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Real Reporting on the Future of Seafood

For years an erroneous statistic made the rounds of both causal conversation and main-stream media reporting. It said the world’s oceans would be emptied of fish by the year 2048.  The statistic was patently wrong and had even been debunked in published, peer-reviewed literature by its original author. But writers, reporters, editors and producers continued to use it because sound-bite science, even if wrong, is so often an easier sell.

Since 2009 a slow and steady drumbeat has chipped away at this harmfully inaccurate misinformation. Righting earlier reporting NBC proclaimed, “crab cakes and fish sticks won’t be disappearing after all,” while the New York Times wrote, “can we have our fish and eat it too?… the answer may be yes.”

Now, all these years later an accurate, science-based narrative is finally helping the media come full circle. The latest science shows not an empty ocean by 2048 but quite the opposite. National Geographic begins its report this way:

  • “After decades of declines, most of the world’s fish populations could recover in just ten years, while fishermen make more money at the same time, scientists reported in a new study published Monday.”
  • “By 2050, global fish populations could double if all countries switched to the best management practices.”

The hand wringing and hyperbole associated with empty oceans has made for compelling press but the plain and simple facts are quite different and are finally getting their day.

We suggest reading the National Geographic article, “How Our Favorite Fish Could Recover in a Decade.”

Science Scoffs at Sweden’s North American Lobster Claims

If you’ve been following Sweden’s attempt to ban North American Lobsters you know about the country’s claim that the discovery of 32 lobsters over the course of seven years constitutes an invasion.

Marine biologist Boris Worm is saying… ummmm, yeah, not so much an invasion. His words, “”I’ve never heard of lobster being invasive anywhere, really.”

The whole report is worth a read here.

Eat This Not That Slips One Step Closer to Internet Obscurity

Once a quick go-to source for nutrition nuggets that mom and millennials could trust Eat This Not That has slipped yet another step closer to the click bait engine it has slowly been evolving into. This time it’s boasting “Every Popular Fish—Ranked for Nutritional Benefits.” The problem is, a quick look at even just a few of their nutrition profiles illustrates that they get is so thoroughly wrong, so many times, the whole exercise fails the credibility test.

They claim farmed Atlantic Salmon is apparently “dyed pink” and is “high in PCBs.”

Really, Eat This?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta looked into those very claims on 60 Minutes and found that carotenoids that salmon normally eat in the wild are added to their food to give them that pink color and that their PCB levels are “so low it’s almost a drop in the bucket.”

Then, how about canned tuna? This is where Eat This notes “canned albacore tuna can have almost triple the levels of mercury of light tuna.” Yeah, it can. But Eat This fails to report that light tuna contains 0.1 ppm of mercury and albacore contains 0.3 ppm. The FDA limit is 1.0ppm. If that were a speed limit, light tuna would be traveling 5.5 mph is a 55mph zone and albacore would be traveling a whopping 16.5 mph is a 55 mph zone.

There are really too many to address here.

Eat This might want to Research This before it posts its next nonsensical list or further risk diluting its once popular brand.

Updated Dietary Guidelines Suggest Shifting to Seafood

In January the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services jointly issued the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines is updated every 5 years to reflect the latest in published nutrition science. This report is designed to form the foundation of dietary advice that healthcare professionals share with patients, as well as inform federal nutrition programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program.

According to the Dietary Guidelines, nearly half of all Americans have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. However, small changes in diet and lifestyle can result in weight loss and a reduced risk of developing one of these chronic diseases.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recognize the importance of these small changes by focusing on healthy eating over a lifetime. Unlike previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines, the most recently updated version focuses on overall eating patterns designed to meet Americans where they currently are as opposed to focusing on individual foods or nutrients in isolation.

It is no surprise that the updated Guidelines recommend Americans eat a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and limit saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. New to the Dietary Guidelines, however, is the recent recommendation for Americans to eat a variety of protein-rich foods. In fact, the Guidelines go one step further and suggest that individuals shift to more nutrient-dense protein options, like seafood, nuts and seeds, soy and beans.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines are clear that Americans currently eat an adequate amount of protein, but average seafood consumption is well below recommendations in all age and gender categories. Therefore, most individuals don’t need to eat more protein, they just need to eat more of a variety of protein-rich foods. The Guidelines recommend making this shift by “incorporating seafood as the protein foods choice in meals twice per week in place of meat, poultry, or eggs” and suggest choosing a salmon steak or tuna sandwich to increase protein variety.

Seafood also plays a prominent role in two eating patterns that the Guidelines recommend Americans should shift towards. The American-style eating pattern suggests that individuals eat at least two seafood meals (or about 8-12 ounces) every week, while the Mediterranean-style eating pattern—long associated with heart health and longevity—includes even more seafood each week, up to 17 ounces.

Additionally, the 2015 Guidelines also clearly advise pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat at least 2-3 meals (or 8-12 ounces) of a variety of seafood every week. The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA found in fish help improve baby’s brain development, as well as mom’s heart. The Guidelines also recommend that obstetricians and pediatricians provide guidance on how to make healthy food choices that include seafood.

Decades of research support the recommendations to eat more seafood for heart health, brain development in babies and young children, brain health at all other life stages and bone health, among other health benefits, as well. Seafood is rich in nutrients Americans just don’t get enough of—omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, B vitamins and iron—and low in nutrients Americans do, like saturated fat.

The recently-released Guidelines suggest that—for the first time—federal dietary guidance on seafood is finally catching up to the science. Finally, there is government nutrition advice—for registered dietitians, doctors and policymakers—that recognizes the importance of eating seafood during all life stages, particularly during pregnancy. Perhaps, future seafood advice for healthcare professionals, organizations and consumers will be as clear, concise and science-based.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is available at dietaryguidelines.gov.

New York Times Promotes Preposterous Oceans Parable

The Old Gray Lady has a well-documented propensity for embracing the panacea of smiley, happy, universal sustainability without digging too far into the reality of some of its favorite strategies.  Just searching New York Times on this site alone brings up dozens of examples where the Times choses an agenda driven narrative over actual research.

This week is no different as the Times published an interview with biologist E. O. Wilson as part of his promotion of a new book. In the interview, and apparently the book, Wilson boldly suggests we set aside half of the planet to let it recover and that we go about our business while it does so.

Part of that 50% would be a little thing called “the oceans” because, according to Wilson, “we need to stop fishing in the open sea and let life there recover.” This strategy goes completely unchallenged by writer Claudia Dreifus. But the folks at CFood didn’t let it slip without pointing out the lack of science and near delusion associated with the reality of this idea. Their posting is worth a read.

Balanced Budget Blueprint Calls for Elimination of Catfish Program

The Washington, D.C. based Heritage Foundation is out with its new blueprint for balancing the Federal Budget and one of its recommendations is to “repeal the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) catfish inspection program.”

In an effort to cut out duplicative and wasteful spending Heritage blasts the program as “costly duplication” that is an “unjustified trade barrier.” The group also notes, “the retaliation would likely come against industries other than the catfish industry, such as milk producers or meat packers. American consumers also would suffer because this program would reduce competition.”

Today’s latest call for repeal of the duplicative USDA catfish regulation is more evidence that it is one of Washington’s most wasteful and unpopular programs and opposition continues to grow.

NFI Crab Council Seeks New Asia Liaison

The National Fisheries Institute’s (NFI) Crab Council is looking for a new Asia Liaison. The position is the primary in-region contact for the Council’s fishery improvement projects and works collaboratively with companies, governments, NGO’s and trade associations.

The Liaison position, located in Indonesia, is responsible for oversight, progress reporting and resource coordination. The Liaison is additionally responsible for stewardship of council expansion into crab producing countries.

Interested candidates should contact Gavin Gibbons 703.752.8891 ggibbons@NFI.org

 

Greenpeace Illustrates How Out Of Touch It Can Be

As Greenpeace continues its efforts to raise funds by randomly attaching itself to any issue it thinks will garner a headline, the group’s hyperbolic talking-point- diarrhea has apparently struck again. This time the group is suggesting companies not communicate about the health benefits of seafood. That’s right. Greenpeace woud like seafood supppliers to stop, “trying to convince us your seafood is going to make us healthier.” That’s their latest effort?

It reminds me of the stellar decision making that went into a campaign years ago promoted by another similarly marginalized group. You’ll remember when they asked food banks not to distribute donations of canned tuna during the holiday season. Yes, that really happened.

So, whether it’s Greenpeace challenging the proven health benefits of seafood or others of their ilk trying to take food out of the mouths of those in need, illustrations of obsurdity in action abound.

Seafood Fraud Gets Costly In San Diego

In case you were wondering, the City Attorney in San Diego does not mess around when it comes to menu mislabeling. If you think it’s a good idea to defraud consumers by putting one fish on the menu but serving them a different, cheaper, fish it’s time to reconsider your business model.

A “truth-in-menu” investigation, launched last year, took aim at seafood fraud and has now resulted in eight criminal convictions. Eight sushi restaurants were nailed for deceiving customers. Not only did they earn themselves a criminal conviction but California law requires them to reimburse all of the investigation costs.

Let’s review; Sushi restaurants in San Diego were suspected of cheating consumers via seafood fraud, officials investigated and confirmed that suspicion, the prosecutors not only convicted them but made them pay for the investigations that ended in their own conviction… ouch.

Who said crime doesn’t pay?

Open Letter To The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Media Relations Office

We read with great interest your release titled Higher Levels of Fukushima Cesium Detected Offshore.

Quick question for you. Are you trying to scare consumers and negatively impact the lives of hardworking fishermen along the Pacific coast? Or are you just trying to gin up another round of funding for radiation testing work? Just wondering.

Feel free to respond on twitter @NFIMedia where we would be happy to have a public conversation about why you didn’t lead with any of the following facts mentioned in your release:

• “The [radiation levels found are] more than 500 times lower than US government safety limits for drinking water…”

• “…the levels of contamination off our shores remain well below government-established safety limits for human health or to marine life…”

• “Canadian scientists… have done sampling of fish and have not seen any Fukushima cesium in fish collected in British Columbia.”

• “… [Radiation] levels today off Japan are thousands of times lower than during the peak releases in 2011…”

Fear mongering press releases about radiation that maximize hyperbole, by design, are a disservice to consumers, fishermen and scientists who care about accuracy in reporting.