Wrap-up: Traceability is the New Black

I promise, I won't leave a trace.

I promise, I won’t leave a trace.

As I wandered through the aisles of this year’s Seafood Expo North America, I was surprised but encouraged to see the word “traceable” displayed alongside the word “sustainable” on many booths. Continue reading

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Doing Aquaculture Better

Regal Springs TalipiaAs a pescovegetarian, fish is a huge part of my diet. While I try to eat locally caught fresh fish whenever I can, I know that the oceans cannot sustainably produce enough seafood to supply the escalating demand for protein around the world.  Fortunately, a growing number of farmed fish producers are developing more environmentally and socially approaches to aquaculture. Continue reading

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Candied Salmon Strips, Salted Herring, and Seafood Pasta

Intercambio Smoked Salted HerringAs a seafood-eating vegetarian, I usually have to be very careful about asking if foods contain any meat. So one of the many things I love about coming to the Seafood Expo is being able to eat almost anything displayed! (I do have to watch out for bacon-wrapped scallops and the odd bit of alligator here and there.) Continue reading

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Scenes from Day 2: Seafood Expo North America 2014

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Patrick McMurray Teaches Me about Oysters

Patrick McMurray demos oyster shuckingI’m a relatively recent oyster lover. Growing up in a Kosher home in the Chicago area, oysters weren’t common fare.  My first taste of a raw bivalve was a quahog someone slipped me when I worked as a camp counselor in Massachusetts; I found its slithery texture disgusting. I didn’t indulge in raw fish again until I discovered sushi.  From there, all it took was a single slurp to graduate to oysters. Soon, I was even enjoying my mother-in-law Doris’ delicious oyster dressing. Continue reading

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Verlasso Salmon Continues to Impress

Verlasso SalmonTwo years ago, I wrote about Verlasso Salmon during the International Boston Seafood Show, as it was known then. I went back to talk to the Verlasso folks today and was impressed again by both the clean, fresh flavor of their salmon and by their sustainable practices. Continue reading

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10 Things I Didn’t Know About Aquaculture

Is aquaculture sustainable? Depends on what’s being raised, how and where it’s being produced, and whom you ask.  With over 500 species being farmed all over the world, it’s difficult to generalize. But here are some of the many things I learned from listening to experts Craig Tucker (Research Leader, Agriculture Research Service, USDA), Jesse Trushenski (Assistant Professor, Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences), and Carole Engle (Aquaculture Economist, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), speak on a March 16 panel at the 2014 Seafood Expo North America.

  1. Aquaculture is rapidly evolving.  Over the last 10-15 years, aquaculture has become more efficient. There’s also been a 50 percent reduction in waste production in the last 10 years, thanks to better solids capture, better waste treatment, and more efficient feeds.
  2. About 75% of the energy used in aquaculture goes into producing and transporting the feed. But the amount of energy use varies by species, from very low use to raise carp to very high use (equivalent to raising cattle in feedlots) to produce shrimp in ponds.
  3. Most of the fish raised around the world are relatively low in energy use.  Aquaculture uses less energy than capture fishery, but raising cattle, wine and poultry requires much more energy than either.
  4. Aquaculture uses less land to produce food than other forms of agriculture, but it varies by species.  For example, raising salmon and trout requires relatively little land, because they consume more fish products (and less grain) in their feed.
  5. The amount of water used for aquaculture also varies. Water use at the facility, as well as water used to produce the feed, can be pretty high. Pond aquaculture uses the most water of any type of agriculture—even more than raising cattle.
  6. Although many people are concerned about the high feed conversion ratio—how much food an animal must consume in order to produce food—the ratio to produce fish averages 1 to 1.5 to 1, compared to 2:1 for poultry, 3:1 for swine, and 8:1 for beef.
  7. Aquaculture consumes about 74% of the fish oil supply and the price of fish meal and fish oil are increasing.   Eventually, it may be hard to get enough supply at any price.
  8. US farmed fish is NOT full of antibiotics.  FDA drug approval for aquaculture is more rigorous than for other animals. Antibiotics are not used as growth promoters in US aquaculture.
  9. Over 94 percent of US aquaculture is run by small farms or small businesses.
  10. Much of US aquaculture occurs in impoverished rural areas. 1 fish farm job equals 4.3 additional jobs in the US economy.
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Scenes from Seafood Expo North America

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Successful Gulf Coast Initiatives to Increase Seafood Demand

Gulf Coast Seafood Logo

The Gulf Coast states are working together to increase demand for their seafood through a group of innovative marketing, sustainability and traceability programs.

After being battered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, followed by the BP oil spill in 2010, the Gulf Coast seafood industry was hurting.  The Gulf Coast states took advantage of the funds made available by Congress to launch marketing, sustainability and traceability technology that are successfully increasing consumer interest and confidence in buying Gulf Coast Seafood.

Gulf Coast experts shared their approach at a panel at the 2014 Seafood Expo North America in Boston on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition is showcasing Gulf of Mexico seafood in order to expand the market for their products. They created EatGulfSeafood to attract both consumers and seafood buyers. The website provides a wealth of useful information about the region’s seafood, including recipes, a seafood locater, and information about every species available in each of the states.

“If you’re enjoying  Gulf Coast seafood, you’re enjoying Gulf Coast culture,” said panelist Joanne McNeely Zaritsky, of the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation. To showcase Gulf Coast living, the website also includes videos, photos, monthly newsletters, and food blogs.

In addition to the website, the coalition created a variety of tools for stores to help them market the seafood, including counter cards, seasonality charts, and a resource training guide. They also created a promotional program for supermarket chains.  After sampling and educational events at the Hy-Vee grocery chain in Iowa, sales of Gulf shrimp sales increased 63%. The Coalition has had similar success at other supermarkets.

Gulf Coast initiatives are not just about marketing.  “We don’t just want to market the wonderful flavor of our seafood,” said panelist Julianna Mullen, from the Audubon Nature Institute. “We want to talk about the good management practices in our fisheries.”

The Audubon Nature Institute is helping the fisheries work with all stakeholders to create plans to continue to improve their sustainable practices. They developed a program called Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) designed to help improve the conservation and management of the region’s fisheries. The program includes education, a fishery improvement program, and third-party certification.

The Audubon Nature Institute is helping the fisheries work with all stakeholders to create plans to continue to improve their sustainable practices. In addition, G.U.L.F. is assisting the fisheries that want to obtain third-party certification to help them document and confirm that their fisheries are responsibly managed.

FINFO logoA third Gulf Coast initiative, Gulf FINFO, is designed to increase transparency for the Gulf Coast seafood industry by proving accessible information about Gulf Coast fisheries and helping to build traceability. The initiative is launching a new website, GulfFishInfo.org, at Seafood Expo North America.  The website makes it easy for consumers and seafood buyers to get regional and state-by-state information on harvesting, monitoring, and management practices.

“You need traceability before you can have sustainability,” stated the panel moderator, Alex Miller, of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, which created the website and is one of the groups collaborating on the initiative.  FINFO also showcases the Guflf seafood trace program, launched two years ago.  Over 1,000 participants, including boats and processors, are participating.  The program uses digital monitoring to ensure that products are traceable from the dock throughout the supply chain.  Still in the pilot stage, retailers are reporting that providing traceability information is leading to an increase in seafood sold.

While there appears to be some overlap in these initiatives, they’re clearly succeeding at increasing interest and confidence in buying Gulf Coast seafood.  Instead of speaking about sustainability in vague, general terms, the Gulf Coast seafood industry is providing consumers and seafood buyers with scientific yet accessible information about each species and industry.  In doing so, they’re creating a model that other states and regions will hopefully adopt themselves.

 

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Live Blog: Seafood Expo North America 2014

Follow my live coverage of the 2014 Seafood Expo North America here!

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