recirculating aquaculture system just 20 minutes outside of Boston. It’s a new business so their gourmet white shrimp are not widely available yet. However, this is a place to look out for!
While this list can certainly help you buy your seafood, are you unconvinced that these species are worth trying? Chef Barton Seaver wrote up an awesome guide to using species that you might normal not think of, simply because they might not be the most popular choice. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/seafood-substitutions/
More on Seafood Fraud: http://oceana.org/en/our-work/promote-responsible-fishing/seafood-fraud/overview
Want to double check a species of fish you’re buying? Seafood Watch is the go to site, they even have an app.
The Boston Globe article on use and overuse of air conditioning and its affect on the environment made me feel guilty of my own consumption in the last week and relieved that the forecast predicts less heat and humidity for the next few days. “According to Stan Cox, author of the 2010 book “Losing Our Cool,” air conditioning in the United States already has a global-warming impact equivalent to every US household driving an extra 10,000 miles per year.” I guess its time to reflect and use less (hard to do and sometimes unsafe when the weather has been a furnace for the last week..but maybe easier to do when there is moderate temps like today and I can just turn it down or off, even though I might have to convince my family that it is ok to feel warm.)
I am so lucky that I live within a short drive to many wonderful places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. One of my favorite local haunts is Wilson’s Farm in Lexington, Ma. It has been around for years and I love its fresh produce, lovely atmosphere and fabulous service. I feel excitement when I find a parking spot under one of the trees closest to the cute walkway where I always seem to run into someone I know.
But wait. Shopping in the last few months, I have noticed that like most stores, they have increased their packaging and use of plastics. I use to bring my bags, wander around and pull loose veggies and fruits from the stands and proceed to checkout…arrive home and use my handy dandy “storing fruits and vegetable guide from ecology center.org, which gives tips on how to store fruits and veggies with no plastic. I was sad to see the blueberries in a plastic container today. “OUR OWN” is written on the label, which is prominently displayed and makes me excited to buy-but then in a plastic container? Rows and rows of beautiful fruit in plastic… I guess I need to find someone to ask about this and the recent changes…I will take the time to find out. I love this place…It is such a shame and I would hate to have to avoid yummy foods that I normally would buy (expensive too-but I feel worth it) or worse, find another place to shop…I don’t want to break up with Wilson’s Farms!
W2O seeing another reminder today about why it is important to refuse plastic (yes, support that Massachusetts Plastic Bag Reduction Bill) and polluting waste when ever you have the option to do so. Todays Boston Globe the article “Are Big Blue Bins Bad for Recycling” talks about the limited success of single stream trash collection and outlines the list of “non recyclables.”
“At the plant, six people using hands and hooks pull non-recyclables off the line before the machines take over. Broken umbrellas, Styrofoam containers, wire hangers, plastic bags: all trash.”
Think about what you can do! It could be a simple “no” to a plastic straw, a plastic bag or a styrofoam cup. It is easier than it seems. We can all play a part in keeping ourselves healthy and the ocean free of single use waste. Summer months mean cold drinks. We all love a frozen drink, iced coffee or tea. I have been carrying my cup in the car (it tastes great in anything but plastic!) or if I am out and about without, I have asked the vendor to just put my drink in a paper cup. I get some funny looks and comments like “this cup won’t support that” and “it won’t be kept cold” Bullhicky. Icy and cold. I also did a little test the other day..the fear I had was that the cold drink would seep through the paper and ruin my oh so righteous moment of success. Well, yes, it does seep through, but only after about an hour. If you are like me, you are consuming that cool lovely drink the moment you receive it! So, enjoy…but refuse the plastic.
W2O intern Phoebe Racine is a member of the Class of 2014 at Dartmouth College. She studies Environmental Studies and Anthropology. This summer she is conducting a research project on Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, and is interning at the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, and Women Working for Oceans.
I’m Phoebe Racine, a rising senior at Dartmouth College and I’ve chosen to spend my summer doing research and then some more research. With two Dartmouth advisors, the lovely Anne Kapuscinski and Kim Locke, I have been reading deeply into the literature of food energy, but more specifically the energy that goes into and out of fish farming-aquaculture. At the Center for Healthy and Sustainable Food at Harvard, I’ve been working for Barton Seaver, where I’ve also been researching food energy and additionally nutrition. Finally, with Women Working for Oceans I’ve been able to see more of the action! I’ve attended state meetings in support of the State Bill to ban plastic grocery bags and have begun to write articles for blogs. Kapuscinski and Locke work extensively on Integrated Food Energy Systems, Seaver is a renowned seafood chef turned restorative seafood extraordinaire and W2O is a Boston-based nonprofit that works towards bettering our ocean through education and advocacy. You could say I’m lucky to have such (cough cough intimidating) cool bosses!
But here is something I’ve learned through many hours of internet searches, countless articles and papers read, and multiple phone calls and meetings-putting fish on the table is confusing! What’s healthy? What’s sustainable? If I want to eat fish, which fish should I choose? These are just few of the questions I still think about and fuss over. However, today I have more answers than I had yesterday and I want to share with you some of my takeaways. Hopefully, you’ll find these both interesting and surprising!
1. 36% of all fish caught end up feeding pigs, chicken and farmed fish.
What this means: Livestock need certain levels of protein in their diet and for a long time these “trash fish” have been the cheapest way to get that protein.
What you can do: avoid eating carnivorous or omnivorous farmed species like shrimp, and in the case of land animals, do your best to eat grass fed or cage free.
2. More than “75% of global fisheries are traded while only 7% of meat, 17% of wheat, and 5% of rice is traded.” (Costa-Pierce et.al. 2011)
What this means: The fish you’re eating likely has hefty food miles attached to it! Ouch. However, there is hope, see number 4.
3. “At present, approximately 40% of all consumed fish and shellfish are farmed, and a 70% increase in aquaculture production by the year 2030 is predicted (FAO 2004).”
What this means: Aquaculture is fast growing field, which, overall is a wonderful thing! However, many of our farmed seafood products come from developing countries with looser regulations. Farmed seafood in developing countries have a whole host of pros and cons that deserve a book rather than a blurb on a blog post.
What you can do: Look at where your farmed fish is coming from. If it doesn’t give you a real location, than I say don’t buy it.
4. The LARGEST Recirculating Aquaculture farm is located in the U.S.! It’s called Blue Ridge Aquaculture and is located in Virginia.
What this means: Recirculating aquaculture is a type of fish farming that recycles more than 95% of its water. It therefore significantly limits pollution into the surrounding environment, recaptures nutrients, and halts the spread of disease and invasive species.
What you can do: There is an awesome, healthy, relatively sustainable source of fish that could be only minutes away from you! Buy American farmed fish if you can, you’d be supporting a growing field that’s rapidly improving its science.
5. Did I just say healthy? Why yes. “Fish are the most valuable foods for human nutrition, disease prevention, and brain development of any foods since they have the highest nutrient density (highest protein and oil contents in their flesh) of all food animals (Smil, 2002). ”
What this means: Fish are awesome sources of protein and nutrients!
What you can do: Don’t be afraid to eat fish. It’s widely agreed upon the the health benefits of eating fish at any stage in your life far outweigh the costs.
6. But isn’t seafood expensive? Not always! Canned seafood is actually a great and (often) cheaper alternative.
What you can do: When buying canned seafood make sure to go for a BPA free can with a brine or water base rather than oil. Since oil is not soluble in water omega-3s are maintained at the same levels as you would find in regular fillets.
Fish, let alone food, can be a confusing topic. I hope I’ve provided you either some clarity or some information (also some links below) that is easy to keep with you.
All my best, Phoebe Racine
Join W2O us tomorrow 11-4, for a celebration of World Ocean Day on Central Wharf right near (and sponsored by) the New England Aquarium. Family activities including a scavenger hunt, cooking demos, and live blue fun for the whole family. Tell us how the Ocean makes you feel. More information HERE.
Apple would like us to think that its plastic white bag is a reusable bag. We might use it to take out the trash, but we certainly aren’t carrying it to the grocery store or using it as our “go to” environmentally friendly cool bag…It is Plastic. W2O believes that it is like any other single use bag-a pollutant that clogs our waterways, threatens marine animals and ultimately is a health risk to us. Isn’t it time for Apple, an innovator on many levels, to make a great branding bag made out of a material other than plastic? Tell us what your think. Vote on our Facebook page. Steve Jobs named Apple after his apple orchard and said in his commencement speech to Stanford University in 2005 that “Whole Earth Catalog was the Bible of his generation.” I am sorry he is gone. I would have liked to have had this discussion with him..As our friends at Plastic Pollution Coalition tell us: Plastic Pollution is a health risk. Plastic is Forever.
Read more about the M.A. Bag Bill
W2O wants to support the replenishing of our New England endangered fish population and wants, at the same time, to support our local fishing communities. Sometimes we feel like the two ideas don’t always easily go hand in hand, especially with the recent quota cuts for fisherman in the Northeast. Some quotas will force fisherman into selling their boats and permits because they just can’t make a decent living with the current restrictions. Hearing about a new initiative by Open Ocean Trading gives hope that the future of the small boat fisherman will be brighter. This new Northeast company, Open Ocean Trading (OOT), is working hard to help small boat fisheries keep fishing.
Friend of W2O, Nancy Barrett, Open Ocean Trading’s Director of Business Development describes the Initiative for “Focus Fish:”
Now is the most critical time to keep these small boat fishermen in business. We must work together to preserve the proud and well-known fishing culture that has been woven into Boston and New England history.
Open Ocean Trading believes the solution lies in the supply chain. Everything starts with the fishermen. They are the foundation of this fragile industry and if they go, the entire system (processors, wholesalers, dealers) will be pulled down with them. The fish you and I eat will no longer come from our shores but will be imported from overseas via large vessels where fishery management is sometimes absent. If this happens, our seafood might be less traceable, questions will linger about whether it is responsibly harvested, and it might not be a healthy choice for the consumer. We all like to know where our fish is coming from and local seems like the best choice.
Right now, OOT is helping local fishermen survive by creating a new market for previously marginalized species inside the dining halls of universities and colleges in the Northeast. These fish, now proudly called “Focus Fish,” are the species we need to focus on now-they are the most sustainable choices both for the environment and for our New England local fishing industry.
The beauty of Focus Fish is that it is varies regionally and seasonally. What is responsible to fish for, here, in New England, is different than what people should concentrate their purchasing power on in the mid-Atlantic or on the west coast. For example, dogfish on the west coast is considered a “red light” species, but here in New England the stocks are rebuilt, and according to recent data, have become an additional stressor to the Atlantic Cod stocks because their bellies are full of juvenile Cod fish!
By creating a market for Focus Fish in colleges and universities, everyone wins – fishermen survive quota cuts and continue fishing, the supply chain avoids collapse, and college students are introduced to new delicious, nutritious, and local species.
OOT recently held a taste test of four New England Focus Fish; Redfish, Dogfish, Pollock, and Hake, at a local campus dining hall. The students surveyed showed that:
- 88% of the students said they care about where their fish was caught and who caught it
- 91% felt that having a role in sustaining local community fisheries was somewhat to very important
- 94% thought the fish they tried was as just as good, better, or much better than fish they were familiar with eating
Wellesley College, located in Massachusetts, was the first school to team up with OOT to bring Focus Fish to their campus. They believed OOT’s forward thinking approach to the fishing industry reflected their own value of innovation and sustainability.
If you are alumni of a school that shares values about sustainability or have a connection to a school that you care about, recommend that they source Focus Fish through Open Ocean Trading and help sustain the fishermen in your area. Schools can use the supply chain that they already have in place, but now they will know exactly where the fish is coming from. Using OTT makes a real, measurable impact on the industry while supporting local, traceable, nutritious, and delicious seafood.
For more info on Open Ocean Trading: www.openoceantrading.com and a great video of how a local fisherman uses Open Ocean Trading to maintain a healthy, profitable product: http://www.openoceantrading.com/videos.html