Sustaining Wild Fish – January 31, 2016

By January 31, 2016Dock Stories

It’s not easy counting fish. Just ask the people who have to do it. Awareness and concern for wild fisheries is growing worldwide. It has long been recognized that by-catch, illegal catch and artisanal catch were underrepresented, with fish stocks stable in some places, increasing in others and declining in yet others. The abundance of fish throughout almost all of South and Southeast Asia has declined significantly, while stocks in the Northeast Pacific are abundant, stable and not overfished, and in the North Atlantic are increasing in abundance. This week NOAA Fisheries reported “United States fishery management system under the Magnuson-Stevens Act more than meet the criteria of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s ecolabelling guidelines”. This is good news for traditional American fishing communities.

One area of fisheries management that the US is failing to lead is in protecting forage fish. Menhaden are the foundation of the food chain in the Chesapeake, called by some “the most important fish in the sea”. Omega Protein lands more than 350 million pounds of menhaden annually for their fish oil and fish meal business, depriving species like striped bass and bluefish of their favorite meal up and down the east coast. Virginia representative Barry Knight sought legislative change in the state’s menhaden fishery last week, but lost. “You fight the the good fight,” Knight said, disappointed with the outcome. “I want to put this in the hands of the scientists, but they (Omega Protein) had all their big lobbyists they paid to keep their purview. But I don’t back down from anybody and I’m going to represent my people and I’d do this again next year.”


The dock at Mobjack Bay at the mouth of the Ware River


Captain Rob Seitz’s F/V South Bay out of Morro Bay, California

Virginia’s Ware River flows into the Chesapeake at Mobjack Back where John & Floyd Ward have been harvesting oysters for more than 30 years. This dock’s unique location on a large sandbar in the mouth of the river gives the oysters a distinctive taste taken from its surroundings. On incoming tides, the waters of the Mobjack Bay are accelerated and forced to run over the oysters, creating excellent growing conditions. The year round salinity of the bay averages 15 to 23 parts per thousand, which gives the oysters a sweet and salty taste without being overpowering. We like the folks at Mobjack Bay, and want to help grow their business. Not only are their oysters delicious, but well priced, delighting chefs and diners far and wide. Everyone wants oysters for Valentine’s Day. They are an aphrodisiac, of course, and according to some this is related to the high levels of zinc in oysters.

Long time readers know of our fascination with the octopus, a simply amazing creature. Thought of as solitary animals, scientists have discovered they possess a rich social life. A study in the journal Current Biology focuses on one species, known as Octopus tetricus — the gloomy octopus — which gather to munch on tasty scallops in the shallows of Jervis Bay, Australia. The research team recorded 52 hours of underwater video, showing 186 octopus interactions. Would have loved to see that.

All the best,

from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team

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