sustainable seafood Archives - San Diego Coastkeeper

Signs of the Tide: Searching for Sustainable Seafood in San Diego

san-diego-seafoodAt our recent Signs of the Tide, community members hankered to hear from our speakers about how to eat, serve and buy sustainable seafood here in San Diego.

But, where does our fish come from? What does sustainability actually mean for fish?

Our panel focused on the global and local problems within the fishing industry. And how some of the old notions of fishing are still at the basis of fishing thought – like, who can catch the biggest fish or the most fish? 

Peter Halmay, a local sea urchin fisherman and president of San Diego Fisherman’s Working Group spoke about rebuilding the foundation of the fishing industry – looking past the state and federal regulations right to the fishing community itself. Without the fisherman, there are no fish. Peter made it clear that people in the community who buy seafood need to have a relationship with the fishermen, so that the fish can literally go from “boat to throat.” Rebuilding this foundation of fishermen with new ethics in mind will help to continue a profitable business in the future. 

Local chef Chad White spoke of developing new markets for less common seafood items, such as sea urchin and fish liver. Making these items taste delicious will build a demand for them, and less of a demand for seafood that is shipped here from across the world. For Chad, sustainability means buying locally, from groups such as Catalina Offshore Products and asking questions about the fish he buys.

Our last speaker of the night Dr. Russ Vetter posed the question – is local wild-caught sustainable seafood even possible? And, will our grandchildren be able to experience the kelp forests of San Diego?  Our fisheries here in San Diego are actually doing very well when compared to fisheries in other parts of the world. Our Sustainable Fisheries Act has left no loopholes for overfishing. However, when we want to eat and buy sustainably, research shows that many people don’t even buy fish from our local fisheries. More than 80% of our fish is imported! We need to create more of a market for local fish. And when that happens, how do we increase supply while ending our addiction to imports? Dr. Vetter introduced the fact that sustainable U.S. aquaculture may be our solution to this problem, as our population grows, and there is a growing demand for local, sustainable seafood in this middle price range.

So, what can you do to make sure you are buying locally and sustainably? You have to ask questions:

  1. Is this a loca fish?
  2. Is it from a local fisherman?
  3. Is it sustainable?

You can read our other recent blog on where to buy your sustainable seafood in San Diego. However, the information is not easily accessed, which can make this process of buying sustainably very difficult. But, the more people asking where their fish is from and how it is caught, the more of a demand it will create, and the more sustainable seafood in San Diego will be available.

Published in Marine Conservation

The Butcher, the Baker, the Clean Water Maker

 

Yesterday, I toured San Diego Bay with the CEO of Stone Brewing Company (soon to be a neighbor in NTC Promenade) and the developer of what will become a new LEED certified hotel on Harbor Island. Tuesday I attended The Maritime Alliance awards dinner where I sat with Slow Food Urban San Diego to hear Dr. Sylvia Earle talk about our Planet Ocean. And tomorrow I’m off to meet the new community relations director of REI. It’s been one of those weeks that I love.
 
A local beer company, a developer, a maritime technology group and an outdoor recreation company…it’s a week that makes me think about collaboration. According to the expert opinion of Wikipedia (link), collaboration means working together to achieve shared goals. Collaboration does not mean convenient partnership. It means communicating and sharing knowledge and building consensus to achieve an outcome that might not otherwise become reality. San Diego Coastkeeper received the Maritime Alliance award for sustainable seafood to recognize our soon-to-be-launched webpage that tells people where to find seafood that they can eat with a clear conscience.
 
Why would Coastkeeper get into the web page game? We want people to make choices about eating seafood that leads to yummy dinner and also doesn’t harm our ocean life. But when we started to think about all the ways to spread the word, we realized that we had nowhere to point them to get the answers they would need. Seafood Watch provides guidelines about what to eat. I have the app on my phone. I know what to buy, but where to find happy fish at stores and restaurants in San Diego remains a black hole.
 
So we set out to fill the need. Our first step forward caused us to take a step back. We had to define sustainable seafood. Local? From robust wild fisheries? Environmentally friendly aquaculture? We talked to fishermen, chefs, retailers and others, including the Fisherman’s Working Group, who also received an award from The Maritime Alliance. (The award was for alliance building. Yep: collaboration.) And then we kept talking until we came up with a definition that made sense for San Diego. You’ll see it when the web page launches. Have thoughts about this? Join the conversation with a comment below at our Twitter feed (@sd_coastkeeper) on Facebook or just give us a call at 619-758-7743.

Yesterday, I toured San Diego Bay with the CEO of Stone Brewing Company (soon to be a neighbor in NTC Promenade) and the developer of what will become a new LEED-certified hotel on Harbor Island. Tuesday I attended The Maritime Alliance awards dinner where I sat with Slow Food Urban San Diego to hear Dr. Sylvia Earle talk about our Planet Ocean. And tomorrow I’m off to meet the new community relations director of REI. It’s been one of those weeks that I love.

A local beer company, a developer, a maritime technology group and an outdoor recreation company…it’s a week that makes me think about collaboration. According to the expert opinion of Wikipedia, collaboration means working together to achieve shared goals. Collaboration does not mean convenient partnership. It means communicating and sharing knowledge and building consensus to achieve an outcome that might not otherwise become reality. San Diego Coastkeeper received the Maritime Alliance award for sustainable seafood to recognize our soon-to-be-launched webpage that tells people where to find seafood that they can eat with a clear conscience.

Why would Coastkeeper get into the web page game? We want people to make choices about eating seafood that leads to yummy dinner and also doesn’t harm our ocean life. But when we started to think about all the ways to spread the word, we realized that we had nowhere to point them to get the answers they would need. Seafood Watch provides guidelines about what to eat. I have the app on my phone. I know what to buy, but where to find happy fish at stores and restaurants in San Diego remains a black hole.

So we set out to fill the need. Our first step forward caused us to take a step back. We had to define sustainable seafood. Local? From robust wild fisheries? Environmentally friendly aquaculture? We talked to fishermen, chefs, retailers and others, including the Fisherman’s Working Group, who also received an award from The Maritime Alliance. (The award was for alliance building. Yep: collaboration.) And then we kept talking until we came up with a definition that made sense for San Diego. You’ll see it when the web page launches. Have thoughts about this? Join the conversation with a comment below at our Twitter feed (@sd_coastkeeper) on Facebook or just give us a call at 619-758-7743.

 

11 Ideas for Earth-Friendly Wrapping Paper

I’m a scrooge. It’s taken me years to feel comfortable publicly acknowledging this, but it’s true. I love the holidays for the heightened awareness around friends and family, creative thinking and helping those less fortunate. But my inner-Scrooge surfaces because of the unfair pressure that we place on another to buy unwanted gifts and wrap them in wasteful decorations.

Like we always say on this blog, small steps can collectively make a huge difference, so in the spirit of the unavoidable gift giving this holiday season, I offer you these tips to keep holiday wrapping eco-friendly. By implementing one or a few of these ideas, you can reduce your single-use waste, increase your originality and hopefully inspire more thoughtful holiday cheer in years to come.

  1. Wrap it in a Reusable Bag – I’ve managed to collect, horde rather, a plethora of reusable shopping bags that come in a variety of shapes and colors. You can also buy new ones just for gift giving, but remember to get ones made locally with organic materials and non-toxic inks. Then put a little thought into how to tie it, secure it with ribbon, or add some special touches to transform it from “just a bag” into a beautiful presentation of your homemade gift.
  2. Collect Used Wrapping – I have a box in my closet in which I store used ribbon, tissue paper, gift bags and wrapping paper. Since my wedding more than four years ago, I haven’t had to buy any of the above items and my gifts, regardless of the occasion, always come wrapped with heavenly design. (On Christmas day, I always collect, fold and organize these items for the host to reuse, but if they aren’t interested in storing them, I politely offer to make a great second use for them.)
  3. Use Towels or Scarves – You can use any material item, really. It becomes two gifts in one.
  4. Decorate with Actual Plants – Connect with nature and utilize its beauty to accentuate your wrapping. I can’t imagine a more beautiful finishing touch than a fresh flower or specially arranged tree branches and leaves.
  5. Leftover Newspapers, Magazines and Junk Mail – I know we all get attached by at least one of these paper items. I know it may sound cheap to wrap gifts with these items, but do yourself a favor and conduct a quick google search for wrapping with these items. They can be quite striking.
  6. Clay pots or bowls – Another gift in a gift. You could probably reuse some classics from around your own home, or buy something new to perfectly capture the essence of your gift and the intended recipient.
  7. Glass Jars – I have a cupboard full of glass jars that my husband desperately wants me to get rid of. These can make fun gift carriers because they can easily be decorated.
  8. Old clothing – Go through that growing pile of clothes for Goodwill and find some special items that can be turned into cloth wrapping with just a few cuts and snips. Try sweater arms to wrap wine bottles, and the body to wrap just about anything.
  9. Homemade Gift Tags – This is my favorite use for old business cards, but you can also use the backs of old greeting cards, recycled card stock and creative pictures cut out from old magazines.
  10. Last Year’s Greeting Cards – You can make the artwork from last year’s greeting cards into this year’s gift tags or holiday decorations on your wrapping.
  11. Your Old Calendar – Twelve beautiful pictures that clearly make you happy. Why wouldn’t you want to share that with your friends and family by reusing it as unique wrapping paper.
  12. Kid’s Artwork – Talk about special. Keep your favorite few pieces from the year for your files, but reuse all of that other adorable artwork for one-of-a-kind paper to present gifts to your loved ones.

BONUS IDEAS: Thanks for blog and facebook comments, here are two other extremely rad ideas:

13. Surfer Magazine Pages — Our legal clinic director wraps her gifts in the old pages from Surfer Magazine. How beautiful.
14. Use Holiday Fabric — My friend Michael Nevin’s mom gets holiday fabric from the store and reuses that same fabric every year.

I know the real Scrooge would love many of these ideas because they should save you dollars this holiday season. This Scrooge loves these ideas because they are will save our environment–one reusable gift wrapping concept at a time.

In pursuit of sustainable seafood in san diego

Many moons ago, I had this fabulous idea to put together a website resource to help residents find local, sustainable seafood in San Diego. That shouldn’t be hard, right? 

Wrong. 

poppa_fresh_fishSeveral iterations later, we’re still defining “sustainable” and trying to break down what that means here in San Diego. Even though I use the word in a ton of our communications, I’ve come to realize that the word “sustainable” is one I’d like to drop like those last five pounds.  

What does it mean anyway?  

You can ask five different people and get five different answers. It’s a buzz word that embodies all things Earth friendly, but everyone’s definition of what’s good for the planet differs, right? You may drive a Prius and feel good about reducing your carbon footprint. But I ride a bike because I don’t think a hybrid is enough. But my neighbor works from home. Who’s right? In some degree, we all are. We are all making steps to reduce our impact

Surely “local” is easier to define. But as it turns out, some fishermen consider “local” to be what’s caught in Baja, but that seems pretty far to me. 

A few weeks ago, I went to the OB Farmers market to pick up my CSA from Suzie’s Farm and buy fruit from Smit Orchards, when I happened to walk by Poppa’s Fresh Fish. I remember reading about this booth on Yelp and salivating at the reviews of this guy’s fish sandwiches. And then I saw that he also sold fresh fish fillets.  

So I decided to ask questions.  

Maybe I got lucky, but I randomly asked the owner of Poppa’s Fresh Fish, Mark, and he’s been a wealth of knowledge. And patience. My favorite part of our conversations and emails about what sustainable and local seafood means to him and to me is that he keeps encouraging me to ask questions. And he gives me the straight shootin’ answer. I’ve learned that we don’t always agree on what is sustainable or local, but he helps me find fish that meets my needs and that’s important.

Here are few things that I’ve learned from him: 

1) I wanted fish caught hook & line, but the only two fishermen he buys from that do this are currently taking advantage of lobster season, and therefore not fishing.

2) He warned me about deep set fish & line, which means it’s one line but it holds several short lines shooting off of it, which produces a lot of bycatch (this means catching fish that you didn’t intend to catch).

3) He has a guy that will butterfly net a fish, which means he dives into the water with a net and will scoop up one fish. It’s more expensive to buy fish this way, but guarantees zero bycatch and local waters.

poppa_sea_urchin4) Sea urchins seem popular right now. And when he serves them from his booth, they are still moving. (Ok, we didn’t discuss this, but I did watch it happen.) I hear sea urchin tastes great, and they currently have  healthy population numbers.

5) If I email him a few days in advance, he’ll save me a side of fish, which costs less because it requires less work on his end. This deal makes it easier for a budget-sensitive shopper to make the best decision on purchasing local, sustainable fish. 

We hope to publish our sustainable seafood in San Diego guide soon. Your input is valuable: what do you consider local, sustainable seafood? 

 

Published in Marine Conservation

Top 5 Reasons to Celebrate World Oceans Day

Its that time of year again! Next week we will celebrate our favorite holiday, World Oceans Day! On June 8, the world will take a moment to recognize the ocean and all of its greatness. There are thousands of reasons to join in on the celebrations. Since I do not have time to create a list of a thousand, here’s five to get you amped on Oceans Day!

1. Raise awareness for the World’s Oceans: Whether you live in San Diego or China there are issues facing our world’s oceans that need attention. This national holiday will help raise global awareness of the challenges our oceans face and help people get the information to get involved!

2. Oceans give us life: Oceans are essential to food security, climate control and are a critical part of our biosphere.

3. Oceans are awesome: Not only are oceans essential for survival, they play a huge role in fun, especially here in San Diego! What would the world be without “sick days” (aka beach days), surfing and snorkeling?!

4. Help conserve our oceans: Not only does World Oceans Day spread the word about the needs and challenges facing our oceans, it also gets people to be proactive about conserving our coasts and oceans. There are tons of things you can do to help. Attend a beach clean up, buy sustainable seafood or become a Coastkeeper member!

5. You can party with us! It’s no secret that we love the ocean.We want you to join in on all our fun by participating in a week long party to celebrate our world’s oceans.

  • World Oceans Day: Go blue with Coastkeeper and our official celebration of World Oceans Day on June 8. Come out to Hennessey’s in La Jolla and enjoy live music, a tasty meal and even learn how we conserve beautiful places like La Jolla’s ASBS. Enjoy a beer for the ocean from 6-9 p.m.
  • Give our ocean the best gift you can give by picking up trash and debris along the coast. Join us at Buccaneer Beach Cleanup June 11 at 9 a.m. Help clean up one of Oceanside’s most prestigious beaches and celebrate the beauty of the sea.

Everyd ay Coastkeeper celebrates our local ocean by preventing plastic pollution with beach cleanups, conserving areas of special biological significance, monitoring waterways for toxic chemicals and much much more.

Happy World Oceans Day everybody!!

Eat Smart This Earth Day

Being conscious about what you eat is not only a step closer to being healthier but also a leap to helping our planet. This Earth Day, connect with Earth and start eating for the planet. Here are some tips that can help you start being in sync with nature:
  • Start buying organic. Support local farmers, get quality food and have the glow buying organic produce that ranges from fruits and vegetables to daily moisturizers. Being closer to nature means closer to your higher self. Don’t bring yourself and Mother Nature down!  Organic fruits and vegetables are not only good from environmental point of view, they also contain nearly half as much more nutrients than commercial ones. The benefits of buying organic are endless.
  • earth-day-2011-what-act-green_31311

    Eat like nature intended. Photo credit by EarthTimes.org

    Get sustainable. Plastic pollution still dominates our streets and beaches. Put your foot down and start reducing plastic consumption in your daily life. Buy a water bottle and fill it up in a local water store; it’s not only sustainable, it’s also cheaper. Abandon plastic containers that you take to work; buy glass ones and reuse them forever. Moreover, start buying your food in bulk and reuse grocery paper bags. Buying all at once means less trips to grocery store, less gas, less emission and, thereof, less pollution!

  • Eat out sustainably. If you like to treat yourself to tasty and gourmet food, you might find there are plenty of places in San Diego that can offer you delicious sustainable meals. Here are just some of them: El Take It EasySea Rocket BistroTender GreensJSixThe LinkeryBurger LoungeStarliteSolare Restaurant Lounge.
  • Go to farmers’ markets. They are everywhere and every day. It’s cheaper and more sustainable to buy straight from the producer. Unprocessed and organic foods are essential for your and Earth’s health! Here are organic farmers’ markets for Earth Day, Friday, April 22: La Mesa, Mission Hills, Mission Valley, Rancho Bernardo. For more information on locations and times, visit Farm Bureau of San Diego County.
  • Buy sustainable meat and fish. If you have a weak spot for either meat or fish, better do it with love and appreciation by buying it in organic and sustainable state! Whole Foods, for example, goes all the way and offers great variety of sustainable meats and fish. More importantly, they operate with individual fishermen from Alaska to bring fresh fish to your table 48 hours after the catch. The fish is caught with no nets, an old-fashioned way, which means in sustainable way.

To eat smart means to eat for the planet. Tune in with your Mother Earth and bring yourself to the healthiest state possible!

A Fancy Feast revelation, and the saga of sustainable seafood

Probably most people reading this blog are a lot like you and me – we care enormously about nature and our environment. The planet is numero uno in my book, baby. Being in the mix, working for an environmental group, I’m surrounded by good influencers and bastions of knowledge who make conscientious decisions everyday to make less of a destructive impact. But I still get excited when I have an environmental epiphany all on my own!

A few days ago, I was strolling around Target with my wonderful mom (pre-3.am. Thanksgiving sale insanity), picking up a few essentials: Tom’s toothpaste, an ironing board and cat food for my mom’s fluff ball of love. We were reviewing the selections of Fancy Feast, deciding on what delectable flavors Bella would be in the mood for over the next month. There was roasted turkey, marinated chicken morsels, grilled beef (pass on the grilled liver), and flaked tuna and shrimp feast.

… Hold on there a second. Tuna and shrimp feast?! I looked some more, and also spotted a can of shredded yellowfin tuna and savory salmon! I immediately flipped the can over to look at the ingredients listing. There it was: tuna as the second item. I guess not having a cat of my own, I was always ignorantly inclined to believe that cat (and dog) food was made mostly of meat by-products and some sort of soy or wheat product to hold it all together (unless of course you shop at those gourmet pet supply places or bake your own doggie biscuits).

But there it was, right in front of my very nose – a source of seafood consumption that never once crossed my mind before. “Holy Cow!” I exclaimed, as my mom could visibly see the lightbulb click on. “We can’t get this – we don’t know if the fish is sustainably sourced or not!” My mom did a secret eye-roll but lovingly obliged and switched out the tuna for more chicken.

I came back to the office to do some quick research – I didn’t turn up anything conclusive, but from personal experience I estimate there to be at least half a million domestic felines in San Diego county alone! How much fancy feast consumption that amounts to on an annual basis I can only imagine to literally be tons.

Fact of the matter is, our house pets are very significant contributors to seafood consumption.  And while I go around handing out seafood watch cards like sticks of gum, I never thought to talk to my friends about pet food. There aren’t really any alternative canned options on the market right now, though Mars PetCare, makers of Whiskas and Sheba, have recently committed to use only sustainably sourced fish in all its pet food by 2020.  It’s a step in the right direction, but a good reminder that supporting sustainable fisheries doesn’t just impact people – we need sustainable fisheries so humans and cats alike can continue on with their fancy feasting!

Published in Marine Conservation

An environmentalist’s wine drinking dilemma

san-diego-wine

As we sampled local wines in Temecula, I noticed several wineries now offering organically and bio-dynamically grown wines.

I love wine. I enjoy dark beer, tart lemonade and cold tap water. But I love wine. Especially if it’s red and spicy with hints of berry.

Unfortunately, most of my favorites (Argentinean Malbec, Australian Shiraz and, as of last night, a nice little Petite Syrah from France’s Rhône region) have pretty huge carbon footprints. They may also “benefit” from the latest in chemical pesticides, herbicides and other miracles of modern viticulture. It’s hard to tell.

What’s a girl to do?

I can’t stand to give up all of my favorites, all the time, so I’ve instituted a 50/50 rule. Since I live in California, there’s really no shortage of local and regional varietals. And the local markets and bottle shops usually have a section of organic and bio-dynamic wines. (I used to think that bio-dynamic meant low-water and have since discovered that it’s a little more, shall we say, holistic than that. I’m all for low-impact agriculture, though, even if that means counting the phases of the sun and moon.)

Local growers seem to be rising to the challenge, too. A couple weeks ago, I went wine tasting in Temecula and saw at least two vineyards growing organically and one bio-dynamically. Evidently several others are organic in practice, but not actually certified. I’m planning a trip back next month to check them out. Eventually, my hope is to find enough good wines to go 90/10. I’m keeping 10 percent for that Malbec, but let me know if you have a recommendation.

Please eat this fish to extinction

 

 

Please eat this fish to extinction.

What an interesting idea. Personally I’ve never tried lionfish, but word on the street is that it is quite delectable. Lionfish are an invasive species (and aggressive predator) to the Atlantic. And to keep them from chomping their way to domination, NOAA developed an “Eat Lionfish” campaign.

It’s like a reverse seafood watch card – well, if only for this one species.

While it might be hard to get lionfish on the dock down at Point Loma, all you seafood eaters out there can rightfully eat the cr*p out of locally caught striped bass and still feel just as good.

Published in Marine Conservation

Vote with your fork

A lot of people these days want to feel a sense of place in the things they eat. Whether they do it for culinary or environmental reasons, there’s a growing demand in San Diego for locally sourced food. You can easily find local citrus and squash at your neighborhood farmer’s market, but things get a lot murkier when it comes to seafood.  While there some notable ‘farm-to-table’ and ‘slow food’ exceptions to the rule, chances are when you’re biting into a fish taco in Ocean Beach or sushi in a fancy restaurant, the protein on your plate was caught thousands of miles away.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last year that more than three-fourths of the fish Americans eat comes from other countries.  You’d think San Diego might be the exception, since we’re right on the ocean.  But many of us tuck into Alaskan king crab or Chilean sea bass without a second thought.

Part of the reason it’s tough to find and support restaurants that serve local fish is because there just aren’t as many fish as there used to be. In the 1980s, we had a tuna fishing fleet to rival any in the world. Fishermen and processors would deliver fresh-caught tuna straight to markets and restaurants to be served that day.

Then the tuna fishery started to dwindle. Nowadays, the only thing we have that even comes close is our sardines, which are sustainable and local, but are mostly used as bait for larger fish. Even the restaurants that make a concerted effort to buy local often rely heavily on fish from places like Baja, China and Greece.

A recent New York Times article highlighted a similar challenge in San Francisco.  The decline of California fisheries has made it hard even for people in the Bay Area—where they invented the term locavore—to get local seafood. In 2007, California commercial fisheries landings were down by almost half from 2000, according to the National Ocean Economics Program. And the value had dropped by more than half, from $276.5 million to $120.2 million. We’re seeing the same troubling trend here in San Diego County, where the numbers of fishing boats, trips and processors are all steadily declining, along with commercial revenues.

Thankfully, California is in the midst of implementing the Marine Life Protection Act, a landmark law designed to restore declining sea life populations through a mixture of science and community input. The result will be a network of protected “underwater parks” where fish stocks can recover and grow.  Such networks are already in place between Half Moon Bay and Point Conception, and the wheels are in motion for creating protections for our home waters here in Southern California.

California is poised to set the gold standard for ocean protection, but we’ve got to meet the promise of the law with sound implementation. In August, the Fish and Game Commission voted to create a network of underwater parks from Mendocino to Half Moon Bay, protecting 155 square miles of vital kelp beds, canyons and rocky reefs where fish and shellfish feed and breed.  These protections will help support the recovery of depleted fisheries like rock fish and abalone.

Here in Southern California, Fish and Game is considering four possible marine protected area plans, weighing the importance of our ocean’s long-term health and productivity against short-term costs.  They will move forward with a final decision in the fall of 2010, after a thorough economic and scientific review of the options on the table. I for one hope they vote for strong protections—it’s an investment that will pay big dividends.

If we don’t take steps now to help our troubled ocean resources, we’ll continue to see more and more farmed fish or fish from far off places on our plates. I hope we can look forward to a day when the local yellowtail, halibut and swordfish that used to flourish in our waters come back in great numbers. Until then, I encourage you to vote with your fork and request local, sustainably harvested seafood from our nearby restaurants.

Published in Marine Conservation