A Part of the Seafood Summit Team


My most recent contract is with Seafood Choices (a program of SeaWeb) as Coordinator for the 10th International Seafood Summit. While this is not specifically marine management, being an integral part of what is essentially the Super Bowl of Sustainable Seafood could not be more rewarding. Here is just one of the reasons why:

This year’s Seafood Summit is in Hong Kong. That’s right Hong Kong.

Why Hong Kong, some of you may ask?

My answer to you is: why not Hong Kong?

Asia has the most global influence and Asia is where we can have the greatest impact in the sustainable seafood movement going forward. Worldwide, Asia is the largest importer and exporter of seafood, with aquaculture production growing exponentially and fleets of fishing vessels found in every ocean across the globe. China is looking at developing their salmon aquaculture, Japan – the sushi capital of the world – imports more seafood than it exports – and predictably, the imports come mostly from China, and right now the first Chinese-run fishery is in the assessment process with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The sustainable seafood movement has made some serious strides in the last five years. As one example of this progress, Greenpeace is now working with fishermen, and not just campaigning against them. But the truth is, if we want to continue making significant strides forward, we have to look East.

And looking East is exactly what SeaWeb and Seafood Choices is doing for this year’s Seafood Summit.

Is it a bold move? You bet. Is it out of our North American and European comfort zone? Absolutely. But when were truly important changes and real accomplishments ever made in the comfort of the known?

Going to Hong Kong is a big change that requires a lot more effort. In today’s “economic climate”, there are those who might not agree with me that it is the right move. But I believe that in ten years, we will look back on Seafood Summit 2012 as a pivotal moment for our community and our movement, and be thankful we had the foresight to move into the Asian arena for the Summit. The gap between the East and the West will feel smaller, the important concepts of sustainability and responsibility will be heard and picked up by more Asian press. The word will spread, and the sustainability movement to save our ocean populations will be in a better place. I commend SeaWeb and Seafood Choices on their bold move and I am glad to be a part of the #ss12hk team.

So it is clear from the video below that I am excited about this event and my involvement with it, but it is more than just that. This event has meaning and will be reflected on as an important milestone in the sustainable seafood movement.

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That is my opinion, so this is me, helping the cause and making the world a better place through sustaining one of our most important resource, the fish.

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How I got to know the fish on my plate

 

In the summer of 2011, my local community supported fishery, ‘Off the Hook’ provided me with hands-on experience of what the theoretical and practi cal course load of Marine Management studies was teaching me. At the time I was completing my Masters in Marine Management from Dalhousie University in the port city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Immersed in the theories of sustainable seafood and the issues and challenges of fisheries management, I studied legislation, stock assessment and management strategies to encourage sustainable use of the ocean and its dwindling resources. With my first order from the community supported fishery, however, came a new realization: sustainable seafood and fisheries management is also about our relationship with food.

In order for individuals to help save the seas, we have to reconnect with our seafood and learn how to cook – how to cook fish we are not familiar with.

I can still remember a time, not too long ago, when I wasn’t sure what to make of sustainable seafood cookbooks. How could a cookbook help in the quest to save our oceans and the fish? Fish is a healthy, nutritious option and we should be encouraging people to eat more fish, but the flip side is that we need to encourage people to eat a larger variety of fish. The oceans offer us hundreds of species of fish we can eat. Cooking different fish requires different fish recipes and this is where cookbooks and online recipes can help.

One solution to a better use of our renewable wild-caught fish supply is diversification in the fish we bring to the table. Learning how to cook and prepare uncommon fish species is one way of creating individual involvement in the quest for a long-term solution. The community supported fishery offers us an opportunity to feel connected to the source of our fish, to try different fish, and to experiment with new ways of preparing them. This is why I firmly believe in the community supported fishery model. As I became more comfortable preparing fish, I was more willing to try something new. And I realized that on a personal level, I was doing something to help our oceans. If you would like to include wild-caught fish in your diet, but know there are fewer fish in the oceans, consider the community supported fishery close to you or talk to your community and start one up.

I made a video of my experience participating in ‘Off the Hook’ to share my journey from fish novice to fish connoisseur. The Fish Diaries: Lessons from the Hook is part education, part cooking show and part personal reflection on how I became more comfortable with fish. It demonstrates how easy it can be for anyone to not only prepare and cook fish, but also to become involved in important ocean-saving initiatives in their local community. I hope you enjoy!

For more information about Halifax’s CSF or to sign up for your very own fresh fish check out: http://www.offthehookcsf.ca/

To find out more about CSFs in North America and find the one close to you check out: www.localcatch.org

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Vietnam Fishermen

China beach in Central Vietnam is well known for its use in the 1970s hit TV show “China Beach.” I was lucky enough on this glorious morning to stumble upon a group of fishermen coming back from fishing. In some parts of Vietnam, the fishermen use round boats to fish when close to shore.

If the visual of a man in a round boat trying to row straight is baffling, I encourage you to watch this clip. It is not mine, but provides a nice visual to the boats as they are launched from the beach. Vietnam Boat Launching.

The fishermen bring their catch to shore and without missing a beat the women of the community are there to gather today’s catch and bring it to market. This is common of small-scale artisanal fisheries; the men fish and the women sell. At the market, the women will negotiate and bargain with local buyers about price and quantity.

I once sat next to two women on a bus negotiating the price of the vegetables one was going to sell the other. And while I didn’t understand the language their bodies and gestures told the whole story. It was a pleasant 45 min conversation and in the end both women walked away satisfied.

Fish markets are some of the livelier places to visit in South East Asia and I encourage you to visit one if you are in the region. And if you can’t get to South East Asia, have a walk through Pike Place Market and you will get a similar feeling or check out my other post Cambodia Market to see some videos from the Market in Siem Reap.

At the end of the morning the fishermen and the women will head home and prepare for the next day. Their livelihood depends on the abundance of fish for them to fish and provide for their families. While we will never see their fish in our markets, supporting the little guy, wherever he may be, is necessary to the overall success of sustainable seafood.

When you head to your local market to choose your fish, remember the local fishermen in Vietnam and how important the buyers of their catch are. Where are your local fishermen? Do you know how important your purchasing decisions are to their livelihoods and providing for their families. My experience with the fishermen in Vietnam reminded me how similar we are and how cross cultural similarities are always more apparent than differences. I wish more North Americans could have an up close and personal encounter with the fishermen who provide local and sustainable catch.
 

 

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