Posts Tagged food

Feb 26 2019

Environmental Impact Displacement in Fisheries & Food

A recent policy perspective paper in Conservation Letters, Lewison et al. 2019 (open access), summarized several examples of environmental impact ‘displacement,’ an important policy concept with implications for fisheries and food.

Examples of environmental impact displacement

Environmental impact displacement is when a conservation policy designed to reduce impact in one area, displaces it to another area, sometimes making the overall problem worse. Researchers cite sea turtle bycatch in swordfish fisheries as an example of displacement in fisheries: U.S. Pacific swordfish fishing was curtailed to protect sea turtles caught as bycatch. However, lower U.S. catch increased foreign swordfish demand which ended up killing more sea turtles as foreign swordfish fisheries had higher rates of bycatch.

ProPublica and the New York Times recently published a long exposé about how a U.S. policy meant to reduce carbon emissions (by increasing biofuel use) raised demand for palm oil in Southeast Asia, which actually increased emissions and jumpstarted the palm oil/biodiversity crisis (this example is also cited in Lewison et al.).

The viral Ocean Cleanup Project is another example of environmental displacement; the crowdfunded campaign was trying to remove marine debris from the great Pacific garbage patch by sweeping a giant net-like object across the ocean. However, if it had worked as intended (it broke), it would have killed many more organisms than the trash it was trying to remove from the ocean.

Environmental displacement in fisheries & food

The concept of environmental impact displacement is important to consider in fisheries management and marine conservation. The swordfish case above is a good example of displacement in individual fisheries, but there are other areas of fishery management that should consider environmental impact displacement. For example, no-take marine protected areas often increase fishing pressure outside the area being protected, nullifying the protection. In some cases, displacing fishing pressure benefits the ecosystem, but often it does not.

Zooming out in scale raises larger systemic questions about food: Consider fisheries and marine conservation as part of a broader, global system of food and ecological preservation. A legitimate argument can be made that fulfilling fishery potential and consuming more seafood is good for the planet—it provides low-carbon, low-impact protein.

As the developing world continues to acquire wealth, global demand for animal-protein will continue to rise. The more seafood that is eaten in place of cow, the better, since bovine farming is the largest driver of rainforest and biodiversity loss on the planet. Not only is seafood the lowest-impact animal protein, several kinds of seafood (e.g. farmed bivalves and wild-caught pelagics) are among the lowest impact foods of any kind.

Solutions to environmental displacement

Lewison et al. 2019 outline ways to reduce environmental impact displacement that can be applied to fisheries management and global food systems. The first step, researchers state, is explicitly considering displacement in policy design, scoping, and evaluation. Fishery managers should evaluate and understand the biological, economic, and social outcomes of proposed policies to avoid issues like accidentally increasing turtle bycatch across the world or raising fishing pressure in an area surrounding an MPA.

Other ways to avoid displacement include:

  • Think large-scale to consider all economic/biological/social relationships
  • Enact both demand-side and supply-side policies
  • International trade agreements and cooperation as a holistic approach to global conservation

Conservation groups should consider the global food system and environmental impact displacement in their advocacy; policy makers and natural resource managers should consider environmental impact displacement in their decision-making processes. Conservation will be more effective with a larger, broad approach—particularly with fisheries and food. Lewison et al. 2019 is open access and available here.

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Apr 30 2015

Love ’em Or Hate ’em, Sea Lions Raise Concerns On The Columbia

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To some people, sea lions are smart, lovable creatures that shouldn’t be harmed in any way. To others they’re loud, destructive pests that need to be controlled.

As sea lion populations grow, both sides have gripes about how these hulking pinnipeds are being managed on the Columbia River.

Some want to see wildlife managers kill more sea lions to protect fragile runs of salmon and steelhead – especially as new research suggests sea lions may be eating a lot more fish than previously thought. Others say killing sea lions is scapegoating, and it won’t solve the bigger environmental problems that put the fish at risk in the first place.

This spring, around 2,400 barking sea lions piled into Astoria’s East Mooring Basin – astonishing biologists who have been monitoring them here for years. The sea lion numbers shattered last year’s record of 1,400 of these marine mammals in the marina.

A lack of food in the ocean and a big smelt run drew them in and soon California sea lions, which can weigh 700 pounds or more apiece, had taken over the Astoria docks that should be harboring boats. That alone is problem for Bill Hunsinger, who oversees those docks as a commissioner with the Port of Astoria.

“They’ve absolutely destroyed them,” he said. “You can’t bring people down to these docks when you have this type of situation.”

But the port’s damaged, unusable docks are only the beginning of Hunsinger’s problems with sea lions that he have been sinking boats, disturbing nearby hotel guests and even biting people and their dogs, he said.

And that’s on top of all the prized spring salmon they’re eating – at times plucking them right off the lines of recreational anglers.

“The fisheries are going to be lost,” he said. “I talked to three guys who went fishing two weekends ago. They had nine fish on and never got one to the boat. Lost ’em all to sea lions.”

Experts say the overall California sea lion population is as big as it’s ever been, thanks in part to the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act’s restrictions on hunting or harming them. Fish and wildlife managers with Oregon and Washington have killed about 70 sea lions on the Columbia to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. But Hunsinger and others say they should be killing more.

To protect fish runs from sea lion predation, Columbia River tribes are hoping to get authorization from Congress to kill more sea lions – beyond what the states of Oregon and Washington are authorized to kill.

Right now, Columbia River Indian tribes’ fish commission is using non-lethal hazing to try to deter sea lions from eating salmon at Bonneville Dam – the first bottleneck for fish on the river. As thousands of returning adult salmon and steelhead swim to their spawning grounds to reproduce, the dam slows them down and makes them easy pickings for sea lions.

Below the dam, tribal members chase down sea lions and shoot firecrackers at them to push the animals farther downriver and away from the bottleneck.

But with dozens of sea lions feeding near the dam, it’s not hard to find one tearing through a fish, thrashing his head out the water to break off a bite while sea gulls swoop down for the scraps.

This is what managers call a predation event. And according to Doug Hatch, a senior fisheries biologist for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, non-lethal hazing with firecrackers can only do so much to prevent it.

“For the times that we’re hazing, it’s pretty effective,” Hatch said. “But as soon as we leave the animals will come back.”

Hatch said more sea lions should be killed to protect fragile runs of salmon and steelhead – not just at Bonneville but throughout the lower river.

Looming over the debate about managing sea lions is an ominous number. Last year, a federal study that tracked returning salmon from the mouth of the Columbia to Bonneville Dam found that 45 percent of the fish went inexplicably missing somewhere along the way.

“The smoking gun is sea lions,” Hatch said. “Sea lion abundance has increased tremendously over the past several years – particularly this year it’s much higher than we’ve seen it before.”

It’s unclear exactly how many of the missing fish were eaten by sea lions, but if all of them were, that’s a huge portion of the salmon people are spending millions of dollars trying to protect and restore – much bigger than the 2-5 percent rate of sea lion predation of salmon documented the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Bonneville Dam.

A new experiment this year aims to fill the gaps in what we know about how many salmon sea lions are eating in the Columbia. Scientists have tagged some sea lions with accelerometers that track the distinctive head-shaking motion they make when they eat salmon. Managers are hoping that the tags will allow them to get a better count on how many fish sea lions are eating in the 146 miles of the river below Bonneville Dam.

But no matter how many salmon sea lions are eating, people who love sea lions contend that it’s wrong to kill them for doing what they naturally do.

“Sea lions are beautiful, amazing animals,” said Ninette Jones of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade. “We have just been blown away by the outpouring of support for these animals.”

Jones’ group watches over sea lions in Astoria and at Bonneville Dam. She said sea lions have a natural predator-prey relationship with salmon and it’s actually people who have put salmon at risk of extinction. Given all the other environmental problems on the Columbia River, including the dams, she said, blaming sea lions is taking the easy, cheaper way out of the complex problems people have created on the river.

“The salmon populations were going extinct when there were no sea lions in the river back in the ’80s,” she said. “So to draw the connection that the sea lions are causing the extinction of salmon it’s basically scapegoating but it’s not going to address the real cause of the extinction of salmon. Even if they killed all the sea lions it’s not going to save the salmon.”

Jones also argues having state wildlife managers killing sea lions is encouraging people to take matters into their own hands and to shoot sea lions illegally. Earlier this month, her group found sea lions bleeding on the docks in Astoria from apparent gunshot wounds.

Robin Brown, marine mammal program lead with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, defended his agency’s policy of lethally removing some sea lions. The state only kills sea lions that have been identified and observed eating salmon below Bonneville Dam, he said, and the 73 killed since 2006 represent a tiny portion of the total population.

“We try to manage for the resource that’s at the greatest risk,” Brown said. “There are over 300,000 California sea lions in the population now and that population is at no risk whatsoever. Yet a lot of these salmon and steelhead populations have been reduced, granted through the actions of people over many years, but those very small populations of salmon and steeled are at great risk of extinction.”

Back in Astoria, port commissioner Bill Hunsinger disagreed with Jones about the effect of the government’s lethal removals. He said the government needs to increase its lethal removal of sea lions to prevent more people from taking matters into their own hands and shooting them illegally. But he doesn’t disagree that sea lions are beautiful.

“Well, they are. And they’re entertaining,” he said. “But they need to go entertain somebody else in someplace else.”

Soon many of the sea lions will leave the Columbia River for their breeding grounds farther south. But there’s little doubt they’ll be back – barking and eating fish again – next spring.

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Feb 13 2013

Sublime spots for sardines

Be the envy of every dolphin, get yourself a beautiful plate of sardines.

Typically used for bait, these little treats take to Mediterranean flavors so well. And if you’re not up for rowing out to buy direct from a bait barge in the bay (umm, that’s illegal), you can paddle over to a few San Diego restaurants making headway on the sardine trend:

What’s the big appeal of sardines? “They taste like fish,” said Trey Foshee, who has served the tiny, oily fish a trillion ways at George’s at the Cove/George’s California Modern. “A lot of fish that’s found in restaurants—the halibuts, the soles, a lot of white fish—they’re geared for people who think eating fish is healthy but they don’t like the taste of fish.” His La Jolla kitchen is currently grilling sardines, plating the filets atop fennel cream, marinated mussels, Japanese squid and wild fennel, and presenting the dish underneath a glass filled with cedar smoke. 1250 Prospect St. La Jolla. (858) 454-4244

One of the top “boat-to-throat” sustainable-seafood advocates in town is Sea Rocket Bistro, a two-roomed, low-key neighborhood spot. The kitchen leaders have changed since it opened in 2008—Tommy Fraioli is the captain now, and he recently won the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival’s Chef of the Fest title. But the San Diego-caught sardines stay on the menu: Find them with a bit of heat-coloring and smoke from their time on the grill. They’re served with their head-on, and festooned with a cucumber and tomato salad with vinegar, lemon, paprika and pickled shallots. 3382 30th St. North Park. (619) 255-7049 or

Read the whole story here



Oct 9 2012

Fish on Fridays: Omega 3s vs. Mercury – Is Seafood Good For You?

It seems there’s a never-ending see-saw battle in scientific research about certain consumables. Red wine will decrease incidence of cardiovascular disease! No it won’t. Dark chocolate will lower your body mass index! Or not.

Seafood is no different. For every report that Omega 3 fatty acids are the fountain of youth, there’s another study warning seafood lovers about looming poison from excessive quantities of heavy metals, especially mercury. But are Omega 3s really that beneficial? And what to make of reports that selenium in fish can counterbalance the negative effects of mercury? And just what the hell is selenium, anyway? What’s the truth about fish?

Of course, there’s no black-and-white answer, but I’ll try to sort through a few of the bigger issues and provide a bit of guidance about what to look for at the fish counter to maximize the benefits and reduce your risk.

First of all, a disclaimer: I’m an ocean policy wonk, not a doctor, so take all this info with a grain of salt (figuratively, people, watch that blood pressure!) and ask your doctor if you have deeper questions—particularly if you’re pregnant.

Read more here



May 12 2011

Grilled Sardines and Okra with Black Garlic Aioli

Grilled Sardines 5.50€ / Marisqueira O Varino Nazaréphoto © 2009 Yusuke Kawasaki | more info (via: Wylio)














Contributed by Hoss Zaré


  • ACTIVE: 45 MIN
  • SERVINGS: 6Grey-line

Black garlic, one of chef Hoss Zaré’s favorite new ingredients, is fermented so it has a sweet, molasses-like flavor and it’s rich with antioxidants. He blends the black garlic with mayonnaise for this dish but using roasted garlic puree blended with balsamic vinegar is equally tasty. If fresh sardines aren’t available or if you’re in a hurry, make this dish with good-quality canned sardines; they’re already cooked so there’s no need to grill them.


Our Pairing Suggestion

Beer Light-bodied kölsch: Gaffel.

Wine Salty, spritzy Muscadet.


Get the full recipe here.


Apr 13 2011

5 Steps to Better Choose Sardines

sardines in a canphoto © 2011 jules | more info (via: Wylio)

Recently James Stuart, a contributor to eHow, posted five steps to picking out sardines. Here are the highlights:

1) Consider where the sardines were caught. Check the label and see if the country is listed. If not, check the company’s website. Knowing where the fish was caught can tell you about the practices that were used to capture it. Check fishing laws to see if that country uses methods you’re comfortable with. It can also help you identify what kind of sardine you like, as regional differences affect the taste of the fish.

2) Check the brand. Different brands may use different fishing methods, and will likely have a reputation. You can check websites such as that will tell you which brands are sustainable.

3) Look at the price. If your main concern is money, go for the cheapest brand. Ensure that the cheapest brand uses fishing methods and packaging that you’re comfortable buying.

4) Look at the packaging. Check to see if there is excess or unnecessary packaging that could hurt the environment. Ensure everything is recyclable.

5) Check the nutritional label and compare. If nutrition is your primary concern, comparing labels will help you select the healthiest brand of sardine.

Read more: How to Choose Sardines on