Thursday, July 23, 2009

The economic value of rebuilding depleted fish

There's big money to be made with smart fishery management. That's the unsurprising conclusion of a new report.

Where overfishing has reduced fish populations, battles over what to do often center on the cost of much money fishermen can lose from restrictions on fishing. Sometimes neglected is the economic value of much money fishermen can make once rebuilding is complete. This study looks at the value of rebuilding in one region of the US, the Mid-Atlantic. According to the sponsors of the study:

“Results from this study provide strong analytical evidence that there is significant value in rebuilding fish populations and lost financial benefits from delayed action,” said Dr. John M. Gates, report author and professor emeritus, Departments of Economics, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, University of Rhode Island. “It’s important to note that the primary, direct benefits represent a conservative estimate and, if related economic benefits had been included, the result would likely expand well beyond the figures estimated in this study.”

Delays in rebuilding translate to lost opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to catch the maximum amount of fish that can sustainably be taken from a population. Failing to quickly address overfishing and allow populations to rebuild as quickly as possible forgoes current financial benefits and may result in more costly regulations in the long–term.

I think the battle isn't so much over whether it's a good idea to rebuild, it seems to be more about who gets those benefits once rebuilding is complete. Who survives the trip through the "valley of death" that rebuilding looks like to fishermen? We need clear decisions on how to manage the transition to rebuilt fisheries.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Giant blob creature in Alaska is identified

It's big, it's scary, it's stinky, and it's in the ocean off Alaska so it could be really weird. But, sigh, it's only ocean algae. I like algae a lot, but this had the potential to be something fun and exciting like some new crazy oceany monster out of science fiction. It certainly looked good for awhile, when it was the unknown 12-15 mile long oily blob-thing.

No word on whether the algae blob gooey monster has an agent.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wal-mart is the green leader, again

Wal-mart has done it again, confounding critics by leading the sustainability revolution.

Next up for Wal-mart: broad sustainability information on product labels, using standardized measures of things like carbon footprint, water use, etc.

Elitists who hate Wal-mart and doubt their green credentials are just going to have to get over it. We should celebrate leadership where it exists, not where biases suggest it "ought" to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seafood sustainability measured in anchovy equivalents

There's a new battle that may change how you view seafood sustainability. Is it possible that the best and highest use of anchovies is feeding farmed fish? Maybe.

Kona Blue and Food & Water Watch are slugging it out over the sustainability of kona kampachi, thanks to a new analysis that says farmed fish are more sustainable than wild-caught fish.

Author Neil Sims of Kona Blue is sticking his neck out with this analysis, but that's nothing new. As a fish-farming entrepreneur with green credibility, he's successfully working what some think is an impossible divide. Now he's challenging critics and trying to undermine what he calls the "widely-promoted misconception that eating wild-caught fish is better for the oceans than eating farmed seafood."

Sims estimates that "on a global basis, sustainably farmed fish may represent around 60 times more efficient use of anchovy and other baitfish resources than wild fish." As a result, he asserts that "fish farming is a better and higher use of these resources than reliance on commercial exploitation of wild predatory fish species."

On the other side of the battle is Food & Water Watch, the consumer organization that challenged the "good alternative" rating given to kona kampachi by the Monterey Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Part of their mission is to "challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water" and they advise seafood consumers to "in general, choose wild-caught" over farmed fish. Not surprisingly, they're not impressed with Sims' analysis.

Sims makes some good points in his defense of farming predatory fish. If we're going to eat predatory fish, then it's worth thinking about the "anchovy equivalents" that go into farmed fish vs. wild-caught fish.

Also posted at under "blogs"

Back in the saddle

Thanks for those cards and letters, and no I didn't get eaten on my swim around Bainbridge Island.

I've been busy the last month, exploring some exciting new futures. More on this later as things develop. For now I'll just say I enjoyed the mussels in Brussels.

One new thing, I've been invited to do some blogging on, a seafood industry e-newsletter. Come on by for a look.