Archive for August, 2014

Aug 5 2014

Paul Greenberg misses the boat in his push for local California squid; fails to understand market


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Opinion] by D.B. Pleschner  Aug 5, 2014

Recently author Paul Greenberg, now on a media tour promoting his latest book, wrote about California squid in the LA times – suggesting something was amiss when California exported its squid, and then re-imported it for local consumption.   But he never talked to the squid fishermen.  Now they want to set the record straight, with the ‘inconvenient truths’ about the California Squid fishery, which is one of the lowest impact fisheries on the planet.  D.B. Pleschner, head of the California Wetfish producers, responds.



In his op-ed to the Los Angeles Times last week, author Paul Greenberg could have dodged some critical misstatements and inaccuracies about the marketing of California squid – the state’s largest catch.
All he had to do was check with local sources, including the California Wetfish Producers Association, which represents the majority of squid processors and fishermen in the Golden State and promotes California squid.


Instead, Greenberg missed the boat on a number of issues, including the overall carbon footprint of seafood, but equally important, the reasons why most of the squid that California exports is consumed overseas!


To set the record straight, here are some inconvenient truths you wouldn’t know about squid by reading last week’s op-ed:


First, size matters and price rules when it comes to California market squid, which are one of the smallest of more than 300 squid species found worldwide. The U.S. “local” market really prefers larger, “meatier” squid, notwithstanding Greenberg’s ‘locavore’ movement.


Greenberg acknowledged the labor cost to produce cleaned squid in California adds at least $1.50 per pound to the end product. In fact, local production costs double the price of cleaned squid, due to both labor (at least  $15 per hour with benefits) and super-sized overhead costs, including workers’ comp, electricity, water and myriad other costs of doing business in the Golden State.


Del Mar Seafood is one processor in California that micro-processes cleaned squid at the request of markets like the CSA that Greenberg mentioned. In fact, virtually all California squid processors do the same thing at the request of their customers. But at 1,000 pounds per order, we would need 236,000 CSAs, restaurants or retail markets paying $1.50 more per pound to account for the total harvest.  If the demand were there, we’d be filling it!


Greenberg also misconstrued the issue of food miles. Respected researchers like Dr. Peter Tyedmers, from Dalhousie University in Canada, found that transport makes a minor contribution to overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when considering the carbon footprint of seafood (or land-based foods). Mode of production is far more important.


Here’s another surprise:  California squid is one of the most efficient fisheries in the world – because a limited fleet harvests a lot of squid within a short distance of processing plants.


Studies show that the California wetfish fleet, including squid, can produce 2,000 pounds of protein for only 6 gallons of diesel. Squid are then flash frozen to preserve freshness and quality. Keep in mind that even with immaculate handling, fresh squid spoil in a few days.


As counterintuitive as it may seem, even with product block-frozen and ocean-shipped to Asia for processing, California’s squid fishery is one of the ‘greenest’ in the world. One recent survey estimated that about 30 percent of California squid is now either processed here or transshipped to Asia for processing (other Asian countries besides China now do the work) and re-imported.


China, although important, is only one export market that craves California squid. With a growing middle class billions strong, Chinese consumers can now afford California squid themselves. Many countries that import California squid prefer the smaller size, and California squid goes to Mediterranean countries as well.  In short, most of the squid that California’s fishery exports are consumed overseas.  Why? The U.S. palate for squid pales in comparison to Asian and European demand.


Also important to understand: California squid is the economic driver of California’s wetfish industry – which produces more than 80 percent of the total seafood volume landed in the Golden State. California squid exports also represent close to 70 percent by weight and 44 percent of value of all California seafood exports. Our squid fishery contributes heavily to the Golden State’s fishing economy and also helps to offset a growing seafood trade imbalance.


The sad reality is that price really does matter and most California restaurants and retail markets are not willing to pay double for the same – or similar – small squid that they can purchase for half the price.


Nonetheless, we do appreciate Greenberg’s pitch for local seafood. Our local industry would be delighted if, as he suggested, all Californians would be willing to pay $1.50 a pound more for California squid.  We may be biased, but in our opinion California squid really is the best!


D.B. Pleschner is Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit designed to promote sustainable wetfish resources.

Photo Credit: The Smelly Alley Fish Company

Aug 4 2014

Opening weekend at San Diego’s Tuna Harbor outdoor fish market draws larger than expected crowd

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [US San Diego] by Bradley J. Fikes – August 4, 2014


With the help of hundreds of San Diegans who waited patiently Saturday morning, San Diego’s once-dominant seafood industry opened a new chapter.

On a long-unused pier just north of Seaport Village, Tuna Harbor Dockside Market opened at 8 a.m, providing an open-air seafood market that carries overtones of Pike’s Market in Seattle or Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The Port of San Diego and the county worked with local fishers to get the market legally certified and launched in just a couple of weeks.

Working under overcast skies, fishers directly unloaded the catch, including yellowfin, bluefin, black cod, sea urchin, octopus and rock, razor and box crab, from boats to stands. Whole fish as well as fillets were spread out on ice. Live crabs and sea urchins were kept in tanks.

The market is set to operate each Saturday, from 8 a.m. until the seafood sells out.

While the market is a novelty in 21st-century San Diego, buying fresh fish from those who caught it was part of life for the early- to mid-20th century residents. The city’s large fishing fleet would pull up to the Embarcadero, where locals could take their pick of fresh-caught seafood.

At that time, San Diego was known as the “Tuna Capital” of the world. The market moved around during those decades, from Broadway to what is now Seaport Village, and to where Chesapeake Fish Co. is now.

But increasing competition from other countries hollowed out the fishing fleet, causing the loss of many jobs locally.

Saturday’s launch showed today’s San Diegans what they’d been missing out on.

People reportedly began lining up around 6 a.m. By 9 a.m., the line had surpassed 220 people, some carrying or wheeling large coolers to haul away their catch. Around 10:30 the crowd was told the supply was beginning to run out.

Sea urchin was on the mind of one of the cooler-wheeling shoppers, Kristine Ortiguerra of San Diego. The market provides a great addition to the region, Ortiguerra said while waiting toward the back of the line.

“We’d like for this to be routine,” Ortiguerra said. “My parents would drive up to San Pedro for fresh seafood. Hopefully, that is what it’s going to be like.”

Near the front, Michelle Ashbaugh, also of San Diego, said she had been waiting in line for about two hours, starting a little after 7 a.m. Ashbaugh and her friend, Staci Marshall, were looking for crab and yellowtail.

Marshall said the market’s seafood had two advantages.

“It’s fresh, and you don’t have to pay the overhead,” Marshall said.

Bluefin listed for $8 a pound; rock crab for $2.50 a pound; sea urchin at $5 a pound; and sheepshead, famous or infamous for having human-like teeth, for $7 a pound.
The names of the boats each fish came from were displayed with the prices.

Sellers indicated their surprise at the unexpectedly large turnout.

“The crowd’s a lot larger than we had anticipated. This is better than anybody could have asked for on the first day,” said Dwight Colton, vice president of operations for Fish Market Restaurants.

“The goal is to make Saturday mornings at the dockside market the place to go for seafood here in San Diego,” Colton said. “On Saturday mornings, go here, then off to a farmer’s market.”

Availability of whole fish distinguishes the dockside market from other outlets, Colton said.

“Local albacore, rock fish — you can buy them whole,” Colton said. “You can’t get that in any of the markets.”

Live sea urchins, known as uni in sushi-speak, also distinguish the market. The savory echinoderms are available at sushi restaurants in limited quantities at irregular intervals.

The market is intended to operate year-round if there’s sufficient demand, Colton said.

“We’re working with the port, we’re working with the local fishermen to establish what everybody can bring each week,” he said. “A lot depends on what comes out of the ocean. Summertime is a peak season for varieties of seafood. But there’s a steady flow of fresh seafood coming out of our local waters throughout the year.”

The market is meant not only to stimulate the local fishing industry, but to provide fresh and healthy food for the county’s residents. It’s also an example of cooperation between local fishers, said the County of San Diego and the Port District, which owns the pier.

County Supervisor Greg Cox credited the county’s Department of Environment Health for cutting red tape to get the market certified and opened in less than two weeks, along with the Port of San Diego, and the fishers for making the market possible. Local fishermen Zack Roach Jr. and Luke Halmay were leaders in organizing the market.

Cox, whose district includes the pier, said at a brief ceremony that the new market marks a revival of fortunes for the local fishing fleet.

“This market is definitely going to help our local fishing industry and our ‘blue economy’ by allowing fisherman to sell the catch to you, the public, without any middlemen,” Cox said. “The market will also turn a quiet, unused pier, into a vibrant attraction for local residents and for tourists.”

The market also provides more healthy eating options, Cox said, consistent with the county’s “Live Well San Diego,” aimed at getting people to eat a more healthy diet, exercise more and not use tobacco products.

Port Chairman Bob Nelson told shoppers that the agency was “overwhelmed” at the response to the new market. He credited the San Diego Maritime Alliance and the California Coastal Conservancy with helping get the market off the ground.

Photo Credit: UT San Diego


Republished with permission from Read the original post here.

Aug 1 2014

Farming The Bluefin Tuna, Tiger Of The Ocean, Is Not Without A Price

Dan Charles  |  July 30, 2014


Yonathan Zohar, Jorge Gomezjurado and Odi Zmora check on bluefin tuna larvae in tanks at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. (Courtesy of Yonathan Zohar)


In a windowless laboratory in downtown Baltimore, some tiny, translucent fish larvae are swimming about in glass-walled tanks.

They are infant bluefin tuna. Scientists in this laboratory are trying to grasp what they call the holy grail of aquaculture: raising this powerful fish, so prized by sushi lovers, entirely in captivity. But the effort is fraught with challenges.

When I visited, I couldn’t see the larvae at first. They look incredibly fragile and helpless, just drifting in the tanks’ water currents. But they’re already gobbling up microscopic marine animals, which in turn are living on algae.

“It’s amazing. We cannot stop looking at them! We are here around the clock and we are looking at them, because it is so beautiful,” says Yonathan Zohar, the scientist in charge of this project.

It’s beautiful to Zohar because it’s so rare. Scientists are trying to raise bluefin tuna completely in captivity in only a few places around the world. Laboratories in Japan have led the effort. This experiment, at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, is the first successful attempt in North America.

Scientists still have a long way to go to succeed. Most of the larvae have died, but hundreds have now survived for 10 days, “and we are counting every day,” says Zohar. “We want to be at 25 to 30 days. This is the bottleneck. The bottleneck is the first three to four weeks.”

If they make it that far, they’ll be juvenile fish and much more sturdy. Then, they’ll mainly need lots to eat.

Fully grown, the bluefin tuna is a tiger of the ocean: powerful and voracious, its flesh in high demand for sushi all around the world.

Journalist Paul Greenberg wrote about bluefin tuna in his book Four Fish. If you’re an angler, he says, catching one is an experience you don’t forget.

“When they come onboard, it’s like raw energy coming onto the boat. Their tail will [beat] like an outboard motor, just blazing with power and energy,” he says.

The fish can grow to 1,000 pounds. They can swim up to 45 miles per hour and cross entire oceans.

They’re also valuable. Demand for tuna has grown, especially in Japan, where people sometimes pay fantastic prices for the fish.

That demand has led to overfishing, and wild populations of tuna now are declining.

That’s why scientists like Zohar are trying to invent a new way to supply the world’s demand. They’re trying to invent bluefin tuna farming.

“The vision is to have huge tanks, land-based, in a facility like what you see here, having bluefin tuna that are spawning year-round, on demand, producing millions of eggs,” he says.

Those eggs would hatch and grow into a plentiful supply of tuna.

That brings us back to these precious larvae. Before there can be aquaculture, large quantities of these larvae have to survive. Here in the laboratory, the scientists are tinkering with lots of things — the lights above the tanks, the concentration of algae and water currents — to keep the fragile larvae from sinking toward the bottom of the tank.

“They tend to go down,” explains Zohar. “They have a heavy head. They go head down and tail up. If they hit their head on the bottom they are gone. They are not going to survive.”

Enough are surviving, at the moment, that Zohar thinks they’re getting close to overcoming this obstacle, too.

But that still leaves a final hurdle. The scientists will need to figure out how to satisfy the tuna’s amazing appetite without causing even more damage to the environment.

A tuna’s natural diet consists of other fish. Lots of other fish. Right now, there are tuna “ranches” that capture young tuna in the ocean and then fatten them up in big net-pens. According to Greenberg, those ranches feed their tuna about 15 pounds of fish such as sardines or mackerel for each additional pound of tuna that can be sold to consumers. That kind of tuna production is environmentally costly.

Zohar thinks that it will be possible to reduce this ratio or even create tuna feed that doesn’t rely heavily on other fish as an ingredient.

But Greenberg says the basic fact that they eat so much makes him wonder whether tuna farming is really the right way to go. It increases the population of a predator species that demands lots of food itself.

“Why would you domesticate a tiger when you could domesticate a cow,” he asks — or, even better, a chicken, which converts just 2 pounds of vegetarian feed into a pound of meat.

If farmed tuna really can reduce the demand for tuna caught in the wild, it would be worth doing. But it might do more good, he says, to eat a little lower on the marine food chain. We could eat more mussels or sardines. It would let more tuna roam free.


Read the original story here.