With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
You may have noticed things getting a little fishy here at Triple Pundit over the past few months, as we dive into the environmental and social impact of the seafood industry in an in-depth series. You can explore the series here to read each post in full. But in case you’re pressed for time (it is Friday after all), this list will give you the need-to-know facts and trends in the burgeoning sustainable seafood movement. Give it a read, and impress your friends at the oyster bar happy hour after work.
1. 87 percent of the world’s wild fisheries are stressed
To keep up with demand for certain species, massive commercial fishing vessels empty large swaths of water in one pass, then simply move on to another. Known as overfishing, the serial depletion of fish populations that leaves few adult fish to repopulate the seas, this phenomenon poses a real and imminent threat to ocean biodiversity.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization 87 percent of the wild fisheries globally are stressed. That is, they’re either over exploited, fished at the maximum level, are depleted or are working toward recovery. Meanwhile, demand for fish is outpacing the growth in the human population. While the world’s population grows at 1.7 percent annually, fish production grows at 3.2 percent annually.
2. About a third of our fish is mislabeled
An estimated 33 percent of seafood sold in the United States is incorrectly labeled by type of fish, catch method or provenance, according to a recent report by conservation group Oceana. This is not a new problem—there have been documented cases going back to at least the 1930s when canneries tried to pass off mackerel for pricier salmon. But now, with the falling price of computing power and tech-enabled tracking devices starting to change traceability methods, technology is fast-becoming an unlikely hero in the traditional world of seafood.
3. Our oceans are acidifying faster than ever
Though direct actions like overfishing cause rightful concern, indirect actions can also pose a significant threat to our oceans and the fish that call them home–namely accelerated warming caused by climate change. To put it simply: As the Earth warms, so do the oceans—causing increasing rates of acidification that concern scientists and lawmakers alike.
President Barack Obama noted acidification as a key climate-related concern in an Executive Order he issued last year urging Americans to embrace climate change awareness. Scientists note that acidification has happened before in Earth’s history—but never at such rapid rate. The most comparable event, which took place about 65 million years ago, is estimated to be 10 times slower than current acidification.
4. Traceability is as good for bottom lines as it is for fish
Between mislabeling, overfishing, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, the notoriously opaque seafood supply chain is rife with issues that affect both our oceans and corporate bottom lines. Think of it this way: Without traceability, a company that’s doing things the right way is forced to place their product on store shelves next to a cheaper product from an irresponsible company that cut costs by using unsustainable methods.
Luckily, better data may offer a solution to seafood traceability woes. “Better data means going beyond murky definitions of traceability systems to verified data. This is not a foreign idea to supply chains: Couple product data with time and location stamps, and an auditable trail of information is produced — one that could be demonstrably free of illegal fish, for example,” wrote Cheryl Dahle, founder of Future of Fish, in a recent post on Triple Pundit.
5. CSFs are the new CSAs
Looking for the new foodie-centric trend? Don’t worry, we’re not trying to sell you on some crazy Cronut-cupcake hybrid. We’re talking about community supported fisheries (CSFs). A spinoff of the community supported agriculture (CSA) programs born of the local food movement, CSFs shorten the seafood supply chain by providing restaurants and grocery stores with access to premium, locally caught and sustainable seafood.
By giving local, responsible fishermen direct access to restaurants, grocers and distributors, the distance from sea to plate shrinks immeasurably–allowing far less room for mislabeling and other illegal practices and giving hometown fisheries a chance to shine.
6. Companies are revisiting aquaculture as a solution
Aquaculture has a somewhat problematic past in terms of environmental impacts, but with improved methods and technology on the rise, a growing number of companies and organizations are revisiting aquaculture to meet the needs of a growing global population.
From “net pen” operations off the coast of Hawaii to food desert solutions in the big city, the aquaculture industry is expanding to new heights. Triple Pundit recently paid a visit to Redkey, Indiana to check out Bell Aquaculture, a particularly promising fish farm–touring their facility and bringing you up-close videos so you can see how it all works.
7. 200 million people depend on fish for their livelihoods
In a recent post on Triple Pundit, Future of Fish founder Cheryl Dahle recognizes that the wide range of issues facing the seafood industry may tempt some eco-minded consumers to skip fish altogether. But she then goes on to present this food for thought: “Before you give up and order lasagna, remember that jobs depend on fish: 200 million of them globally, directly or indirectly.”
Image courtesy of ThisFish
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a senior editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and the Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.