Sea-ing my food

I love seafood.

Well, I love food in general, but seafood is a big part of that. Thankfully, I’m just two hours from the coast, and fresh seafood is something I can expect and enjoy on a regular basis (I’ve even become something of a snob about which seafood sources I’m willing to use- once you’ve had littleneck clams fresh from the ocean, you begin to wonder exactly how long it has taken that breaded fish fillet to get to your kitchen). I do wonder, however, whether my love for fish and shellfish is healthy for me and for the environment. I tend to investigate where my food comes from, looking at how it’s made and where and by whom, so that I have a better sense of how my eating habits impact me and the world around me (which, I’m sure, makes me something of annoying restaurant customer, ‘cause I like to ask questions). I’m certainly not alone in an appreciation of seafood, and I imagine that the cumulative impact of all of us piscivores is impressive.

I did some research into the sardine industry two years ago (and it was a challenge to trace some of those supply lines) for a grad school project which was informative both in terms of how humans harvest marine resources (for example, purse seining- check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a primer on fishing methods) and how our actions can impact other animals that use those same resources (like Cape Gannets, which were the focus of my project). I have also heard about declining fish stocks, invasive species, and worries that chemical changes in our oceans are negatively impacting sea life. It seems to me that some aquatic species, like some birds, represent a conservation challenge because they move around quite a bit, and others represent a different problem because they cannot move when things get bad.

Living in New England, I know that certain fish stocks, like cod, are not what they once were, and I know how important the seafood industry was and continues to be to our past and present economies. At the moment, I can also buy lobster at a very, very good price, which is great news for my taste buds, but I’m not sure what that situation says about the state of marine ecosystems in my backyard. So this month I’ll be looking at New England seafood (having learned from my research into migrant song birds that narrowing a topic can be helpful- I’ll probably still be inundated with information).

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be investigating the history of marine resource-use along the New England coast, how we’re gaining information on the current situation, and what that current situation looks like.  I hope to be able to give you a sense of where we’ve come from and what future options lie before us. Since this is a topic that directly connects to our dining choices, I believe this is another area where well-informed people can make a huge difference- even if you’re not spending days on a fishing boat, you’re probably spending dollars on what that fishing boat has caught.

So stay tuned, as I do my best to reveal the depth and breadth of the situation.

Posted September 2, 2012 by Mirka Zapletal in Food Choices, Marine Ecosystems

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