Aquarium’s new “State of Seafood” report is a call to action.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
A ray of hope shines on rough seas.
That’s the take-home message from in Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new report, “Turning the Tide: The State of Seafood.” Yes, we’ve managed to muck up much of the deep blue that covers almost three-fourths of the Earth’s surface, but we still have the power to heal it.
“We’ve created this report to document the condition of fisheries and aquaculture today, to highlight trends that are a cause for concern and to point to developments that offer new hope,” Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard writes in the foreword.
The bad news: Human activities, from commercial fishing to greenhouse gas emissions, have affected all the world’s oceans and highly impacted and 40 percent of them. Ineffective fishery management and industrial-scale fishing have driven many fisheries to decline or collapse; an estimated two-thirds of assessed stocks need rebuilding. As wild-caught fish landings dwindle, aquaculture is now on pace to supply the majority of humanity’s seafood—but a widespread lack of regulation elevates the risk of environmental problems. A growing number of marine species are threatened or endangered, and fishing gear is the primary threat to at-risk marine vertebrates including sharks, rays, seabirds, mammals and turtles.
The good news: Better ocean science and monitoring is deepening our understanding of marine systems. Proactive fisheries management, including science-based catch limits, has prevented some fisheries from collapsing. As new alliances break down the old environmentalist-fishermen divide, more seafood producers are advocating for long-term conservation policies. Promising new fishing technologies offer ways to reduce harm to marine ecosystems.
A growing public awareness is feeding market demand for sustainable seafood—thanks in part to the distribution, since 1999, of almost 32 million Seafood Watch pocket guides (including new sushi guides), a project of the Aquarium’s Center for the Future of the Oceans. Media coverage of the issue is on the rise: The phrase “sustainable seafood” was used eight times more often in 2008 than in 2002, and health officials are educating the public about the risk of environmental contaminants in seafood. Some major restaurants, retailers and food service operators are now intentionally sourcing healthy, sustainable seafood, and surveys show more Americans willing to buy and pay more for it. The Marine Stewardship Council has developed an eco-certification standard that now applies to 51 fisheries, and twice as many are on track to become MSC-certified.
The report underscores the growing advocacy mission of the Aquarium, which celebrated its 25th anniversary Oct. 20. “The movement has just begun,” the report concludes. “Together we can turn the tide.”