Posts Tagged sustainable

May 21 2014

FAO Releases State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report


United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: 70% of global fish stocks fished within sustainable limits; seafood production up 10 million tons

WASHINGTON ( May 20, 2014 — FAO has released its latest “State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” report, covering 2012,  and there are a number of positive news items. First and foremost, 70% of wild capture fisheries are now being fished within biologically sustainable limits.

This is a “reversal in trend observed during the past few years, a positive sign in the right direction,” says the FAO. Global capture fisheries remained stable at 80 million tons.

Secondly, the aquaculture production continues to surge. Global aquaculture production marked a record high of more than 90 million tonnes in 2012, including almost 24 million tonnes of aquatic plants. China accounted for over 60 percent of the total share.

Other positive trends were the increase in employment in fisheries and aquaculture, the greater share o trade coming from developing countries, and the fact that seafood now accounts for 17% of global protein consumption.

The report also emphasizes the importance and positive role of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which, since its adoption almost two decades ago, remains key to achieving sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

More people than ever before rely on fisheries and aquaculture for food and as a source of income says the new FAO report published today.

According to the latest edition of FAO’s The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, global fisheries and aquaculture production totaled 158 million tonnes in 2012 – around 10 million tonnes more than 2010.

The rapid expansion of aquaculture, including the activities of small-scale farmers, is driving this growth in production.

Fish farming holds tremendous promise in responding to surging demand for food which is taking place due to global population growth, the report says.

At the same time, the planet’s oceans – if sustainably managed – have an important role to play in providing jobs and feeding the world, according to FAO’s report.

“The health of our planet as well as our own health and future food security all hinge on how we treat the blue world,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said.

“We need to ensure that environmental well-being is compatible with human well-being in order to make long-term sustainable prosperity a reality for all. For this reason, FAO is committed to promoting ‘Blue Growth,’ which is based on the sustainable and responsible management of our aquatic resources.”

The renewed focus on the so-called “blue world” comes as the share of fisheries production used by humans for food has increased from about 70 percent in the 1980s to a record high of more than 85 percent (136 million tonnes) in 2012.

At the same time per capita fish consumption has soared from 10 kg in the 1960s to more than 19 kg in 2012.

The new report also says fish now accounts for almost 17 percent of the global population’s intake of protein — in some coastal and island countries it can top 70 percent.

FAO estimates that fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of 10-12 percent of the world’s population.

Since 1990 employment in the sector has grown at a faster rate than the world’s population and in 2012 provided jobs for some 60 million people engaged in capture fisheries and aquaculture. Of these, 84 percent were employed in Asia, followed by Africa with about 10 percent.

Global marine capture fishery production was stable at about 80 million tonnes in 2012, the new report indicates.

Currently, under 30 percent of the wild fish stocks regularly monitored by FAO are overfished – a reversal in trend observed during the past few years, a positive sign in the right direction.

Just over 70 percent are being fished within biologically sustainable levels. Of these, fully fished stocks – meaning those at or very close to their maximum sustainable production – account for over 60 percent and underfished stocks about 10 percent.

Global aquaculture production marked a record high of more than 90 million tonnes in 2012, including almost 24 million tonnes of aquatic plants. China accounted for over 60 percent of the total share.

Aquaculture’s expansion helps improve the diets of many people, especially in poor rural areas where the presence of essential nutrients in food is often scarce.

However, the report warns that to continue to grow sustainably, aquaculture needs to become less dependent on wild fish for feeds and introduce greater diversity in farmed culture species and practices.

For example, small-sized species can be an excellent source of essential minerals when consumed whole. However, consumer preferences and other factors have seen a switch towards larger farmed species whose bones and heads are often discarded.

The role of fish is set to feature prominently at the Second International Conference on Nutrition jointly organized by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) for 19-21 November 2014 in Rome.

Fish remains among the most traded food commodities worldwide, worth almost $130 billion in 2012 – a figure which likely will continue to increase.

An important trend sees developing countries boosting their share in the fishery trade – 54 percent of total fishery exports by value in 2012 and more than 60 percent by quantity (live weight).

This means fisheries and fish farming are playing an increasingly critical role for many local economies. Some 90 percent of fishers are small scale and it is estimated that, overall, 15 percent are women. In secondary activities such as processing, this figure can be as high as 90 percent.

FAO, through the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, is raising the profile of smallholder activities – including fisheries and aquaculture – with an emphasis on improving access to finance and markets, securing tenure rights and protecting the environment.

An estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food are lost per year – to about one-third of all food produced. This figure includes post-harvest fish losses, which tend to be greater in small-scale fisheries.

In small-scale fisheries, quality losses are often far more significant than physical losses. Improved handling, processing and value-addition methods could address the technical aspects of this issue, but it is also vital to extend good practices, build partnerships, raise awareness, and develop capacity and relevant policies and strategies.

The report also notes that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a major threat to marine ecosystems and also impacts negatively on livelihoods, local economies and food supplies.

Food chain traceability is increasingly a requirement in major fish markets, especially in the wake of recent scandals involving the mislabeling of food products.

FAO provides technical guidelines on certification and ecolabeling which can help producers demonstrate that fish has been caught legally from a sustainably managed fishery or produced in properly run aquaculture facility.

In particular, the report stresses the importance of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which, since its adoption almost two decades ago, remains key to achieving sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

The Code promotes the responsible use of aquatic resources and habitat conservation to help boost the sector’s contribution to food security, poverty alleviation and human well-being.

FAO is also promoting “Blue Growth” as a framework for ensuring sustainable and socioeconomically-sensitive management of oceans and wetlands.

At the Global Oceans Action Summit on Food Security and Blue Growth held last month in The Hague, Netherlands, governments and other participants committed to actions focused on tackling climate change, overfishing, habitat loss and pollution in a bid to restore productive, resilient oceans.

This story originally appeared on, a subscription site. It is reprinted with permission.

Sep 14 2012

Sea Level’s Rise Focus of Summit

Projections of dramatic change draw group to UCSD to strategize about vulnerabilities of affected areas

LA JOLLA — Climate researchers, social scientists and policy experts from across the Pacific Rim convened at UC San Diego last week to get ahead of seas projected to rise so dramatically that they could create some of the most visible effects of global warming.

Representatives from about 20 leading research universities and nonprofit groups in South Korea, Russia, Indonesia and elsewhere met to prepare for potentially catastrophic effects on 200 million people and trillions of dollars of coastal assets.

Sea levels off most of California are expected to rise about 3 feet by 2100, according to recent projections by the National Research Council. Higher seas create challenges for port cities from San Diego to Singapore, including the potential for dramatically increased damage to coastal roads, homes and beaches — especially during storms.

“All future development has to be assessed in regards to future rises in sea level,” Steffen Lehmann, professor of sustainable design at the University of South Australia, said during the conference. “Reducing the vulnerabilities of urban (areas) is the big topic, the big task ahead of us now.”

Potential responses include managing a retreat from eroding bluffs and reshaping coastal areas to buffer development from higher water levels. “The missing link (is) between the science and those guys in planning offices and architecture firms and city municipal offices,” Lehmann said.

David Woodruff, director of the University of California San Diego’s Sustainability Solutions Institute, organized the workshop to address that problem with cross-disciplinary discussions that move toward international action.

“We are trying to affect societal change,” he said. “The sooner we start scoping options, the less expensive it will be to save current infrastructure.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a consortium of 42 leading research institutions. Participants drafted a report about rising sea levels for top university leaders so they can make the topic a priority with national-level leaders around the Pacific Rim.

“I really think universities can play a key role,” said UC San Diego’s Charles Kennel. “They are right at the pivot point between connecting knowledge to action. … One of the places they need to transfer their knowledge to is adaptation to climate change.”

A warming climate causes sea levels to rise primarily by heating the oceans — which causes the water to expand — and by melting land ice, which drains water to the ocean. Sea levels at any given spot depend on a complex interaction of factors, such as ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns and tectonic plate movements.

Global sea level has risen about 7 inches during the 20th century, the National Research Council said.

While sea-level-rise projections aren’t a sure thing, they are widely accepted by mainstream scientists. Skeptics see it as a waste of money to plan for problems that may not materialize for decades, or may be more modest than predicted.

Read more on the Union-Tribune San Diego.

May 28 2012

Whole Foods Is Wrong Says Industry, Environmentalists, Scientists, Congress and Government Data

Note: The article below is a companion piece that compliments Ray Hilborn’s article, Eat Your Hake and Have It, Too. Although the focus of this article is on east coast species, there are also a few species on the west coast that have received less than favorable ratings on the Seafood Watch Card.


“I haven’t been judged by this many people since I forgot my canvas bags at Whole Foods.” 
– Character of Mitchell Pritchett, ABC’s “Modern Family”

by Bob Vanasse and John Cooke |  Saving Seafood Staff

WASHINGTON – For some time, Whole Foods Market has used green issues as part of its marketing effort, appealing to the legitimate concerns of its customers for environmental protection and sustainability.  On a recent episode of ABC’s hit series “Modern Family”, the character of Mitchell Pritchett, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, delivered a punch line about shopping-bag sanctimony in the store’s check out lines.  On Earth Day of this year, Whole Foods extended the sanctimony to their fish counters, announcing they would no longer allow their customers to buy fish rated “red” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute.

Since that policy was introduced on Earth Day, industry leaders, environmental advocates, fisheries scientists, and lawmakers have gone on record either directly opposing – or presenting information raising serious questions and doubts about – the “red” sustainability ratings.  In addition, information made public by the federal government, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), directly contradicts many of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean assertions.

Michael Conathan of the Center for American Progress wrote, “Whole Foods’ decision to cast its sustainability lot with national organizations that fail to account for the localized impacts of their policy pronouncements also speaks directly to the broader problem of the consolidation of our food-purchasing decisions. Policies set at a corporate level will inherently be made in the best interests of the company. Environmental health or animal cruelty issues may play a role, but at the end of the day the decision will come down to what’s best for the company’s bottom line.”

Ray Hilborn, professor of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Washington and author, along with his wife Ulrike Hilborn, of Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know, published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, is highly critical of the science behind Monterrey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute’s ratings. In an op-ed in the New York Times, the Hilborns write that the ratings “are based on a misunderstanding of what constitutes a sustainable fishery. The fact is that we can harvest a certain fraction of a fish population that has been overfished, if we allow for the natural processes of birth and growth to replace what we take from the ocean and to rebuild the stock.”

They go on to write that American fisheries are some of the best managed in the world, and that in the last 11 years NOAA has declared 27 species rebuilt to healthy levels. They note that even species that are considered overfished are governed by catch limits to ensure sustainability, and “there were no apparent conservation benefits from the refusal of consumers to buy those overfished species.”

The Hiborns’ claims are backed up by data from NOAA’s Fish Watch, a program by NOAA Fisheries to provide seafood consumers with the most up-to-date information on seafood sustainability. According to NOAA, several of the red-rated (“avoid”) seafood species on Monterrey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute’s seafood list are not as threatened as their ratings would suggest. Rather, these species are heavily regulated to ensure their conservation and rebuilding.

Read the full article on SavingSeaFood.

May 26 2012

Eat Your Hake and Have It, Too

Eat Your Hake and Have It, Too

 By Ray Hilborn and Ulrike Hilborn


WHOLE FOODS recently stopped selling fish that are on the “red lists” of seafood to avoid, issued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute. Other major food retailers are considering similar measures, under the assumption that because a species is overfished, it is not sustainable.

Those decisions are based on a misunderstanding of what constitutes a sustainable fishery. The fact is that we can harvest a certain fraction of a fish population that has been overfished, if we allow for the natural processes of birth and growth to replace what we take from the ocean and to rebuild the stock. Instead of calling on consumers to abstain from all overfished species, we should direct our attention at fisheries that consistently take more fish than can be naturally replaced.

Bluefin tuna is a classic example of a species that has been consistently harvested too hard and should be avoided by consumers. But at the same time, the United States has made remarkable progress in rebuilding overfished stocks. Wild populations of 27 species have been rebuilt to “healthy” levels in the last 11 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Earlier this month, the agency announced that six formerly overfished stocks had been rebuilt, including Bering Sea snow crab, Atlantic Coast summer flounder and Gulf of Maine haddock.

But even as those stocks were being rebuilt, there were no apparent conservation benefits from the refusal of consumers to buy those overfished species. The catch was limited by rules set by regional fisheries councils based on quotas determined by fisheries scientists and enforced by the oceanic agency and by the Coast Guard. Any boycott punished American fishermen, who got a lower price when the catch was sold abroad.

Elsewhere in the world, many fisheries have become unsustainable because of fishing pressures. Most of Asia and Africa do not have management systems that regulate those pressures. And while Europe does have a management system, the quotas are often based on politics rather than science. Many European stocks are fished too hard — some cod stock, for example — and should be avoided by consumers.

If we are to fully harvest the potential sustainable yield of fish from the ocean, we cannot follow the utopian dictum that no stocks may be overfished. After all, even in sustainably managed fisheries, some stocks will almost always be classified as overfished because of natural fluctuations in their populations.

At the same time, we should recognize that seafood-labeling systems hold seafood to much higher standards than other forms of agriculture. The same stores that won’t sell an overfished species are selling other foods whose production affects the environment far more.

During a recent visit to a Whole Foods store in Seattle, we saw no evaluation of the environmental impact of the meat being sold. Free-range chickens were labeled, but there were no labels telling us if pesticide and fertilizer runoff from growing the corn used to feed the beef caused dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, or if the soybeans came from land clear-cut out of the Brazilian rain forest.

Truly informative seafood labels must distinguish between the abundance of a fish stock and its sustainability. Some fish will be disappearing from supermarket shelves over the next few years even though they are being sustainably managed. Consumers should tell retailers and environmental groups not to “red list” fish stocks that may be overfished but are being replenished.

Ray Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington, and Ulrike Hilborn, a retired organic farmer, are the authors of “Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know.”


Read the article online via the The New York Times.

Jan 28 2012

LITTLE FISH, BIG INDUSTRY: Proposed Restrictions on the Menhaden Industry Threaten Atlantic Coastal Economies


Just as scientists note the complex interdependence of species in the natural world, economists note a similar kind of interdependence at work with industries, communities, and livelihoods. With so much already on the line during these trying times, menhaden policies based on disputed, inconclusive ecological theories could yield devastating impacts on this economic web of life. 


With an economy struggling to regain equilibrium, governments at all levels have adopted policies aimed at triggering a resurgence in job growth and economic stimulus. Unfortunately, the prospect of some new policies may create more challenging conditions for one important industry based on a small and prolific fish – the Atlantic menhaden.

Most Americans know little about menhaden, an oily fish more likely to be found in their medicine cabinets than on their dinner plates. Prized as one of the main sources for fish oil and fish meal, menhaden are also found in hundreds of household items, from margarine to pet food to salad dressing. The fish also make great bait for crabbers and lobstermen. All told, the resource supports thousands of jobs – directly and indirectly – and generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually, in effect, representing a significant path towards improving the country’s dour economic circumstances.

But this path may become fraught with obstruction, which largely stems from disagreement about the sustainability of the fish and mounting pressure on the regulatory authority that oversees its management. Lauded as a victory for environmental and recreational angling groups who have long dismayed of commercial menhaden fishing, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a deliberative body of representatives from all 15 Atlantic coast states, recently voted to set new “safe harvest” limits on menhaden. Before they are implemented, the ASMFC Menhaden Board – a committee comprised of state fisheries professionals and political appointees – will need to determine the regulations that will achieve these newly approved goals.  The question is: will they implement policies that cause economic harm to the industry and, consequently, the myriad jobs and communities that rely on it?


Read the rest of the article on Saving Seafood.




May 9 2011

Fish Schticks: A Tour of Fast Food Fish

Fish on Fridays by Michael Conathan

The world of fast food fish is often murky. Exactly which species lurks beneath the breading and between those sesame-seeded buns? How was it caught? Where did it come from?

These questions don’t typically arise when it comes to conversations about other fast food products. Beef is pretty much just beef. Chicken is just chicken. We don’t ask if our hens are bantams, leghorns, or Rhode Island Reds. Or whether the cow was raised in Oklahoma or Brazil. (Perhaps we should, but that’s an issue for another day and another columnist to investigate.) And while we might look for “free range” or “organic” labels at the grocery store, if we’re eating under the Golden Arches, we’ve pretty much decided to skip that particular green step.

In this week’s column we look into the fishy offerings from the top fast food chains—four breaded and fried, one popped out of a can and mixed with mayo—to find out what’s in your sandwich. We present them below with just a soupçon of sustainability criteria so that even when you’re making the decision to fund fast food nation you can at least be fully informed about how to minimize your environmental impact.

Navigating the waters of sustainable seafood seems daunting at first glance. But several organizations have worked to overcome that with easy-to-use resources for businesses and consumers. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has convenient pocket guides and a downloadable app for your mobile device. And if you don’t have an iPhone you can send Blue Ocean institute a text message containing the species of fish you’re considering and they’ll send you a quick sustainability profile.

Many corporations look to the Marine Stewardship Council, an organization that certifies fisheries around the world that meet certain sustainability standards. Where chains use MSC-certified products we’ll note that here.

So without further ado let’s peel back the breading and find out what you’re biting into when you unwrap that Filet o’… well, of what, exactly?

Read the rest of the article here.