Archive for June, 2014

Jun 26 2014

Fresh fish versus frozen fish: Is it a fair fight?


Consumers may consider fresh fish to be better overall than frozen fish. But, the difference isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem to be.

By Andrea Moore, Food Tank


Ben Pierce/Bozeman Daily Chronicle/AP/File
Josh Bergan fights a rainbow trout on Hebgen Lake in Montana. Consumers may consider fresh fish to be better overall than frozen fish, but the difference isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem to be.

Fresh versus frozen doesn’t seem like a fair fight. Who would pick that old, damaged, nutrient-poor frozen fish when they could have a new, unblemished, nutrient-rich fresh one?

In the case of seafood, the assumptions surrounding those f-words are inconsistent with the reality of getting quality fish to the dinner table in a waste-conscious way. So let’s ignore the imagery for a minute and consider some fish logistics.

From the Depths

To find, reach, fish, and return from fishing holes in the open ocean costs time, money, and freshness. Commercial fishing operations have two options:

  1. Store fish on ice and return before they spoil (according to the FAO, cod and haddock last 15 days or so).
  2. Flash-freeze fish and return when the hold is full.

The economics definitely favor freezing, and in developed countries in 2012, 55 percent of processed fish for human consumption was frozen, up from 38 percent in 1972. But aren’t we sacrificing nutrition for convenience by choosing to freeze instead of chill?

Delaying Decay

Fish are like any other organism—when they die, they begin to decay. Immediately. Yes, chilling slows that decay as well as microbial growth and nutrient loss, but the only way to stop those processes is freezing.

Aboard fish processing ships, products are flash-frozen using freezing plates, air blasts, or liquid nitrogen spray, which reduces the internal temperature of products to -20°C in minutes to a few hours. This rapid freezing preserves nutrients and decreases the formation of ice crystals that damage cell membranes and negatively affect the texture of thawed products.

Flying Fish

For a fresh fish to get from the sea to the scenic prairies, it needs to fly. But after an unknown time on a ship, an airplane, and store shelves, how fresh could that fish in your fridge really be? If you’re a skeptical consumer, you’ll try the sniff test, and if there’s any doubt, you’ll probably throw it out. What a waste! Not only the fish, but the resources used in obtaining, storing, and shipping that fish.

You might be less skeptical of a thawed fish’s freshness and you’re definitely more likely to only thaw the amount you need. That reduces waste. And, because the clock on frozen seafood is ticking so slowly, products can be shipped in containers, which is a slower but cheaper method, often reflected in the product’s price at the supermarket.

The Verdict

Maybe fresh versus frozen really wasn’t a fair fight after all. Nutrients, waste, cost—frozen beats fresh on many fronts. But does that mean you should turn down your local fisherman’s daily catch in favor of a frozen filet?

Sustainable Fresh or Sustainable Frozen?

Let’s remember the big picture when it comes to seafood: sustainability. In my recent article, I discussed why sustainable seafood is important and how to find it—fresh or frozen. Because of overfishing, we should always be thinking sustainable first, but when do you choose sustainable fresh or sustainable frozen?


If the fish can get from the boat deck to your backdoor in half a day without flying first class, fresh is a safe bet. Otherwise, feel confident that a conscious choice for frozen is a healthier and less wasteful one.

Read the original article here.


Jun 23 2014

California congressman calls ocean acidification “the biggest thing no one is talking about”

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM Press-Democrat] By Mary Callaghan – June 18, 2014 –

BODEGA BAY, It’s been called the “evil twin” of climate change, an environmental peril so daunting and widespread that it could undo much of the world’s food web, undermine global nutrition and devastate coastal economies.

Ocean acidification, however, is often largely overlooked outside the circles of scientists, yet North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman is seeking to somehow change that and spur action on the issue before it’s too late.

Acidification of the world’s oceans, said Huffman, D-San Rafael, “is the biggest thing that nobody is talking about.”

Shellfish grown off the nation’s West Coast already display the ill effects of rapid changes in the ocean’s chemistry, an early sign that the health of the marine ecosystem could hang in the balance, Huffman said.

“You can’t really overstate the impact of this,” Huffman said at a news conference this week at Bodega Marine Laboratory that was attended by representatives from science, aquaculture and government.

“We’re very, very quickly approaching the tipping point, I believe,” Huffman said.

Huffman’s district runs from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border, taking in about a third of the coast of California, where seafood is a $24-billion industry, supporting 145,000 jobs.

The 2nd Congressional District is on the front lines of the issue because the shift toward ocean acidity is expected to be especially pronounced along the North Coast, said John Largier, an environmental science and policy professor at Bodega Marine Lab.

Absorption of excess carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere at historically high rates is lowering the pH of oceans around the planet, scientists say.
Its impact on the North Coast is amplified by a natural upwelling that serves as a kind of conveyor belt, bringing deep water made naturally acidic and rich in carbon dioxide by decaying organic matter toward the surface, where it absorbs still more carbon dioxide.

This dynamic effectively puts the northern California coast “at the forefront of acidification,” said Largier, who is one of several marine lab scientists studying aspects of acidification and was among those joining Huffman on Monday.

And yet, while global warming has a high degree of public recognition, ocean acidification is a less familiar phenomenon, Huffman said.

Terry Sawyer, owner of Hog Island Oyster Co. on Tomales Bay, put it this way: “We’re dealing with something that’s hard to touch. It’s hard to see, hard to taste, smell, etc.”

Huffman organized the event in part to highlight bipartisan legislation that he is co-sponsoring with Washington state Congressman Derek Kilmer. The Ocean Acidification Innovation Act is intended to spark new research and innovation in adaptive strategies through X-Prize-style competitions. The bill would leverage existing federal funds to create competitions for research into solutions, Huffman said.

But he said he also wanted to awaken public awareness to an environmental threat that has yet to receive the attention given to climate change. “This one has a potential to just be enormous and overwhelming,” he said.

“Nothing is quite as scary as acidification,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.

Scientists say the oceans absorb a quarter or more of the carbon dioxide humankind puts into the atmosphere — about 22 million tons a day, on top of the estimated 525 billion tons absorbed over the past two centuries. What exactly that means for the planet is still not known, Largier said, though “it doesn’t look good.”

Shellfish, however, and particularly West Coast oysters, are providing some clues. Scientists are looking at reproductive failures in their midst in recent years — problems they ascribe to the interference of low pH water with the synthesis of calcium carbonate through which oyster larvae, and presumably other shellfish, develop hard, protective shells.

Sawyer and other West Coast purveyors of farm-raised oysters have seen “complete crashes” at some hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest, where he and other producers obtain the oyster larvae to seed their farms. Sawyer has had similar die-offs at his Tomales Bay operation, enough so that he’s building a new hatchery in Humboldt Bay to provide seed for his farm. He and his staff, meanwhile, are working closely with the marine lab to monitor and document conditions at his facility and develop strategies to try to adapt.

The entire fishing industry is at risk, given the role of calcium carbonate synthesis in skeletal development, potentially disrupting the entire food web, from the lowest phytoplankton on up, Largier said.

Largier and his colleagues emphasized that the world’s oceans are already contending with pollution, areas of low oxygen and rampant over fishing. Those problems are likely to compound any effects of acidification.

“The science is really early days,” Largier said.

UC Davis researcher Daniel Swezey, said one of the alarming features of ocean acidification is that a certain amount is inescapable, given the volume of past and current carbon dioxide emissions. “We’re kind of locked in to a certain amount of change,” he said. Largier said reducing carbon dioxide emissions is the only real fix but conceded that even large-scale, global changes in human behavior might not be evident for decades.

But that’s “no reason not to start acting now,” Largier said.

“Even if we completely adapt,” said Grader, “if we don’t start changing the ways we’re doing things now, we’re going to lose our ocean. We’re going to lose the planet.”

Posted by permission from Subscribe to their seafood industry news here.

Jun 22 2014

Regional Fishery Management Councils call on Oceana to retract bycatch report; Cite “substantial errors, omissions”



WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) — June 18, 2014  — The Regional Fishery Management Council Coordination Committee, representing all eight U.S. regional Fishery Management Councils, has recommended that environmental group Oceana retract its March 2014 report on fisheries bycatch, “Wasted Catch,” that was widely reported in the press without independent verification of its allegations.

Saving Seafood reported on problems in Oceana’s report in brief on the day of its release and in-depth last month.

BRIEF: Oceana Report on Bycatch Ignores Examples of Environmental Stewardship in Commercial Fishing

IN-DEPTH: Oceana’s Bycatch Report and Media Coverage Ignores Key Successes in U.S. Fisheries

After an exhaustive analysis of the report, the Councils found “a variety of substantial errors, omissions, and organizational approaches” in the Oceana report that “may seriously miscommunicate bycatch information.” The Councils have recommended that Oceana retract the report “until [they] have the time and/or resources to develop a better understanding of the data summarized in the report.”

The Councils contend that “misinformation in reports like Wasted Catch undermines those productive relationships between industry, management, and NGOs that have been effective in reducing bycatch.” They are especially critical of the fact that Oceana relied heavily on only one document, the National Marine Fishery Service’s “National Bycatch Report,” and in doing so has left the report “unlikely to result in a full representation of the best available science.”

The Councils recommended that for future reports, Oceana should adopt “a standardized peer review process to ensure that reports like this accurately and objectively represent the best available science.”

The analysis by the Councils lists general issues with and critiques of the report, followed by a region-by-region analysis of errors and omissions identified by Council staffs.

The Councils conclude by acknowledging, “there are no laws requiring Oceana reports to accurately represent the best available scientific information or to undergo peer review.” But they urge that “to do so would be in the best interest of all involved parties.”

Read the full letter from the Regional Fishery Management Council Coordination Committee here

Jun 16 2014

Point of View: Seafood’s future hinges on reducing carbon pollution

By Bruce Steele
June 01, 2014


Bruce Steele has spent more than 40 years as a commercial diver and fisherman in Oregon and California. He is a longstanding leader in resource management and industry associations.

A decade ago, Japanese researchers showed that seawater soured by carbon pollution would hamper sea urchins’ reproductive capabilities. I read their report and saw trouble on the horizon. As a commercial urchin diver in California, I hoped this trouble would stay far away. Now it’s here.

Christina Frieder at UC-Davis has demonstrated that waters acidified to pH 7.8 — a level already detected along the West Coast — can reduce fertilization success by 20 percent in red sea urchins, which are harvested from California to Alaska. Frieder states that 60 percent reductions in fertilization success may occur in the decades ahead as pollution pushes seawater pH down to 7.5. This means that red sea urchins will have a harder time recruiting into the fishery, and they will be less abundant. Surface waters had an average pH of 8.2 in pre-Industrial times; acid from carbon emissions has reduced that to about 8.1 in today’s ocean, and it’s heading south fast.

Now ocean acidification is my problem. If you work in seafood, it’s yours too.

Red king crab suffers 100 percent mortality of larvae after 90 days in seawater at a pH of 7.5. Oysters, mussels, clams, abalone and some scallops are vulnerable, which shellfish farmers are learning the hard way. Corals that shelter vulnerable fish populations in much of the world are at risk. Shells of pteropods, common zooplankton that are a key food source for salmon, are already dissolving in Pacific Northwest waters. Two recent studies found that modest levels of acidification can impair growth in American lobsters. Direct impacts on fish are also becoming clear: Some fish lose their ability to smell and evade predators or distinguish them from their own prey. The catalog of harm includes damage to organ tissues, neurological functions, growth and reproduction.

For the seafood industry, some consequences are now inevitable. But there is no place to hide, so we had better defend ourselves. Both the causes and the consequences of acidification can be reduced.

How to curb the causes? Strong policies to reduce carbon emissions would be a good start. Without those, everything else we do will amount to an epitaph.

This industry can and should push Congress and the Obama administration to protect fisheries from carbon pollution. California and nine Atlantic states from Maine to Maryland have embraced market-based systems — akin to individual fishing quotas — to cut emissions. This hasn’t broken their economies. Now even China is trying a market system to cut emissions in five cities. India has launched the world’s first nationwide cap-and-trade regime to curtail carbon pollution.

Protecting seafood supplies will require especially deep cuts in carbon pollution. A recent paper published in Nature by Steinacher, et al., illuminates the geochemical vulnerability of productive fisheries: If CO2 emissions push atmospheric concentration beyond 550 parts per million, more than 90 percent of waters where coral reefs grow are likely to become chemically hostile to many corals and other calcifiers.

How to reduce harm? We are learning tools for adaptation. To save collapsing “seed” supplies for Pacific Northwest shellfish farms,  hatcheries have found effective but costly ways to measure and manipulate seawater chemistry in their tanks. That’s how they protect larvae that were dying by the billions in corrosive waters during their most vulnerable first days of life. In coastal bays, researchers along the West Coast are investigating whether photosynthesis by sea grass can soak up enough CO2 to protect neighboring calcifiers from acidifying waters, a research priority identified by Washington’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification.

Can we protect fish stocks in open waters? Maybe. No-fishing areas, which I fought for many years, do increase density and size of formerly fished stocks. That might help protect reproductive capacity of broadcast spawners like red sea urchins: Acidification makes their sperm swim slower and survival time of urchin sperm limits successful fertilization. Another approach is increasing the size limit of sea urchins that can be harvested, to increase sea urchin densities and spawning success.

Working with researchers from two University of California campuses, the sea urchin industry has funded and facilitated a long-term study of larval sea urchin recruitment. Our one-of-a-kind data set shows trends in sea urchin survival at 15 sites. If decreased red sea urchin recruitment does show up, we will see it in the data. Keeping track of recruitment has helped us manage our fishery in the past and it will help us recognize when we need to protect spawning capacity. But that’s only treating the symptom.

Frieder’s findings on red sea urchins are a harbinger of trouble for the whole ocean. To stay in business, seafood producers of all kinds will need to belly up to some tough new management practices. We will also need to become effective champions for pollution controls that most of us have ignored until now.

Bruce Steele has spent more than 40 years as a commercial diver and fisherman in Oregon and California. He is a longstanding leader in resource management and industry associations.


Read the original article here.

Jun 13 2014

Unusual Fish Catches Off San Diego Signal Large-Scale El Niño, Researcher Says

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 | By Susan Murphy | Aired 6/11/14 on KPBS News.


Wikimedia Commons

El Niño currents and warming water are drawing semi-tropical fish, such as yellowfin, to San Diego’s coast several months earlier than usual.

One telltale sign that this year’s coming El Niño could be a big one is what’s been reeled in off San Diego’s coast.

Above-average sea surface temperatures are developing in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The weather phenomenon, called El Niño, changes the heating pattern of the atmosphere and pulls the Pacific jet stream farther south. It has the potential to play havoc on weather systems across the globe, causing heavy rain and mudslides in some areas, drought in others, and disrupting the marine food chain.

Previous strong El Niños caused above-average rainfall and coastal erosion in San Diego. In 1997-1998, the event was credited with dumping 17 inches of rain at Lindbergh Field.

“This looks really a lot like the ’97-’98 El Niño event, which was one of the biggest ones ever recorded,” said Tim Barnett, marine research physicist emeritus with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how things develop in the summer,” he added.

Barnett said the ’97-’98 event caused a northward shift of the whole fishery population, drawing an abundance of albacore and Bluefin tuna to San Diego’s unusually warm waters.

“We’ve already started to see very unusual fish catches here,” Barnett said. “The first yellowfin tuna was caught in May — that has never happened before to anybody’s recollection.”

“And the other thing too is the first dorado Mahi Mahi — first of June,” Barnett added, “that has never happened before. They really like the warm water and you normally don’t see them here until September.”

Barnett said both catches could be signatures of a coming large-scale El Niño. He said the tropical fish get caught up in currents caused by El Niño trade winds.

“They get entrapped in the current and they just swim along happily North,” Barnett said. “Unfortunately, it’s a one-way trip for most of them, it appears.”

In 1997-98, there were a lot of strange biological goings-on, Barnett added, like yellowtail being caught off Kodiak Island in Alaska. The tropical fish usually stops much farther south at Point Conception near Santa Barbara, California.

“And nobody could identify them, it’s really funny, they had never seen a yellowtail in Kodiak Island, and they had to send the fish out to be identified.”

Barnett said it’s still too early to project this year’s El Niño strength, but the unusual fish sightings are a good early indication.


Jun 12 2014

Monterey Bay: Squid fishermen having boom year

20140605__mch-l-squidcutline-0606~1_GALLERY(Vern Fisher – Monterey Herald)

Squid fishermen are enjoying an outstanding season so far on Monterey Bay, where the water was crowded Thursday with 28 boats. The season opened on April 1. “It’s a 12-month season, but it’s limited by what’s called a max cap, meaning there’s a maximum amount of tonnage that can be taken,” said Monterey Harbormaster Stephen Scheiblauer. “Sometimes they’ll fish all year and never reach that max cap, but the last couple of years have been boom years for squid, and they’ve reached it fairly early. And this year, so far, has been dynamite, which is why we have all of those boats out there right now.”

Original post: Monterey Herald

Jun 12 2014

FDA and EPA Issue Updated Draft Advice for Fish Consumption



Advice encourages pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to eat more fish that are lower in mercury

WASHINGTON — June 10, 2014 — The following was released by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued updated draft advice on fish consumption. The two agencies have concluded pregnant and breastfeeding women, those who might become pregnant, and young children should eat more fish that is lower in mercury in order to gain important developmental and health benefits. The updated draft advice is consistent with recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Previously, the FDA and the EPA recommended maximum amounts of fish that these population groups should consume, but did not promote a minimum amount. Over the past decade, however, emerging science has underscored the importance of appropriate amounts of fish in the diets of pregnant and breastfeeding women, and young children.

“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”

An FDA analysis of seafood consumption data from over 1,000 pregnant women in the United States found that 21 percent of them ate no fish in the previous month, and those who ate fish ate far less than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends-with 50 percent eating fewer than 2 ounces a week, and 75 percent eating fewer than 4 ounces a week. The updated draft advice recommends pregnant women eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week of a variety of fish that are lower in mercury to support fetal growth and development.

“Eating fish with lower levels of mercury provides numerous health and dietary benefits,” said Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Water. “This updated advice will help pregnant women and mothers make informed decisions about the right amount and right kinds of fish to eat during important times in their lives and their children’s lives.”

The updated draft advice cautions pregnant or breastfeeding women to avoid four types of fish that are associated with high mercury levels: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; and king mackerel. In addition, the updated draft advice recommends limiting consumption of white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

Choices lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.

When eating fish caught from local streams, rivers and lakes, follow fish advisories from local authorities. If advice isn’t available, limit your total intake of such fish to 6 ounces a week and 1-3 ounces for children.

Before issuing final advice, the agencies will consider public comments, and also intend to seek the advice of the FDA’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee and conduct a series of focus groups.

The public can provide comment on the draft advice and the supplemental questions and answers by submitting comments to the Federal Register docket or by participating in any public meetings that may be held. The comment period will be open until 30 days after the last transcript from the advisory committee meeting and any other public meetings becomes available. The dates of any public meetings, as well as when the public comment period will close, will be published in future Federal Register notices at

For more information:
To comment on the draft advice on fish consumption:
  • Starting Wednesday, June 11, 2014, submit comments through the Federal Register docket at
Jun 10 2014

NOAA vessel to conduct research with Scripps, UCSD


Jun 06, 2014 | SDNEWS.COM

Fisheries survey vessel Reuben Lasker, the newest member of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research fleet, was commissioned May 2 in San Diego, tasked with conducting research cruises in the California Current, the ocean region where Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, and NOAA operate the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations program.

“NOAA will once again be prominent in San Diego Bay,” said U.S. 53rd District Rep. Susan Davis, who helped secure American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for the construction of the $75-million Lasker. “The ship brings an important legacy to our research mission and to the blue economy.”

The vessel, which will dock at the 10th Avenue Terminal, will be the first NOAA ship home-ported in San Diego since David Starr Jordan was retired in 2009 after having logged 1.5 million miles in its 44-year tenure.

The Lasker’s duties will routinely conduct research cruises in the California Current for the state fisheries investigations program with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Since 1949, the fisheries program has conducted regular cruises with the goal of managing living resources in an ocean region that supports a $250 million fishery.

The 208-foot vessel is named for the late Reuben Lasker, NOAA coastal fisheries division director, who served as an adjunct professor at Scripps. Lasker is noted in fisheries management for his advances in understanding the transition period of commercially important fish species from juveniles to adults.

San Diego Port Commissioner Bob Nelson noted that the ship brings 24 jobs and an estimated $27 million to the local economy.

The ship’s first cruise will center on a July cetacean and ecosystem survey. It will employ perhaps its most distinctive feature, an ability to operate so quietly that the vessel will be able to make close-range observations of marine life without disturbing animal behavior or compromising extremely sensitive acoustic equipment.


In related news:

As the probability of an El Niño winter increases, Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers are following the climate phenomenon as it develops off Southern California and finding that local readings closely hew to El Niño monitoring taking place at the equator.

El Niño is a phenomenon characterized by warmer sea surface water in the equatorial Eastern Pacific Ocean. It is often associated with greater rainfall on much of the U.S. West Coast and frequently enhances the encroachment of storm surges by raising regional sea levels for several months at a time. An El Niño is defined by a seasonal sea surface temperature anomaly in the eastern-central equatorial Pacific greater than 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than historical average temperature. The opposite phenomenon, La Niña, is defined as a seasonal sea surface temperature colder than the historical average.

The researchers’ data are distributed by the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS), a region of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System. SCCOOS uses the data to make model forecasts in support of U.S. national security.


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