February 09, 2010
Alaskan fisheries gain sought after certification
. . . MSC is an international nonprofit organization that promotes solutions to the issue of over-fishing. It also runs the only certification and ecolabeling program for wild-capture fisheries consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and the United Nations FAO guidelines for fisheries certification.
[Certification was based on] MSC’s three main principles: status of the fish stock, impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem and the management system overseeing the fishery. These fisheries also will undergo annual surveillance audits.
MSC has hope that these most recent certifications will give consumers more options and information when shopping for cod at local groceries and markets. According to the statement released by MSC :
. . . We anticipate that this certification will result in additional cod products bearing the MSC ecolabel, which will increase the opportunity for consumers to choose seafood that has been independently verified as coming from a sustainable, well-managed source.
MSC promotes its certification mark as a marketing plus:
. . . the MSC brings a range of potential benefits to any company in the supply chain 'from boat to plate'. With consumers and seafood buyers increasingly aware of the importance of healthy oceans, being part of a secure, traceable supply chain selling certified sustainable seafood makes good business sense.
However the MSC’s certification process has been criticized as not going far enough to establish a true sustainable fishery. According to Greenpeace, the MSC certification process has some strengths, but overall has many weaknesses. Some of the weaknesses:
. . . certification requirements are not stringent and weak language is used . . . MSC standards fail to proscribe destructive catching methods, such as trawling or dredging. . . MSC certifies fisheries with depleted stock, which can never be consistent with a sustainable approach.
This post was prepared by William Mitchell College of Law student Nathan Midolo. Mr. Midolo is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.
February 03, 2010
Target going wild
Target announced in a press release last week that it will discontinue the sale of farm-raised salmon in all of its stores. The farm-raised salmon will be replaced with sustainably caught wild Alaskan salmon certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
MINNEAPOLIS (January 26, 2010) – Target® today announces that it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in Target stores nationwide. . . .Many salmon farms impact the environment in numerous ways – pollution, chemicals, parasites and non-native farmed fish that escape from salmon farms all affect the natural habitat and the native salmon in the surrounding areas. Wild-caught salmon from Alaska is considered a "Best Choice" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is certified as sustainable to the standard of theMarine Stewardship Council . Alaskan salmon is among the most intensively managed species in the world, with excellent monitoring of both the fish populations and the fishery.
This post was prepared by William Mitchell College of Law student, Nicolas Allyn. Mr. Allyn is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.
August 24, 2009
Study Finds Mercury Contamination in Freshwater Fish Nationwide
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Scientists detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study released [August 19, 2009].
About a quarter of these fish were found to contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the U.S. EPA level of concern for fish-eating mammals.
“This study shows just how widespread mercury pollution has become in our air, watersheds, and many of our fish in freshwater streams,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers.”
Some of the highest levels of mercury in fish were found in the tea-colored or “blackwater” streams in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana — areas associated with relatively undeveloped forested watersheds containing abundant wetlands compared to the rest of the country. High levels of mercury in fish also were found in relatively undeveloped watersheds in the Northeast and the Upper Midwest. Elevated levels are noted in areas of the Western United States affected by mining. Complete findings of the USGS report, as well as additional detailed studies in selected streams, are available online. . . .
August 04, 2009
Fisheries Over-exploitation Declining
A study published in Science magazine examines the state of global fisheries after years of efforts to reduce overfishing:
Abstract: After a long history of overexploitation, increasing efforts to restore marine ecosystems and rebuild fisheries are under way. Here, we analyze current trends from a fisheries and conservation perspective. In 5 of 10 well-studied ecosystems, the average exploitation rate has recently declined and is now at or below the rate predicted to achieve maximum sustainable yield for seven systems. Yet 63% of assessed fish stocks worldwide still require rebuilding, and even lower exploitation rates are needed to reverse the collapse of vulnerable species. Combined fisheries and conservation objectives can be achieved by merging diverse management actions, including catch restrictions, gear modification, and closed areas, depending on local context. Impacts of international fleets and the lack of alternatives to fishing complicate prospects for rebuilding fisheries in many poorer regions, highlighting the need for a global perspective on rebuilding marine resources.
Science 31 July 2009:
Vol. 325. no. 5940, pp. 578 - 585
Oysters on Rebound in Chesapeake Bay
From the New York Times:
After decades of overharvesting of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and many fruitless efforts to replenish them, scientists have re-established a significant population of the shellfish along the Virginia shore.
August 02, 2009
Tastier Sounding Fish Names Lead to Overfishing (or Who Wants Slimehead?)
When the Slimehead was renamed the Orange Roughy, it became dinner worthy and was overfished, according to a Washington Post article:
. . . An arm-long fish with the look of a prehistoric fossil, the slimehead lived in obscurity a quarter-mile deep in the ocean. The fish was known mainly to scientists, who named it for its distinctive mucus canals.
But then, in the 1970s, seafood dealers came up with a name that no longer tickled the gag reflex. This was the beginning of the "orange roughy."
April 04, 2009
Fish Fraud? US Government Study Finds Seafood ScammingAccording to a report published in February 2009 by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), fraudulent mislabeling of fish is a serious problem for US consumers. Investigators found there are three ways that consumers are commonly cheated: the product portions are smaller than labeled, the product is labeled as a different kind of seafood, or the product is shipped through an intermediary country to avoid “country specific taxes.”
Fish fraud not only shortchanges consumers, it can have health consequences as well. The GAO report cites a case in 2007 in which two consumers fell ill after eating a product labeled as monkfish. “They had actually eaten puffer fish, which contains a potentially deadly toxin called tetrodotoxin.”
The Scripps News article and the GAO report cite poor oversight by the FDA, partly resulting from a lack of funding and resources. The GAO report indicates that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) examines only two percent of seafood imports. When the FDA does inspect seafood imports, the FDA only searches for “food safety issues” and neglects to determine if seafood is correctly labeled in terms of species and origin.
Excerpt is from “’Fish fraud’ rampant in U.S., government auditors say” by Isaac Wolf of Scripps Howard News Service.
Read the wholeUnited States Government Accountability Office Report .
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student, David Gibson, for preparing this report.
November 19, 2008
NOSB aquaculture recommendations
The National Organic Standards Board has just met to vote on recommendations for "organic" fish. There are no organic standards for fish yet. Here is a brief summary of the issues from Farmedsalmonexposed.org:
The NOSB will vote on their recommendations for "organic" fish production that would allow fish to carry the USDA organic label—despite being raised under conditions that fail to meet fundamental USDA organic principles. The NOSB recommendations allow:
- Fish to be fed food other than 100% organic feed—the gold standard that must be met by other USDA-certified organic livestock;
- Fishmeal used to feed farmed fish from wild fish—which has the potential to carry mercury and PCBs; and
- Open net cages to be used—which flush pollution, disease and parasites from open net fish farms directly into the ocean, adversely impacting wild fish supply, sustainability and the health of the oceans.
The press call explains some of the controversial issues surrounding organic fish definitions, open net pen salmon farms and sea lice, and classification of fish as "livestock."
The NOSB Livestock Committee recommendations are available on the NOSB website.
May 12, 2008
GAO Report on Offshore Marine Aquaculture
The Government Accountability Office has recently released a report considering the administrative and environmental issues inherent in developing a regulatory system for offshore marine aquaculture. From the introduction:
Globally, aquaculture production has grown significantly over the past 50 years, from less than 1.1 million tons around 1950 to about 65.5 million tons in 2004. A majority of global aquaculture fish and shellfish are raised in a freshwater environment and species raised in a marine environment make up about 36 percent of aquaculture production. Marine aquaculture is dominated by high-value fish, such as salmon. Many countries are producing marine fish, though a NOAA official indicated that most production is occurring in shallow, sheltered areas relatively close to shore. A few countries, such as Ireland, have expressed interest in or are developing policy frameworks to regulate offshore aquaculture in the open ocean. To date, however, a NOAA official said that no countries have substantial offshore aquaculture industries with facilities sited in open-ocean environments.
The United States’ aquaculture industry includes both onshore and nearshore operations and produces both fish, such as salmon and catfish, and shellfish, such as oysters. Onshore aquaculture facilities are primarily involved in raising freshwater species, such as catfish. Marine aquaculture facilities in the United States are generally located in waters close to shore and in sheltered conditions, and they most frequently raise oysters, mussels, clams, and salmon. The salmon aquaculture industry in the United States is concentrated in Maine and Washington, although the industry is relatively small compared with the global salmon aquaculture industry, accounting for less than 1 percent of the world’s production.
March 10, 2008
YouTube video about sea lice and salmon
The Farmed Salmon Cases decision a couple weeks ago (blogged here), which I was asked to write about for FindLaw (here) has me thinking more about salmon. I wrote briefly about the sea lice problem in my guest commentary for FindLaw:
Another reason consumers might be interested in making an informed choice between farmed and wild salmon is that salmon farming can endanger native salmon species. Salmon is an anadramous fish, which means that it lives its adult life in salt water, then returns to freshwater streams to spawn and die. In the spring, the eggs hatch, and the little fish (called "fry," but not worth frying) start to grow and make their way out to the ocean. The adults never see their offspring.
This is a fine system for salmon. Blood-sucking sea lice often attach themselves to adult salmon, but the tiny parasites are not a big deal on a big fish. Moreover, sea lice can't live in fresh water, so they die off when the salmon go upstream to spawn. By the time the fry make it out to the ocean, they are big enough to withstand occasional sea lice, and the really small fish never encounter large numbers of sea lice.
However, when salmon farms are located near salmon migration routes, the large numbers of adult fish swimming close together mean that sea lice infestations are inevitable. The problem that has made headlines recently is that small fish swimming out to sea encounter large numbers of sea lice on the way out. The fry, which can't withstand large numbers of lice, never make it to adulthood. In some areas, this means that natural populations are declining in the face of salmon farming. Interestingly, the California Supreme Court's decision may indirectly help rectify this situation somewhat if labeling causes more consumers to choose wild salmon over farmed salmon, thus decreasing the viability of salmon farming and the negative effect on migration.
The video below shows sea lice up close. Towards the very end, the researchers sing a rousing rendition of "Salmon Swims Tonight" (based loosely on In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight).
OpEd: [Organic] "Cod is Dead"
"I'D BE lying if I said that I was sorry to see Johnson Seafarms in Shetland going down the tube. More like "I told you so". My first reaction, when I heard of the launch of its "No Catch" farmed cod three years ago, was sadness. Here we go again, another fine wild fish was to be debased, just like that sad travesty, the farmed salmon. This was followed by astonishment that any organic certifying body - in this case, the Organic Food Federation - was daft or greedy enough to lend its credentials to an operation which had all the hallmarks of being another flash-in-the-pan goldrush, like ostrich farming and biofuels, brought to you by speculators and venture capitalists who promise everything then don't deliver, not unlike Daniel Day-Lewis's scary oil man in There Will Be Blood".. . ."The fact that No Catch cod has gone belly up should crystallise the debate about farmed versus wild fish. It should have established the principle that farmed fish at £20 a kilo is not the white night riding in on a charger to save depleted fish stocks. Fish farming is riven with structural problems. Fish like salmon and cod are notoriously poor converters of food, and almost wholly dependent on wild fish stocks. Their wastes, which are concentrated under packed cages thick with sluggish, bored specimens, debase water quality and spread disease throughout an alarmingly wide marine ecosystem".
The article ends with:
"AND yet the dominant thinking within the old Scotland Office, and now I fear, in the Scottish government, is that fish farming is an industry that deserves knee-jerk support. What a tragedy for Scotland that we should have been hoodwinked by such a bankrupt proposition and allowed ourselves to sell down the river the heritage we should have protected: inspirational wild fish and a clean marine environment. Our 30-year love affair with fish farming has proven to be the biggest ecological disaster to hit the west coast of Scotland in living memory.Perhaps the worst thing about all the over-hyped claims made for fish farming is that it allows us to take our eye off the ball of wild fish stocks. It gives us an excuse to write off the seas and oceans as a source of future sustenance for the world's rising population. But if we can't manage our wild stocks for the common good then we might as well give up now and start looking for another planet to colonise. The penny must drop that, far from taking the pressure off wild stocks, aquaculture depletes them.Greenpeace, which wisely has always seen fish farming as an environmental threat, not an opportunity, argues that depletion of wild fish stocks can be halted, even reversed, by creating marine reserves, a bit like wildlife parks, where no fishing is allowed and stocks can recover. There is persuasive evidence from New Zealand that stocks can bounce back in just a few years.But marine reserves are a grown-up, low-tech solution that necessarily entails some short-term pain for fishermen and consumers, and offers nobody any immediate prospect of making money. In discussions of what to do about the looming crash in key fish stocks, we have always been in thrall to the guy with the quick fix, high-tech panacea, which just happens, incidentally, to guarantee a windfall for investors and miscellaneous stakeholders. More fool us."
February 12, 2008
California farmed salmon cases: state food labeling law not preempted
The California Supreme Court has reversed a California Appellate Court decision holding that the state's food labeling law was preempted by the federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.
In Farm Raised Salmon Cases, several individuals had commenced separate actions against owners and operators of grocery stores alleging that the defendants sold artificially colored farmed salmon without disclosing to consumers the artificial coloring.
The California Supreme Court held that the state cause of action is NOT preempted when the state statute is identical to the federal.
Farm Raised Salmon Cases California Supreme Court Opinion
February 06, 2008
FDA Warns of Ciguatera Poisoning from Gulf of Mexico Fish
This week the FDA is warning consumers of the risk of ciguatera poisoning linked to fish harvested in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The risky fish were traced to an area in federal waters south of the Texas-Louisiana coastline. The Associated Press reports at least 28 cases in people around the country since November. The riskiest fish are grouper, snapper, amberjack, and barracuda.
According to the CDC, ciguatera poisoning is caused by eating fish that have eaten toxic marine algae. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and neurological dysfunction such as sensing cold things as hot and hot things as cold. The FDA’s Bad Bug Book says that ciguatera poisoning usually sets in hours after eating the fish and, while generally short-lived, can last for years in some cases.
The FDA is stressing that seafood processors should review their HAACP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plans concerning fish that can harbor the toxin. Failure to do so may result in fish products being classified as adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 342(a)(4)).
Link to FDA’s warning letter to the fisheries industry.
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Ellen Laine for preparing this post.
November 26, 2007
Killer jellyfish wipe out Northern Island salmon farm
(Link to Mauve stinger jellyfish photo)
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK –
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — The only salmon farm in Northern Ireland has lost its entire population of more than 100,000 fish, worth some $2 million, to a spectacular jellyfish attack, its owners said Wednesday.
The Northern Salmon Co. Ltd. said billions of jellyfish — in a dense pack of about 10 square miles and 35 feet deep — overwhelmed the fish last week in two net pens about a mile off the coast of the Glens of Antrim, north of Belfast.
Managing director John Russell said the company's dozen workers tried to rescue the salmon, but their three boats struggled for hours to push their way through the mass of jellyfish. All the fish were dead or dying from stings and stress by the time the boats reached the pens, he said.
Organic Aquaculture Symposium this week
The National Organic Standards Board Organic Aquaculture Symposium takes place tomorrow. Papers are available on the Symposium website. (Hat tip to Don Staniford, Pure Salmon Campaign, for the reminder.)
Go to the Symposium website for a list of panelists and poster presentations. Papers are also available on the website.
October 29, 2007
USDA buys Alaska pink salmon for food aid programs
I found this article from the Alaska Coastal Journal interesting. When I tell people my interest in Food Law extends to nutrition policy, because nutritional guidelines play into the USDA's purchases for food aid programs, no one is ever quite sure what food programs those would be. This article grabbed my attention for two reasons. First, it addresses who the recipients of USDA food aid might be:
Among the hundreds of nonprofit groups and organizations that request food through the USDA program are the Salesian Mission and Food for the Poor. Both previously won approval for their proposals to include cans of wild Alaska pink salmon in their food requests.
Once the USDA approves such proposals, the federal agency accepts bids from producers of the products and makes purchases based on the bids. In the case of the pink canned salmon requested by the Salesian Mission and Food for the Poor, the USDA decided on the basis of their bids to purchase the canned pinks from Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Peter Pan Seafoods.
Schactler said the USDA has not announced yet which proposals have been accepted for the coming year, but that pilot programs are already being planned for World Vision and Catholic Relief Services to highlight the affect of good nutrition for people suffering from AIDS.
Second, pink salmon have been adversely affected in some areas of British Columbia where fish farms have been established. (See the fascinating book, A Stain Upon the Sea, blogged here). Here is a video of biologist Alexandra Morton explaining how salmon farms interfere with wild pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago.
October 22, 2007
Book: A Stain Upon the Sea -- West Coast Salmon Farming (2004)
I found this book fascinating. It was my vacation reading this past long weekend. (The annual Education Minnesota Professional Conference took place Thursday and Friday. William Mitchell College of Law faculty and students enjoy a Fall Break as well.) I went to Flagstaff, Arizona, to visit family.
The book is a collection of free-standing chapters. I especially enjoyed Silent Spring of the Sea by Don Staniford -- quite possibly the most clear, comprehensive, well-documented discussion of chemicals I've ever read, and also Dying of Salmon Farming, by Alexandra Morton, which moved me nearly to tears. Here's the publisher's blurb:
A Stain Upon the Sea
West Coast Salmon Farming
by Stephen Hume & Alexandra Morton & Betty Keller & Rosella M. Leslie & Otto Langer & Don Staniford
introduction by Terry Glavin, preface by David Suzuki
Winner of the 2005 Roderick Haig-Brown BC Book Prize!
Shortlisted for the 2005 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness!
On the West Coast, few subjects are as controversial as salmon farming. Every week, new studies raise alarming questions about the safety of farmed fish and the risk farms pose to the environment. But federal, provincial and state governments continue to support expansion of fish farms all along the coast. People are justifiably confused. Just what is the case against this new ocean-based agri-biz, and how concerned should we be? A Stain Upon the Sea is an indispensable critique of fish farming practices used in British Columbia and abroad, featuring an all-star cast of contributors. Journalist Stephen Hume examines the industry through the eyes of the Nuxalk and Heiltsuk Nations and incorporates case studies from Ireland and Alaska. Historians Betty Keller and Rosella M. Leslie explain the development of the industry in BC, from small family operations to large chain farms owned by a handful of multinational conglomerates. Biologist Alexandra Morton analyzes the biology of sea lice in the pink salmon runs in the Broughton Archipelago. Former federal employee Otto Langer gives an in-depth account of the bureaucratic nightmare that exempted the industry from environmental review. And scientist Don Staniford analyzes the chemical stew that farmed fish are raised in and the health risk this poses to humans. A Stain Upon the Sea is a must-read for anyone concerned with the quality of the food they eat and the environmental health of the planet.
October 11, 2007
NOSB Organic Aquaculture Symposium papers online
Papers to be presented at the US National Organic Standards Board 'Organic Aquaculture Symposium' in Washington, DC, November 27 are now available on the Symposium website.
FISH FEED AND FISH MEAL PANELISTS
Md. Shah Alam, University of North Carolina, Center for Marine Research Replacement of Menhaden Fishmeal by Soybean Meal for the Diet of Juvenile Black Sea Bass (PDF)
Torbjorn Asgard, Akvaforsk, NorwayFlexibility in the Use of Feed Ingredients can turn the farmed salmon industry sustainable (PDF)
Craig Browdy, Marine Resources Institute, South Carolina Dept of Natural ResourcesAlternative Approaches for Removing Fish Meal and Oils from Farmed Shrimp using Plant and Poultry Meals and Marine Algal Products (PDF)
Steven Craig, VA/MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, VA Tech, Total Replacement of Fishmeal and Fish oil in Diets for Nile Tilapia and the Marine Obligate Carnivore, Cobia
Brad Hicks, Chair, Pacific Organic Seafood Association, BC, CanadaFeeding Fish, Fish Meal and Fish Oil Fulfill Organic Tenets (PDF)
Jonathan Shepherd, International Fishmeal and Fish Oil OrganizationSustainable Marine Resources for Organic Aquafeeds (PDF)
OPEN CAGE NET PENS PANELISTS
Sandra Bravo, Aquaculture Institute, Universidad Austral de ChileUse of Antifouling in the Chilean Salmon Industry (PDF)
Kenneth Brooks, Aquatic Environmental Sciences, WashingtonA Comparison of the Environmental Costs Associated with Open Net Pen Culture of Atlantic Salmon and Production of some other human foods (PDF)
Andrea Kavanagh, Director, Pure Salmon CampaignA review of research on the caused and quantities of farmed fish escapes from open net cage systems and a literature review of the impact of escapes on wild fish populations, using farmed salmon as a case study (PDF)
Martin Krkosek, Centre for Mathematical Biology, University of Alberta, CanadaDisease Threats of Salmon Aquaculture to Wild Fish (PDF)
George Leonard, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Center for the Future of OceansPerformance Goals for Net Pen Production of Organic Finfish (PDF)
Neil Sims, Kona BlueApplicability of Organic Principles to Marine Finfish Aquaculture: Comparing Open Ocean Net Pens to Closed-Containment Systems for Production of Kona Kampachi
POSTER SESSION PARTICIPANTS
All oral presentation panelists will be participating in the poster session. Everyone who had submitted abstracts but who were not selected for oral presentation, were very much encouraged to submit full papers and participate in the poster session. In addition, some of the individuals who were selected for oral presentation had submitted additional abstracts and may also be presenting information on those other topics.
Linda J. O’Dierno, New Jersey Department of Agriculture The Value of USDA Organic Labeling to the United States Consumer (PDF)
Stan Proboszcz, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Coquitlam, British Columbia, CanadaEstimated Sea Louse Egg Production from Marine Harvest Canada (Stolt) Farmed Salmon, Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, Canada, 2003-2004: Implications for Proposed Organic Standards (PDF)
Urvashi Rangan, Consumers Union, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports Consumer Expectations of Organic Fish (PDF)
June 28, 2007
National Marine Aquaculture Summit Held This Week
The NOAA-Sponsored National Marine Aquaculture Summit was held earlier this week. According to the Summit website, the event featured "a broad agenda focused on the business opportunities and challenges for U.S. marine aquaculture." The agenda included panels on development-oriented topics such as Why the United States Should Embrace Aquaculture; U.S. Aquaculture Investment Opportunities and Constraints; and Economic Incentives & Research & Development for Aquaculture.
Food and Water Watch has criticized the event as too development-focused.
June 12, 2007
EU Agrees on more restrictions on cod fishing
European Union ministers agreed more controls to reduce cod fishing in the Baltic Sea to preserve stocks that are at risk of collapse after years of chronic overfishing, officials said.
Restrictions will be placed on the number of days in a month at sea that vessels may catch cod in western and eastern Baltic waters, and summer fishing bans will also apply - two months in the eastern Baltic, and one month in the western.