Sustainable Fish: Scientists Say Global Tuna Stocks are Healthy
If you care about the health of our oceans, consuming sustainable fish or just want to feel good about feeding your kids an affordable, accessible source of omega-3s like canned tuna, you deserve to know whether the methods used to catch the fish on your plate are sustainable fishing practices.
A central conceit of Greenpeace’s ongoing attacks on the tuna industry is that they aren’t—that stocks are in danger of being overfished, and that efficient, modern fishing methods like purse seines and Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) are to blame.
But these claims have essentially no basis in reality. A recent presentation from “renowned tuna fisheries scientist” Alain Fonteneau of the French Research Institute for Development (IRP) confirms ongoing work actually makes tuna a pretty sustainable fish.
A piece in SeafoodSource.com covering the presentation ahead of the 2017 Seafood Expo Global quotes Fonteneau as concluding that even as “[f]ishing effort[s] in most tuna fisheries [have] grown steadily in recent years. . .these stocks remain in a healthy state and are much less overfished than many other coastal resources…” Fonteneau noted global tuna stocks are “very robust” and “very difficult to heavily overfish,” and that none of the world’s 21 major tuna stocks have shown signs of critical collapse.
Good News for Skipjack and Albacore
The news is especially good for skipjack and albacore, which comprise the vast majority of the canned tuna market in the United States.
Though Fontaneau couched his analysis with prudent warnings about the need for vigilance and care to ensure tuna fisheries stay healthy long-term, his conclusion was unambiguous: “There is no tuna disaster.”
At the same time Fonteneau remarked on the “heightened productivity” and “improved efficiency” of skipjack fishery, due entirely to the increase in use of FADs in recent years.
Contrast this with recent independent scientific research from the University of California demonstrating that the fishing methods Greenpeace prefers are terribly inefficient, and leave a carbon footprint orders of magnitude larger than FADs.
Greenpeace Alternatives Worse for Environment
That’s right: Greenpeace opposes modern tuna fishing on sustainability grounds, but the latest science shows that current methods are sustainable fishing techniques, and the alternative Greenpeace proposes is actually much worse for the environment.
You’d think this stunning juxtaposition would be news for anyone covering seafood sustainability, ENGOs, or both. But it hasn’t seemed to phase the activists, much less slowed down their fundraising juggernaut.
Commitment to Sustainability
The good news is there are responsible adults in the world committed to real seafood sustainability, groups like the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) – a globally recognized group of sustainable fisheries experts and scientists. And while Greenpeace and its allies drift farther and farther away from reality, tuna companies are committed to collaborating with ISSF and others to ensure that stocks are healthy not just today, but tomorrow and over the long term.
NFI’s 2017 Annual Chowder Party
Kick-off the 2017 Seafood Expo North America Show with old friends and new. Join us to celebrate NFI’s Annual Chowder Party to be held on Saturday, March 18th, at the beautiful Westin Boston Waterfront, conveniently located adjacent to the Boston Convention
Early Bird Rate: $75 (ends Jan. 27)
Regular Rate: $85 (Jan. 28 – Mar. 16)
On-Site Rate: $95 (Mar. 17 – Mar. 18)
2017 Global Seafood Market Conference
Registration is now open for the 2017 Global Seafood Market Conference! The Global Seafood Market Conference will provide the industry with information on the economic, social and demographic trends and changes that will affect international seafood markets. During the conference, seafood markets will be segregated into individual market levels based on the price points in which they compete. At NFI’s 2017 GSMC, participants will determine a view of the opportunities and pitfalls for supplying and purchasing the major species groups in the coming year.
The cover story for March issue of SeaFood Business, which will be available at the IBSS, is on species substitution. In the article, Law and Order, Jamie Wright provides a recap of the Boston Globe story and subsequent Massachusetts legislature hearing. In addition, there is a lengthy interview with Wayne Hettenbach, the senior trial attorney for the Environmental Crimes Section of Department of Justice, who was involved with the recent fraud cases and an excellent summary of some of the convictions.
This story, along with the Point of View column, You’ve Been Warned, which was in the February issue of SeaFood Business, should be a reality check for everyone in the seafood supply chain. No matter where you are in the supply chain, species substitution is against the law and when caught the penalties are real.
Species Substitution in the News
Lost in all the press generated by the Boston Globe 2-part series on species substitution at Boston-area restaurants and Oceana’s report on substitution at Boston-area grocery stores is a story from another large seafood-centric city, Seattle. The local NPR affiliate (KPLU 88.5) reports on the efforts of Washington state’s Fish and Wildlife police to look for mislabeled species at area food markets.
Budget cuts and other assigned duties certainly don’t allow this to be a full-time duty of the WDFW, but seeking out fraud goes a long way to stopping the cheaters. As Officer Olson states, “Quite honestly all this stuff, it’s always about the money. It’s always about the bottom line.”
If you want a do-it-yourself guide to finding cheaters, check out this fascinating link. Professor Erica Cline with the University of Washington-Tacoma has a Catching Cheaters Salmon Market Substitution Project, complete with instructor and student lab manuals. Now that’s a useful science project.
Science to Combat Fraud (Part IV)
KGO-TV, San Francisco’s ABC affiliate, ran an excellent story about a current FDA project to supplement the global database Fish Barcode of Life. Pairing taxonomic identifications with unique DNA sequences provides the linkage necessary for regulatory actions on misidentified species. A positive story about FDA’s efforts to combat species substitution–no gotcha story here, just the facts.
The Many Faces of Food Fraud (Part IV)
But interspersed with these stories are some different takes on fraud in the seafood industry that hit the media waves this week. Lest we think that all fraud takes place in the United States, the first story is from down under in Australia.
A Gold Coast man pleaded guilty to 23 counts of fraud and obtaining money by false pretenses charges of defrauding five people of a total of about $6.5 million for investing in a non-existent seafood business.
A former bookkeeper for a local seafood company was sentenced Wednesday to 28 months in federal prison, plus 10 months of home confinement, after admitting she embezzled $2.3 million from the company to feed her gambling addiction.
A Gardena seafood dealer who imported endangered whale meat from Tokyo and sold it to sushi restaurants pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge for selling a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose, in violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
A truck load of 25,000 pounds of king crab disappears. The trucking company and truckers documents appear to have been bogus.
If It Looks Like a Duck …
You may have missed it, because this is not a seafood example, but once again FDA has issued a Warning Letter to a firm for alleged situations of species substitution. In this situation, FDA reports finding the following:
- Lamb and Rice Dog Food that did not contain lamb but rather contained bovine
- Grain-free Duck Pet Food that did not contain duck
Again, the take away from this Warning Letter is that species substitution may cause products to be adulterated and misbranded both violations of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (the Act).
The products were considered adulterated in that a valuable constituent (lamb or duck depending on the example) had been omitted and, in the case of the lamb, another ingredient had been substituted. Also, the products were considered misbranded in that they were offered for sale under the name of another food or if the labeling is false or misleading.
Species substitution is against the law. These warning letters from FDA confirm what we all already know.
Species Substitution of a Different Elk
Kudos to FDA for issuing a Warning Letter for an alleged case of species substitution. It wasn’t seafood related, but it was a crack down on species substitution nonetheless. In this situation, FDA reports finding the following:
- Black Bear Burger product that actually contained elk/red deer meat
- Black Bear Steak product that actually contained Brown Bear
The take away from this Warning Letter is that species substitution may cause products to be adulterated and misbranded both violations of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (the Act).
The products were considered adulterated in that a valuable constituent (Black Bear) had been omitted and another ingredient had been substituted. Also the products were considered misbranded in that they were offered for sale under the name of another food.
When customers aren’t getting what they pay, for be it Black Bear Steak or a grouper sandwich, they are getting cheated. And that is against the law.
Tips to Prevent Fraud
I just read an interesting article that came to my attention through Google Alerts. This online article – Crisis Management in the Poultry Industry Preparing for the Unexpected – provides some good general quick tips for purchasers to prevent being the recipient of fraudulent products. Suggestions like applying a risk rating to the goods you purchase, especially goods purchased on spot markets, or having sufficiently detailed product specifications which are agreed upon by both parties, or monitoring suppliers performance are among the nine tips provided. Although the audience is for the poultry industry (the article also will appear in the March 2011 issue of Poultry International), the tips are universal and can be adapted by seafood buyers to minimize the risk of being a victim of species substitution, illegal transshipment or even short weights.