Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Saving the oceans

Sun-baked, fish-fed, brain dead and depleted. It could be worse. At least I was saving the ocean and it was 75 and sunny.

It’s a strange sort of work so close to the edge of collapse, mental and physical. Just getting to the heart of an issue with an interesting mix of people, some I’ve never met before, when the warning box starts popping up: “recharge immediate to avoid immediate brain shutdown.”

It’s tough to keep talking smart through the mental fog, the endless drinking (purely social, of course) and the pounding onslaught of the finest seafood on earth, selected in the company of people who make a living buying and selling seafood.

…and of course, the crushing guilt, no time to blog…

I’m just done with the most intense 4 days of my year. Seafood Summit 2009 in San Diego, where I meet with fish and seafood people nonstop from waking at 7 until collapsing in bed at midnight (or later).

I wish I could link to independent reports on the doings, like the words of seafood journalists John Sackton and the boys from, but those are subscription-only sites. Too bad, since John seems to think that I took a fairly interesting stand. And then there’s the deep thinking from the Ashoka Foundation, which is uniformly surprising, occasionally contrarian, and also sadly unlinkable.

So what the hell, I think I’m going to take a pass on reporting the event, and just blunder into a couple of things that keep echoing in my head.

One thing I need to ponder is the sometimes-deep divide between the business world and the views of ocean environmentalists. Are we really so different? Is that the way it has to be? Or can we do a better job of finding the areas where we have the same goals? Sometimes we don’t seem so far apart…is it a coincidence that usually happens later in the evening?

What are the duties and obligations of people who make a living buying and selling seafood? Do they owe a special debt to the ocean? And if they don’t feel such a debt, should they have their feet held to the fire? Will that make them see the light and transform into ocean heroes?

Am I really evil if I eat thresher shark, swordfish, or –gasp- Mary’s bluefin tuna? There are maybe 3 or 4 people on the planet who understand my relationship to these fish, and so far as I know they’re not talking, so what up with anyone who presumes to know what I should or shouldn’t do? I’ve told one story--of me and coho salmon--do such things matter?

Is it true that environmentalists eat our young, as a friendly seafood business guy asked me?

And finally, will next year’s meeting be equally productive if it happens in Iceland in the winter, as the rumors would have it?

Regardless, it seems like a good time for a vacation. So I’ll take this opportunity to let you know that Blogfish is going mostly off-line for up to 2 weeks as I retire to a beachfront apartment in Akumal and lick my wounds. It’s rough duty but someone has to do it.


Anonymous said...

Good thought provoking questions Mark, I wish I was there in San Diego with you. As a person who 'farms' seafood - yes, the 'f' word - I like to think that environmentalists and us are very close to the having the same goals. The headlines seem to portray much more division, but I still remain hopeful. Am I naive?

tres_arboles said...

' it a coincidence that usually happens later in the evening?'

Of course not. Break down inhibitions and what happens? People get real. In government we believe this so fervently we have jargon for it, "Let's talk about it over a beer."

Also, good comment by the anonymous farmer. I'm presently working with the shellfish growers on an Army COE permit that we view as being unlikely to bear on salmon conservation.

Unfortunately, the environmental opponents, as opposed to the waterfront NIMBYs who have no good reason for their opposition, point to "uncertainty" as reflected in broadly ranging results in the best available science. Their unwavering response to uncertainty is no action, which is terrible public policy, but I don't know what we can do to get them off that position.

Steve Ballmer said...

... well written people, I enjoy a good, interesting blog!

tiaaa! said...

I agree with anonymous
good thought provoking question! :)

Bob Sullivan said...

Mark.....we in the seafood business have the greatest responsibilty to protect the oceans.......keep the faith people like you will get everyone to realize the importance of this resource

wikiplugs said...

Hello Blogger,

Ever thought how nice it would have been if you could show some random posts from your blog,somewhere

inside your blog ?
Something which crawls more posts/stories than normal RSS limit ?

check some examples at

website: (See the Vertical Banner Here on the right

and blog: (... and also

Horizontal Banner Here on the top)

Just have a look and then visit to grab your free copy today.

(Limited Offer)