As we enjoyed our annual turkey day, fisherfolk around the globe celebrated World Fisheries Day. For the billions of people who rely on the sea for nutrition and millions who fish its waters for income, every day is fisheries day. This might be a good time to pause and reflect on just how far America’s commercial fisheries have come in recent years.
In 2007, the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico was on the brink of collapse. Thanks to significant advances in sustainable fishing practices that helped fishermen adapt, red snapper populations in the Gulf of Mexico today have tripled since 2007. More fish in the water means more revenue for fishermen today, and tomorrow.
Groundfish such as sablefish and petrale sole, found along the U.S. West Coast, were overfished a decade ago. Fishermen and policymakers have worked to improve management and the results are extraordinary: bycatch is down 75 percent and species are recovering faster than expected. So much so that the Marine Stewardship Council certified 13 species to their standards for sustainable fishing, calling the fishery “the most diverse, complex fishery ever” to be assessed against the standard.
Just a decade ago, many commercial fisheries were a free for all, with little incentive to do anything but fish first, fish fast, and fish until there was nothing left. Risky for fishermen and detrimental to species abundance, this system too often corroded the health of fishing communities and fish populations alike. Since then smarter management policies with more fishermen leading conservation efforts, and heightened consumer awareness point to a better future for traditional domestic fisheries.
There has been a tremendous reaction to the approval of GM salmon by the FDA., the first genetically altered animal for food. The floodgate appears to have opened for land-based animals to be “improved”. It is good to remember that we send more than 60% of our harvest of the world’s greatest wild salmon run overseas. This beautiful visual poem of sockeye spawning in the headwaters of Bristol Bay brings clarity to the gift we have.
On the subject of unintended consequences, a Chinese millionaire bought 33,000 hairy crabs and released them into a river, and aquatic-life experts are appalled. On the subject of myths that are true, a 33 foot long giant squid was caught off the coast of Spain. Famed in Norse mythology and described in Moby Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, no scientist had photographed a living giant squid until 2005, and no one had filmed the creature until 2013. Recently three juvenile giant squid were caught off the coast of Japan. “It was interesting that they caught several of them together,” said Mike Vecchione, a cephalopod expert at the Smithsonian. “We’ve been looking for a long time and not been finding them.” An interesting spawning ground indeed.
Our new found Midwestern friends, the invasive silver carp and buffalo from Ledbetter, KY, are pleasing diners on both coasts. Our friend Peter Hoffman has been wowing NYC folks with smoked fish ribs at Back Forty West.
All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team