The Save Seafood Tour is put on by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, and was brought here by Bon Appétit. The aim of the tour is to raise awareness about fishing practices across the globe, many of which are unsustainable.
A video put out by the organization, "Can the Oceans Keep Up With the Hunt?" highlighted some concerns. The video states that one of the most environmentally unfriendly practices is trawl netting, in which a net is dragged across the bottom of the ocean, in hopes of catching shrimp. While this method does catch shrimp, it also catches around five pounds of by catch (extra animals or plants) per pound of shrimp caught and destroys the natural habitat on the sea floor.
The video also highlighted the danger of long line nets and hook lines. Both types of nets are exactly what they sound like: long nets underwater and long lines covered with hooks, respectively.
The nets are left in the water in hopes of catching fish. They do trap fish, but they also take pretty much anything else that swims in.
Hook nets target larger fish. Anything that can bite the hook can be trapped, whether it is a tuna, a shark or a seal.
Another issue raised in the presentation was aquacultures, or fish farms. Aquacultures in the United States often raise carnivorous fish, such as salmon. To feed these fish, literally tons of little fish must be caught. The result of this is that not only are large populations of fish being depleted, but so are smaller fish that serve as a food source for many aquatic animals.
As aquacultures often have mesh sides, waste flows freely from them into surrounding waters. This waste is very concentrated and can affect the water quality in large areas. The runoff waste from aquacultures can also pollute drinking water.
While much of the presentation was focused on problems, hope was also offered. Aquacultures in the United States and other countries are becoming more sustainable.
In China, for example, herbivorous fish are raised on spare agricultural crops, and the waste from the fish is used as fertilizer for the crops, so no waste is generated. Companies in the United States are making an effort to have above ground aquacultures that do not directly put waste into the water.
According to the film, over fishing has caused more damage in the past 50 years than in the history of humankind before then. But, this industry is also improving.
Some companies in Maine are going back to fishing cod the traditional way: with a hook and line. As opposed to netting for fish, this method keeps the population high, with minimal damage to the environment. Scientists are supportive of this method as a way to allow fish populations to bounce back.
St. Olaf students can rest assured that Bon Appétit only uses sustainably farmed seafood. Students wanting more information can visit Seafoodwatch.org to view information on individual fish types, and print guides to safe seafood by U.S. region.