Archive for June, 2011
Posted on June 29, 2011 - by Jenny Holm
Jessica Weiss isn’t one to sit around and wait until circumstances fall into place. She is a woman that goes out and happens to things. “Patience has never been my strong point,” Jessica laughs, and dives into the story of how a 2009 screening of FRESH inspired her to create an organization that has since prevented thousands of tons of food from being dumped into landfills, taught hundreds of people how to grow, preserve, and compost their own food, and helped feed a community in which 25% of residents are at risk for hunger.
Jessica grew up in Pasadena, California, and went to the same high school that Julia Child had attended. She opened a restaurant across the street from Chez Panisse during college, and learned from Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard about growing produce and connecting with the people who produce our food.
Like many of us, she was inspired by books like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to commit to eating locally and sustainably raised food. Now living in Maryland just beyond the DC border, she joined the buying club for Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms (featured in FRESH and The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and later offered her home as a pickup location for the club.
So when FRESH premiered in DC in May of 2009, Jessica was in the audience. Will Allen, the former ABA basketball star-turned-urban gardener featured in the film, had come to speak on the panel that accompanied the screening. “He was talking about his mission to dismantle racism through creating equal access to food for everyone, and how in order to grow food, we need to grow farmers,” recalls Jessica. “And suddenly it hit me: What if we created a regional outreach training center to grow food and farmers here along the Underground Railroad, in Will’s old stomping grounds?” (He grew up in Rockville, Maryland.) Emboldened by encouragement from Ana Joanes (the film’s director), she approached him after the screening to float the idea. “I’m 5’1’’. Will is a giant. My entire hand fit in the palm of his,” she recalls.
From that handshake sprung growingSOUL (Sustainable Opportunities for Universal Learning), a nonprofit organization, farm, and community learning center that Weiss directs. She and her staff (many of whom are volunteers) grow food on their small patch of land using compost they make from food scraps they collect from local restaurants, senior centers, and other establishments. They also teach classes in practical skills like building hoop houses and aquaponics growing systems, composting with worms, and cooking and preserving garden-fresh produce. Much of their compost is donated back to local farmers who use it to grow food for a nearby food bank.
“I’m all about closing the loop,” says Jessica. The “zero-waste food system” she promotes and demonstrates through growingSOUL represents a sustainable model for local food production, consumption, and recycling that continuously replenishes itself with its own outputs.
The operation quickly outgrew the space they had available. After a year-long rollercoaster of site changes, logistical hurdles, and a fallen-through lease agreement, growingSOUL finally found a site to call home and a means to expand their client base in late 2010. Their biggest partner is Chipotle Mexican Grill, which composts four tons of food waste each month at the farm. Even the truck they use to collect compost from various sites runs on waste vegetable oil.
growingSOUL’s compost includes meat and dairy products because their piles get so high and generate enough heat as they decompose to kill bacteria and pathogens. But, Weiss says, at-home composters are better off sticking to plant matter. You can compost skins, peels, egg cartons, coffee grounds, tea bags, coffee filters, paper soiled with food, junk mail, cotton underwear, dryer lint, even the hair you pull from your brush.
Sadly, a tornado in February of this year wracked the land where growingSOUL had finally settled down, destroying the hoop house in which their produce grows and ripping apart their aquaponics system and shelving. “We lost all our livestock,” Jessica tells me. “What kind of animals did you have?” I wonder. “Worms,” she says somberly. “We had 50,000 worms.”
Despite the frustration and disappointment she felt at losing so much of what she and her team had built over the past year and half, Jessica remained optimistic. “We still had all our compost and our relationships, which is the most important thing,” she says.
Today, the future is looking bright for growingSOUL. Sixteen student interns from South Korea are coming to work on the farm this summer, and students from the local high school can now volunteer there for physical education credit. Jessica is hoping to secure a lease for a large property where the organization could open a Small Farm Incubator and vastly increase their composting capabilities, and another where she plans to house a broader community training center. The center is slated to include an aquaponics food production system (based on Will Allen’s Growing Power model), integrated rotational grazing of animals (as at Polyface Farms), a commercial kitchen space for community use, a garage to filter waste vegetable oil from partners like Chipotle for production of biodiesel, and wind turbines that capture energy from the breeze.
A third project, a mobile farmers’ market that runs on waste vegetable oil (“Vida.Vita.Vegemobile is her working name,” Jessica adds), will travel to schools where a significant portion of the students live below the federal poverty level to teach students how to compost with worms and then build salsa, pizza sauce, and kim chee gardens using fish tanks and clementine boxes. “At the end of the day, the kids can choose fresh produce from the market on board the bus and pay on credit using SNAP or WIC benefits. After each 8-12 week session, we will bring students from all over the region to our community kitchen and teach them how to make prepared food from what they grew and harvested: kim chee from chard, spinach and kale, salsa from tomatoes, onion chives, cilantro and garlic, and pizza sauce from tomatoes, peppers, basil and oregano. We send them home with the hand-prepared food and their recipes as well as an understanding of the importance of recycling your food scraps into nutrient-rich, community-grown soil and handmade food.” Ideally, this project will become a model for other initiatives across the nation.
“We are continuing on our mission to fill bellies instead of landfills,” Jessica concludes. For all the inspiration she has gathered from food movement pioneers before her, Jessica and growingSOUL are creating plenty more to go around.
Our blogger serves the Fresh community as a volunteer. To support her work, consider making a donation to our Writers’ Fund.
Posted on June 22, 2011 - by Jenny Holm
Of all the reasons to buy organic produce, many people cite “avoiding pesticides” as their top motivator: 98% of conventional apples and 96% of conventional celery contain pesticide residues. But not all conventional produce is ridden with chemicals. Residues were found on less than 10% of conventional onions, sweet corn, and asparagus.
To help consumers make informed choices about what produce to buy organic and what’s safe to purchase conventional, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released the seventh edition of its “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen,” which compile the most and least contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables into accessible lists based on data from the USDA’s Pesticide Testing Program.
Apples topped this year’s Dirty Dozen, with 98% of samples containing residues and 56 different pesticides detected. Mushrooms made it into the Clean 15 for the first time. See the lists below or check out the full study to learn how the in-between produce stacked up.
Pesticides are designed to kill living organisms, so it’s no surprise that they negatively impact human health. Over time, exposure to the pesticides used on food products can cause birth defects, nerve damage, hormone disruption, and cancer. Babies and children face the greatest risks, because their organs are still developing and they eat and drink more than adults do in relation to their body weight. A 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found pesticides in blood and urine samples of 96% of Americans age 6 and older.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with regulating the safety of pesticides used in the US and determining limits (“tolerances”) on how much of each chemical may be left on food sold to consumers. But current standards don’t do enough to protect our health. Residue monitoring only covers those pesticides that are registered for use in the US, so tests may not even detect some highly toxic chemicals. (A 2009 study showed that FDA inspections did not test for 71% of the pesticides used on squash and 61% used on chayote grown in Costa Rica for the US market.) Federal scientists recently found 33 unapproved pesticides on nearly half of cilantro samples, indicating that sporadic testing is not sufficient to protect consumers. Moreover, established “safe” limits do not effectively account for combinations of the many pesticides present on foods and various sources of exposure to chemicals in our air, water, personal care products, and household cleaning supplies that collectively impact our health.
What Can I Do?
Washing and peeling your produce can help reduce pesticide exposure, but do not eliminate residue. Many chemicals are absorbed systemically, so no amount of washing will remove them. Inspectors prepare each fruit or vegetable as it would normally be eaten before testing (e.g. peeling bananas, washing apples and peaches), so detected residues reflect what actually goes into your body when you eat each food.
The health benefits of a diet full of fruits and vegetables—conventional or organic—far outweigh the health risks presented by pesticide residues on produce. But you can substantially reduce your exposure to these toxic substances by choosing organic versions of the 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated by pesticides. If you can’t go all organic, the Clean 15 helps you choose the safest conventional produce.
- Nectarines (imported)
- Grapes (imported)
- Sweet bell peppers
- Blueberries (domestic)
- Kale/collard greens
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe (domestic)
- Sweet potatoes
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Our blogger serves the Fresh community as a volunteer. To support her work, consider making a donation to our Writers’ Fund.
Posted on June 21, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by FishWise, a non-profit sustainable seafood consultancy that helps seafood businesses improve the sustainability of their seafood offerings.
Farmed vs Wild Seafood – Few issues elicit more passionate discussion amongst seafood lovers worldwide. Regardless of your views on farmed seafood – positive, negative or maybe somewhere in between, one thing is for certain: aquaculture is only going to become more important in the future as a source of protein. In the last few years, aquaculture production has greatly increased and now accounts for half of the seafood production worldwide.
Without question, some farmed seafood is unsustainable. Many of you are probably aware of the removal of mangrove forests to make space for large scale shrimp farms in Southeast Asia and the disease, waste and fish escape issues associated with farmed Atlantic salmon in places such as Canada, Chile and Norway.
While improvements are needed for some farmed shrimp and salmon practices, sustainably farmed seafood is also plentiful. The U.S. is leading the way in sustainable farming practices with many species such as channel catfish, striped bass, rainbow trout, oysters and freshwater prawns – all ranked green “Best Choice” options. These species are sustainable as they use best management practices when farming. Just as importantly, they are easy to cook and taste fantastic.
So next time you are at the seafood counter, consider sustainable farmed options. Who knows, you might just like it!
FishWise is a non-profit sustainable seafood consultancy that helps seafood businesses improve the sustainability of their seafood offerings through environmentally responsible business practices, such as policy development, employee training, sourcing assistance and point of sale information. This approach empowers consumer to make environmentally informed choices when purchasing seafood.
Posted on June 19, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Smoke, fire and sharp knives—I’ve always felt cooking is one of the most awesomely impressive things that men can do. Unfortunately, too many of them shy away from the kitchen. So in celebration of Father’s Day, we’re bringing a great new book on dads and cooking to your attention. John Donohue’s Man with a Pan is a riveting collection of comedic escapades and accidental discoveries as men enter the kitchen. From Mark Bittman‘s lessons on the four stages of cooking to Stephen King‘s tips on using a microwave, the anthology captures the joys of learning to cook, the frustrations of inevitable mistakes, and the rewards of feeding your hungry family.
What about you? Do you know a reluctant cook? Are you inexperienced but willing to try? Inspired by Man with a Pan, we’ve come up with some tips to encourage everyone, from kids to busy parents to granddads, to start playing with fire. Here’s how to start cooking while improving your food, health and family life:
- Start with great ingredients.
It takes little work to develop robust flavors when you begin with high quality ingredients. Be sure to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, artisanal cheeses and sustainably-raised meats.
- Brush up on the basics.
- Read through the recipe thoroughly.
Preferably twice. In the beginning, start with simple recipes, the kind with five ingredients and one cooking method. Follow the directions rigorously for a few rounds, then when you’re comfortable, begin improvising with new ingredients.
- Work clean.
Always keep your workspace clean. Have small bowls for sorting ingredients and a larger bowl for trash, so that it doesn’t crowd your cutting board.
- Ask your family and friends for advice.
That mouthwatering pot of rice and beans that Aunt Carla always makes? Turns out the secret is using parboiled long-grain rice. How does your neighbor make his perfectly juicy roast chicken? It might have something to do with the whole lemon he threw inside. What other tricks can they pass on to you?
- Keep a stocked pantry.
Even if you’re in a rush and don’t have time to pick up fresh groceries, you can make a satisfying meal using only dry and canned ingredients. For instance, if you have canned tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and pasta on hand, you can easily make pasta puttanesca.
- Use your freezer.
To save time, you can make large batches of food and freeze it in portion-sized containers. This works for everything from bolognese sauce to black beans, as well as soups, stocks, stews and most purees. You can also freeze staple carbohydrates like bread and rice.
- Enlist free labor, er, get the kids involved.
You don’t have to do it alone! Have your kids participate in making dinner with simple tasks like washing vegetables, tearing herbs or peeling potatoes. You may find that picky eaters are more willing to eat foods that they’ve helped prepare.
For more information and recipes, check out Donohue’s site, Stay at Stove Dad.
Posted on June 17, 2011 - by Jenny Holm
Growing up in Minnesota, where snow often remains on the ground well into April, I anticipated the arrival of the first spring vegetables with an especially ravenous impatience. My parents grew green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupes, and pumpkins (accidentally), but before any of those were ready to eat, our garden grew brilliant with rhubarb. Their elephant ear leaves, big as my head, obscured thick vermillion stalks that gleamed like firepokers in the sun.
When the rhubarb grew ripe, Dad chopped the thick stalks into chunks like celery and the kitchen smelled fresh like a rainstorm. That was how I knew we would have crisp for dessert. Some evenings we ate it with vanilla ice cream, other nights in a rich puddle of half-and-half. I liked the crisp best fresh out of the oven, the warmed cream soaking up cinnamon and sugar. I drank it all, like cereal milk.
Grandma made rhubarb pies, their crusts redolent with nutmeg and the gentle porkiness of lard. An egg beaten into the filling prevented the juice from bursting Its banks. She packed so much rhubarb inside that the pie had altitude, rolling hills of spice-dusted crust on top.
I still love any dessert made with rhubarb, but have learned that it complements savory dishes just as well. Simmer diced rhubarb with ginger, garlic, sugar, spices, and cider vinegar to make a tangy chutney that you can serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or pork tenderloin; combine it with red lentils, cilantro, and chilies in a hearty curry, or puree it with strawberries, orange juice and sugar and chill for a refreshing summer soup.
The following recipe for rhubarb chutney comes from Loulies, my favorite source for simple seasonal recipes using whatever’s fresh locally here in DC.
Makes about 2 cups
4 c. fresh rhubarb (about 1 pound)
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1 Tbls. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 Tbls. ground garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
Rinse and cut rhubarb into small pieces. Combine all ingredients, except rhubarb, in heavy large pot. Bring to simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Place in a glass jar and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.
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Our blogger serves the Fresh community as a volunteer. To support her work, consider making a donation to our Writers’ Fund.
Posted on June 16, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Today’s guest blogger is Eric Douglas, Director of Education for the Divers Alert Network. He is an advocate for spiny lobster divers, who face decompression sickness, paralysis and death, as they are forced to dive to greater depths to meet economic demands. It’s a sobering reminder that we must always remember the safety and well-being of the faces behind our food as we work for sustainable food systems.
Spiny lobster might be sustainable, but the harvesting techniques aren’t.
Around the world, divers harvest the sea for spiny lobster, abalone and other shellfish, while they face paralysis or death without understanding the danger.
Over the past year, Eric Douglas, Director of Education and Dr. Matias Nochetto, Director of Operations and Outreach at Divers Alert Network (DAN) have traveled to Honduras, Mexico and northeast Brazil to learn about these divers and to investigate ways to help.
Decompression sickness (DCS) commonly referred to as “the bends” is a condition caused by exposure to depth and pressure. When divers spend too much time at depth, bubbles form in the body tissues and bloodstream, restricting blood flow and causing joint pain. Or they can form in the central nervous system, causing weakness, numbness or paralysis.
Of the three populations of divers Douglas and Nochetto are working with, the Miskito Indians from Honduras are by far the most troubling. They make eight to 12 dives a day to more than 100 feet for 12 days in a row, while living in squalid conditions on board boats filled with 100 or more people and no sanitation. They work very hard while at depth, swimming quickly to find the lobsters or hammering the conch shells to remove the animal.
The divers are paid by the pound for their catch, encouraged to dive and ignore minor symptoms. They only raise concerns when they are too weak to keep diving or can no longer walk. When groups have attempted to teach the divers techniques to dive more safely, the divers refuse, saying they can’t make enough money to support their families if they dive within established safe diving tables.
There are more than 2000 Miskito Indians who are members of the Association of Handicapped Miskito Indian Lobster Divers, yet the directors do not believe they represent all the Miskito Indians who have dive-related disabilities.
“Harvesting is literally costing men their lives. In La Moskitia, there are an estimated 200,000 Miskito Indians. That means approximately one percent of the total population is suffering from some disability brought on by diving,” Douglas said. “That is approximately five percent of the working age male population. It is just astounding that we can maim and kill an entire population and no one notices.”
Marine Protected Areas, such as the one near Isla Natividad in Baja California Sur, Mexico have helped shore up the depletion of fisheries and natural resources. However, each year the divers still must dive deeper to fulfill their catch, as shallower waters become depleted.
Harvesting lobster using compressed air in Northeast Brazil, in the Rio Grande do Norte region, is actually illegal, yet the divers collect more than 6,000 tons of lobster annually for sale to foreign markets. In spite of the legal embargoes on fishing for lobster, the environmental organizations lack the ability to adequately patrol the coastline to enforce the laws. Diving for lobster has the highest incidence of workplace injury of any occupation in the region.
“The world was shocked about the number of dolphins we were killing because of our hunger for tuna, but so far nothing has been said about the number of divers we kill because of our hunger for sea produce,” Nochetto said. “Whether it’s lobster from the Caribbean, Salmon from Chile, Sea Cucumber from Zanzibar, Conch or Abalone from Mexico, the problem is quite always the same. Human ambitions for making a naturally limited product ubiquitous and inexpensive have a woefully unacceptable cost, both from an ecological point of view as well as from a public health perspective. The incidence of death and permanent disabilities as a result of an occupational hazard among commercial non-professional harvesting divers is pandemic,” he concluded.
DAN is reviewing the diving techniques and trying to find simple ways to increase the diver’s safety margins, using decompression stops or other techniques to help their bodies reduce their decompression stress. They are also working to support the hyperbaric chambers that treat these divers with training and educational programs to make sure the divers receive the best care. Lastly, the organization is working to offer training in oxygen first aid to help the divers care for themselves and each other.
But until these divers can make a living diving more safely, being paid adequately for their catch, men will continue to be paralyzed or die in search of lobster.
Posted on June 14, 2011 - by Jenny Holm
Our guest post today comes from sustainable seafood expert Casson Trenor, Senior Markets Campaigner at GreenpeaceUSA, author of the book and blog Sustainable Sushi, and sustainable seafood consultant for the San Francisco restaurant Tataki. We look forward to continued collaboration with Casson in the future!
Our oceans are in a perilous state. Rampant abuse and rapacity has led us down a dangerous path; stories of overfishing, toxic contamination, and ocean acidification put consumers in a state of confusion and fear at the seafood counter. Luckily, all is not lost—by making informed choices, we can enjoy healthy, delicious seafood while supporting fishermen that are doing their utmost to work in harmony with the planet. Here are four examples of fish we just shouldn’t eat, followed by four sustainable, restorative seafood options that merit our support:
The fish that fed Rome’s legions now barely ekes out an existence as it is hunted relentlessly to satisfy the top echelon of the world’s sushi industry. Bluefin prices soar while stocks continue to plummet, shackled to the twin lead weights of insatiable demand and ineffectual management.
Bluefin stocks around the world are verging on utter collapse and yet fishing pressure does not abate. Politics and short-sighted economic interests are nearly always victorious over science and environmental consciousness whenever this bluefin is involved. But even if we can’t depend on political processes, we can least put the chopsticks down.
Orange roughy simply isn’t built to withstand heavy fishing pressure. First off, it reaches market size well before sexual maturity — a lamentable characteristic, since this results in many roughy being eaten before they’ve had a chance to reproduce and repopulate the fishery. Second, the animal itself can live to a tremendous age — 90-year-old roughy are not uncommon (at least, they weren’t before we started eating them all). Fish that live that long are generally not built to reproduce in great numbers; they have evolutionarily invested in longevity rather than in quantity of offspring.
To worsen matters, orange roughy is caught using wantonly destructive bottom trawl nets, and its flesh is a simple, flaky white fillet (there are other, more sustainable sources for this type of product.) It’s best to avoid this species altogether.
Shark (and Shark Fin)
Sharks are apex predators, feeding slowly from the top of the food chain and ensuring the populations of other animals in their areas are kept in check. Without sharks, we see population explosions of their prey items, which in turn devastate the organisms they prey upon, and so on. The removal of a single shark from the food system it polices is akin to hurtling a massive monkey wrench into the core gears of the ocean’s ecological stabilization machinery, and we are tossing out somewhere between 50 and 100 million of these wrenches every year.
While many sharks are killed accidentally as bycatch in longline fisheries that target other animals (longlined swordfish is particularly worrisome), the majority of annual shark casualties are perpetrated intentionally by those in the shark fin industry. Shark fins—used for soup, especially for weddings and other significant events, by certain segments of the world’s Chinese communities—can fetch astronomical prices and are often used to convey a message of status and wealth.
Chilean Sea Bass
The Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish (aka Chilean sea bass) are long-lived, slow-to-reproduce apex predators. Decade after decade, we have pushed the boundaries of our oceans in every way imaginable — geographically (ships are going further), bathymetrically (ships are fishing deeper), and temporally (ships are spending more time on the water). In our quest for seafood, we strain at the very boundaries of our food system, until we reach the ocean’s farthest-flung reaches in all three categories — by dropping hooks to the ocean floor off of Antarctica in the middle of winter.
That is how, where, and when we catch Chilean sea bass.
Sustainable fishing simply cannot occur in an area and at a depth that is so obviously a reaction to an overblown and exhausted food system that, because of its inability to balance itself, has cantilevered out into dangerous extremes.
Still, it’s not all doom-and-gloom in the seafood world. Here are four great options that merit our support – fish and fisheries that are hallmarks of a different kind of seafood industry: one that operates with the welfare of the oceans in mind.
First of all, I’m not talking about the unidentifiable, semi-fossilized fish paste that you find covered in oil or mustard sauce when you open up a sardine tin — fresh sardines are a totally different animal. They are inexpensive, delectable indulgences that carry fabulous flavors, perform marvelously on a grill, and are used by top-level sushi chefs to make mouth-watering nigiri and sashimi dishes. Even better, these tiny delights are packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids while their short lifecycle keeps them relatively mercury-free. Unfortunately, we’re using them in the worst possible way.
The vast majority of our sardines are sold to foreign bluefin tuna ranches, where they are used to fatten up juveniles that have been purloined from wild stocks. This is a problem on many levels: bluefin tuna are severely endangered, have little Omega-3 content, can be extremely high in mercury, and are exorbitantly expensive. We’re using our sardines — healthy, delicious fish that most Americans can afford — to fuel a foreign industry that is harming the ocean in order to create a luxury good with dubious health benefits that is only available to the very wealthy.
Buying sardines from your local fish market helps to create a reward system for sardine fishermen. If the demand for these fish in the US marketplace continues to grow, our fishermen won’t need to sell their entire catch (at a ridiculously low price, I might add) to a foreign bluefin ranch.
2. Wild Salmon
There are four reasons to eat wild Alaskan salmon. One — it tastes fantastic. Two — it’s a high-Omega-3, low-mercury fish. Three — it’s a relatively sustainable industry that merits our support. And four — the alternative, conventional farmed salmon, sucks.
Farmed salmon tends to be raised in the open-net pens situated in sheltered bays and coves. There are no controls to mitigate the flow of ocean water in and out of these pens. As such, there are tremendous problems with the transmission of diseases, parasites, genetic material, and waste from these pens to the ecosystems around them. Links between salmon farms and the degradation of wild salmon populations in places like Canada and Norway are well-established. Also, the salmon farming industry has a real problem with antibiotic abuse.
Wild Alaskan salmon provides a delicious alternative to all this nonsense. Thanks to progressive fishery management, we have access to a domestic product that is comparatively sustainable and healthy. To make matters even better, recent marketing efforts for previously underappreciated species like keta (chum) and sockeye have helped to make wild Alaskan salmon available at price points that are competitive with farmed products.
3. Dungeness Crab
For shellfish lovers, it is difficult to find a better option than Dungeness crab. These fisheries are extremely well-managed and have been so for decades. The crabs are caught in non-lethal traps which keep bycatch at negligible levels and allow female and juvenile crabs to be returned unharmed to the seabed. This process, whereby only mature males are taken, helps to keep Dungeness crab populations resilient and robust. Additionally, the number of crabs that can be landed during a given season is carefully measured and kept to levels that will keep populations thriving.
With such precise targeting on top of strong science-based quotas, our Dungeness crab fisheries provide excellent examples of progressive resource management. And the kicker? Dungeness crab is among the best-tasting shellfish in the world. Grab a cracker and go to town.
4. Pole-caught Skipjack Tuna
Canned tuna is a hugely popular seafood item, and also a tremendous problem. The species that’s most often used for this purpose is a small, quickly growing tuna species called skipjack. Due to its physiology and life history, skipjack has the potential to be a strong sustainable seafood option; unfortunately, the tuna industry that feed our appetite for ersatz, steam-cooked tuna meat is wreaking havoc on our oceans. Skipjack boats generally fish with purse seine nets and fish aggregating devices (free-floating rafts that attract many different types of fish), also known as FADs. The use of FADs ensures that these boats take far more creatures than just mature skipjack — billfish, sharks, juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas, and even turtles are attracted by the FADs and subsequently ensnared by the seine nets.
Thankfully, a new industry is beginning to develop — skipjack tuna caught on a pole-and-line. It’s the same fish, but the use of a pole rather than a FAD and purse seine allows fishermen to be much more precise about what they do and do not catch. Next time you’re shopping for canned tuna, look for the words “pole caught” on the can to support companies that are trying to do right by our oceans.
Casson Trenor is Senior Markets Campaigner with Greenpeace USA, where he spearheads the organization’s efforts to hold restaurants and supermarkets accountable for their seafood sustainability practices and to help educate the public about the global fisheries crisis. He is the author of Sustainable Sushi and a founder ofTataki Sushi Bar, the world’s first sustainable sushi restaurant. The material in this post originally appeared on Alternet.org.