Guest Blog By Colleen Turlo, SeaChoice Member from the Ecology Action Centre
The Boston Seafood Show (officially known as the Seafood Expo North America) is huge. When I told the US Customs Official that I was going to Boston for a conference, he said, “Ah, the Boston Seafood Show?”
If you work in any realm of the seafood industry, it’s the place to be. As North America’s largest seafood trade exposition, this year held over 1,200 exhibits, and attracted an estimated 30,000 attendees representing over 100 countries. The conference was held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, as it is every year, from March 6th – 8th. And two SeaChoice members were there to soak it all in.
So, what is a seafood expo anyways? The simple answer is that it’s a place where anyone involved in fisheries and seafood can find something of interest, be it a supplier, processor, retailer, chef, hotelier, academic, government employee, fisherman, NGO, or media. The show floor was full of colourful and impressive booths touting their products and organizations, with samples of everything from traditional New England clam chowder to more exotic fares, like sea urchin sushi. There were oyster shucking competitions, chef-led master classes, educational conferences, panel discussions, receptions, and awards. So, basically, the Boston Seafood Show is an assembly of nearly everyone in North America (and beyond) that is involved in seafood or the fishing industry.
After three days in Boston, what were our main takeaways? Well, one of the things that stood out to me, as a Canadian, was the large Canadian representation on the show floor, with several provinces featured under their unique banners, including British Columbia, Quebec, and each of the Maritime provinces. While it stood out to me, it wasn’t unexpected as the majority of Canadian seafood exports end up in the US market. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans also had a booth at the show, with the Honorable Minister Hunter Tootoo also in attendance, visiting booths and holding private meetings and press conferences.
SeaChoice was fortunate enough to get a short, private meeting with the minister as well. We presented him with some statistics that we have assembled on species available in the Canadian market. This included a list of red-ranked species we need to focus on improving or substituting so that there can be more sustainable options available for consumers to choose from in the future. The Minister noted how important eco-labels are, and how sustainable seafood programs like SeaChoice and Ocean Wise are important in the Canadian seafood landscape to help educate and inform the public, and to work with fisheries and suppliers directly to help increase sustainable seafood options. It was reassuring to hear him say that they recognize how much Canadians care, and that the government cares too – which is why they are planning on reinvesting in science and utilizing the precautionary approach in fisheries management.
The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions also released their new Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood, which is a resource for industry to help companies design and navigate their sustainable seafood goals. The Common Vision was updated from its 2008 version to address social issues and traceability. For more information on the Common Vision update, check out our press release here.
As a non-industry person, I found the seminars and panel discussions at the conference the most interesting, with many topics highlighting the importance of sustainability and traceability within the seafood industry from a variety of perspectives – economic, social, environmental, as well as a facet of industry’s Corporate Social Responsibility when the market or government aren’t able to solve the issues themselves.
An exciting collaborative project was announced in the panel moderated by FishWise – the creation of a responsible sourcing tool to identify low, medium and high risk fisheries in concerns with human trafficking and human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain. Tackling this issue of slavery and human rights is more important now than ever as, according to the panelists, there are currently more slaves than at any other point in our history, with the average price of a slave in 2016 a shocking $90 USD. Identifying the areas of concern through this tool is just the first step. The hardest part will be to come up with solutions on how to deal with them once identified.
Another seminar that got me thinking was hosted by Future of Fish. With 40 per cent of seafood products lost at the retailer-consumer level, they argued that being sustainable at the beginning of the supply chain, but not at the end doesn’t make sense. And I agree. We should be trying to encourage maximum yield from seafood products, and start thinking about the fish as a whole, instead of just the fillet.
Overall, the Boston Seafood Show is quite an impressive event, bringing together thousands of people from all realms of the seafood world under one roof. It was encouraging to see a lot of industry professionals and government representatives acknowledging the importance of sustainable seafood, and enlightening to hear of all the different organizations that are collaborating to incorporate social issues and traceability into their organizational values. However, there are still many organizations and companies that are lagging behind. And that’s why SeaChoice is here; to encourage, motivate, and assist organizations and people on their sustainable seafood journey.
By Lana Brandt, National SeaChoice Manager
Standing in a room with Canada’s Premiers yesterday was not only a great honour, but also a huge milestone in our four-year journey in building support for a National Sustainable Seafood Day in Canada. The three-course sustainable seafood lunch was prepared by Executive Chef Ned Bell of the Vancouver Four Seasons and the lunch was co-hosted by the Marine Stewardship Council, Ocean Wise, SeaChoice and WWF Canada.
In 2012, the motion to designate March 18 as National Sustainable Seafood Day in Canada was tabled in Parliament and in the past four years we have made great strides in building support across the country. With events hosted in Vancouver, Toronto, and on Parliament Hill we have grown our support with seafood lovers and politicians. Over 130 Canadian seafood businesses including major grocers, suppliers and restaurants have also signed a petition in support for a National Sustainable Seafood Day.
Moving forward, we look forward to growing support for making March 18 officially Canada’s National Sustainable Seafood Day. A day dedicated to educating and raising awareness around sustainable seafood will help to protect Canada’s oceans for generations to come. We welcome you to sign the petition in support here.
Chemical Use, Escapes, and Disease Continue to Pose a Threat to the Marine Environment and Endangered Wild Salmon Populations, According to New Seafood Watch Report
Halifax, NS and Vancouver, BC – Open net-pen Atlantic salmon remains on the “Avoid” list after a new assessment outlines the ongoing threats posed by excessive chemical use, high levels of escapes, and the presence of persistent diseases in Atlantic Canadian farms. The Seafood Watch report, completed as part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood recommendation program, also assessed farms in North East US, which have scored a “yellow,” or ”Some Concerns” ranking. These differed from Atlantic Canadian farms as they have lower disease outbreaks and the existence of a successful regulatory framework which includes protection for wild Atlantic salmon through a containment management protocol for escapes.
“This report confirms that there are significant problems with Atlantic Canada’s open net-pen finfish farming operations,” says Susanna Fuller of the Ecology Action Centre. “How is it that in Maine – just across the bay – net-pens owned by the same company have less disease and such fewer escapes? This very clearly indicates that the lack of regulations here in Canada is resulting in higher, and completely unnecessary, environmental damage.”
One of the major concerns facing both assessed regions is the extremely high levels of chemical use. Antibiotic and pesticide use in Eastern North American farms is significantly higher than other salmon farming regions in the world – 241 times higher than in Scotland and 204 times higher than Norway. Also, some of the chemicals used are listed as Highly and Critically Important to Human Health by the World Health Organization, according to the report.
“It’s alarming that such high amounts of chemicals, including antibiotics, are being used here in Atlantic Canada,” says Matt Abbott of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “This is of particular concern as the Canadian government has recently weakened laws and regulations prohibiting the use of chemicals, with the introduction in summer 2015 of the Aquaculture Activity Regulations. Not only are there high amounts of antibiotics in the farmed salmon, the regulation of pesticide use is now significantly less that it was a year ago.”
A significant difference between the US and Canadian farms was the regulatory requirement to track all escapes back to the farm. In Canada, there are no such requirements, although the Nova Scotia government is in the process of developing a similar protocol as part of its recent regulatory changes.
“Impacts on endangered populations of wild Atlantic salmon as a result of aquaculture operations cannot be underestimated.” says National SeaChoice Manager Lana Brandt.
With wild Atlantic salmon listed as endangered in both Canada and the US, the additional threats created by open net-pens pose an unacceptable risk to the future of wild populations. We need to address these issues and create changes in our regulatory system to ensure that Atlantic Canada’s ocean ecosystems are not unnecessarily and irreversibly harmed by these open net-pen farms.
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To view the full Atlantic salmon recommendations please visit the SeaChoice website.
Or, for more Information contact:
- Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre
- Lana Brandt, National SeaChoice Manager
- New Brunswick and Nova Scotia make up over 60 per cent of all North American marine farmed Atlantic salmon.
- 100 per cent of US farmed Atlantic salmon is from Maine – accounting for 25 per cent of North American market.
- 60 per cent of Atlantic Canada’s farmed salmon is exported to the US.
- Average North American antibiotic use between 2012-2014 for Atlantic salmon farms was 241 times higher than in Scotland, 204 times higher than Norway, and 6 times higher than British Columbia.
- Escapes pose ecological and genetic threats to the historically low wild Atlantic salmon populations, which are listed as endangered in Canada and the US.
- In Canada, there is currently no centralized Containment Management System (CMS) to monitor escapes. Instead, it is self-regulated.
- In the USA, they have a very successful, multi-faceted CMS in place, and there have been no containment breaches since 2003.
- Only 0.24 per cent of wild fish found in the Gulf of Maine originated from a farm, compared to a New Brunswick river where 70.3 per cent of fish in the wild were from a farm origin.
- Additionally, in Maine it is required to maintain a genetic database of hatcheries so that escaped fish can be traced back to their specific production site. This database does not exist in Canada.
- A severe viral disease called Infections Salmon Anemia (ISA) is still present at many Canadian Atlantic salmon farms, while there have been no cases of ISA in the US since 2006.
- In Atlantic Canada, sea lice loads are higher than industry-authored limits, and there is also a high transfer of disease on farms.
Most Canadians are unaware of just how important freshwater fisheries are for the production of fish. Manitoba’s freshwater fisheries in 2012 produced about nine million kg of various fish. These ‘seafood’ products are important for consumers and retailers in central Canada.
On November 9, 2015 the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program released a report on Manitoba Freshwater Lakes (see SeaChoice website). The report covers the three main fish producing lakes in the province and has recommendations for walleye, lake whitefish, yellow perch, and northern pike.
Unfortunately, the assessment resulted in a red ranking for all species in all lakes. While the results may be surprising, they clearly show that improvements are necessary. Many red-ranked fisheries in Canada and worldwide receive poor scores due to a lack of basic stock assessment, data reporting, enforcement, compliance and management measures.
As the results have shown, the management of Manitoba’s lake fisheries are in need of additional resources to better manage these stocks so that at the very
least an understanding of whether the level of catch is appropriate to the size of the stock they are harvesting.
Retailers and consumers can incentivize improvement of these fisheries by using their respective market influence to encourage a change to how Manitoba’s
commercial fisheries are managed.
By Lana Brandt, National SeaChoice Manager
The holiday season is officially here, but our annual traditions should not negatively impact the health of our planet. The good news is that there are many fun and easy solutions to help you keep your holiday season “green!”
Take added care to select seafood from the SeaChoice green “Best Choice” list to ensure that your holiday menu is ocean-friendly. Be extra mindful when choosing traditional holiday appetizers such as the notorious shrimp ring as many common brands have been linked to child labour, slavery and other social issues.
2) Give presence; not presents
Reduce or eliminate holiday consumption by giving the gift of time instead of “stuff.” A tree surrounded in parcels with wrapping paper and ribbons brings an unnecessary footprint for our planet. If you still wish to exchange gifts with loved ones try exchanging a gift of experience such as concert tickets or a sustainable seafood dinner together. Better yet consider donating to your favourite local charity in someone’s honour or choosing local, fair-trade items that support healthy communities. Don’t forget when wrapping gifts to skip the plastic bows and single use waste in place for cloth reusable ribbons and wrapping solutions.
3) Choose natural decorations
Avoid filling your home with decorations made of plastic and other unsustainable materials. Choose natural decor to make your home beautiful and if putting up a Christmas tree consider a potted tree that can be re-planted after the holidays. When choosing lights also aim for energy efficient lights and timers to avoid unnecessary energy use.
On behalf of the SeaChoice staff and team we wish you a merry and bright holiday season and all the best in 2016!
After many years of observing SeaChoice major retailers work towards achieving their sustainable seafood commitments, it brings me great pleasure to announce that Buy-Low Foods (BLF) and its corporately-owned locations, including Nesters Market, have successfully achieved their seafood commitment. In just two short years since publicly announcing that BLF would replace all red-listed “Avoid” seafood from their fresh and frozen departments with ocean-friendly alternatives, Buy-Low Foods can celebrate successfully achieving their robust seafood commitment.
The SeaChoice business team is proud of the Buy-Low Foods team for their efforts and ambition in replacing many high demand species such as farmed open net-pen salmon, Russian king crab and Atlantic cod with more responsible solutions. Buy-Low Foods has also been innovative in finding seafood solutions to challenging procurement issues to ensure they would achieve their sustainable seafood commitment by the end of 2015.
Seafood lovers should take note of BLF’s efforts in support of healthy oceans for today and tomorrow. Customers can now shop with ease, knowing that all fresh and frozen seafood has been sourced with care. Be sure to stop by and congratulate the staff for achieving their sustainable seafood commitment!
Waste. Spoilage. Loss. Shrinkage. There are many names for food that is produced for human consumption but goes uneaten, but no matter what you call it it is all too common in the seafood supply chain.
A recent report from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future found that 47 per cent of the edible U.S. seafood supply is wasted each year and most of that loss occurs at the end of the supply chain at either the retail or consumer level1.
Research out of Dalhousie University found that higher amount of loss occurred in fresh seafood supply chains, with levels of loss at the retail level ranging from ~1.5 per cent for scallops and halibut up to 26 per cent for whole fish and mussels2.
This research begs an important question about our collaborative work: What good is it to produce seafood sustainably if at the end of day it is simply thrown in the trash?
Together we could make significant economic and environmental gains by reducing seafood waste and we hope that you will work with us towards this goal.
- Conduct a waste audit of your operation
- Find means of redirecting seafood nearing its sell-by date:
a) Transfer it to the prepared foods department
b) Donate it to a local community kitchen
c) Freeze it
d) Hand out recipe cards at your seafood counter for customers that may be out of their comfort zone preparing seafood.
Want help implementing these recommendations?
Contact us at info @ seachoice.org
1 Love, D. et al. (2015). Wasted seafood in the United States: Quantifying loss from production to consumption and moving toward solutions. Retrieved form http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015300340
2 Stoner, J. (2013). Applying the Concept of Sustainable Consumption to Seafood: How Product Loss Through Post-Harvest Seafood Supply Chains Undermines Seafood Sustainability. Retrieved from http://dalspace.library.dal.ca:8080/xmlui/handle/10222/37035