Sep 12 2011

For Healthy, Sustainable Fish: Buy American

Frank Ragusa, left, distribution manager for Ocean Beauty Seafoods, and former Seattle Mariners MLB baseball player Jay Bunher, center, look on as Robert Spaulding, executive chef at Elliott's Oyster House, cuts a filet of Copper River Salmon from Alaska. (Credit: AP/Ted S. Warren

Fish on Fridays by Michael Conathan

Last night, President Barack Obama delivered an address to Congress laying out his plan for job creation in America. In the most recent version of this column, I did the same, at least for the fishing industry. Though admittedly my work lacked some of the pomp and circumstance of a joint address to Congress, it suggests one key to fishing jobs is greater investment in fisheries science, which would reduce the uncertainty forcing regulators to keep catch limits low, thereby allowing fishermen to catch more fish. That’s a classic supply-side solution. But there’s another side to that equation as well: greater demand.

American consumers are comfortable enough with the concept of supply and demand that Big Oil’s backers can use it as false logic to make a case for increased offshore oil and gas drilling. If we produce more oil, the argument goes, we will increase supply, and prices will come down. Never mind that oil is an internationally traded commodity, the price of which is heavily influenced by financial speculators and an international cartel over which American consumers have exactly zero influence. Also never mind that the nonpartisan Energy Information Association has declared unequivocally that increasing drilling will have no impact on gasoline prices.

Fair play in that it’s tough to know which is harder to understand: macroeconomics or ecosystem-based management and fisheries sustainability. Theories of how to get our country’s financial house in order and how to buy a guilt-free filet may occur on slightly different levels, but at their core, they are equally complex.

Fortunately, when it comes to fish, there’s a simple answer that will help spur the economy and lead to more sustainable dining. It’ll be better for your health, too. Put down your seafood wallet card for a minute and pay attention. Here it comes, in two words. Ready?


The simple fact is, despite the seemingly endless barrage of doom-and-gloom stories about the future of fisheries, the United States leads the world in ending overfishing and managing our resource sustainably. This year, a regulation took effect that will ensure every fish sold by a U.S. commercial fisherman is managed with scientifically justified catch limits. In layman’s terms, this means overfishing is now illegal.

Read the rest of the story here.

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