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Michael Souza

Michael's Fishery Blog


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Selling Seafood - Best for Heart Health

Monday April 21, 2014

At the Seafood Expo North America in Boston in mid-March, there was a conference on increasing seafood consumption. That is totally understandable, and according to reports, the conversation went toward the health benefits of seafood and spreading that word to the general public.

Aileen Sauris, a nurse practitioner from Brigham and Women's Hospital Cardiovascular Wellness Service, strongly advocated for better consumer information on the health benefits of seafood. To stress the point, Sauris said the American Heart Association has documented evidence that seafood is the only protein that can reduce the risk of heart disease, and that message has been lost in the shuffle.

Sauris is working with Seafood Nutrition Partnership on a program that will help educate lower income families on seafood nutrition, how to cook and prepare seafood and inexpensive seafood options. The program is still in the design process.

The SNP launched the public phase of its fundraising campaign during the expo, and had raised $6 million. The still need $1.5 million to underwrite a precedent-setting, three-year national public health campaign that would begin in 2015.

Who knows? In the end it might actually increase seafood demand.

Millennials are a target for seafood marketers

Saturday April 19, 2014

About 25 percent of the population are 'millennials, those born between 20 to 35 years old. That considered, they have a tremendous buying power, as big as baby boomers. Millennials are about 80 million people.

Generally, millennials are like products that are environmentally friendly, including local and sustainable foods, yet they are not always willing to pay for these premium items. Millennials are looking for value more than any other generation. They are newest to the workforce and are one of the groups hit hardest by the economic downturn.

They are also more tech-savvy and convenience-minded than their Generation X and baby boomer predecessors. This makes them open to marketing via social media and buying convenient foods at supermarkets, restaurants and other outlets.

According to Seafood Business, baby boomers and millennials buy a lot of seafood.

Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), meanwhile, are also looking for exciting new flavors and -- with their desire to eat healthier foods than other groups -- are the other most important demographic group for seafood marketers.

Is NOAA labeling necessary?

Sunday April 13, 2014

NOAA, which cannot afford monitors, wants in on the labeling business

NOAA has announced in April 2014 that it was seeking comments on a proposal to establish its own certification program, complete with labeling.The proposed program appears to offer labeling at the buyer level but not for consumers


According to SeafoodSource, NOAA Fisheries Deputy Administrator Sam Rauch said they are taking comments until April 30, 2014. American seafood producers already have the option of seeking certification and labeling from a number of private groups, including:

the Marine Stewardship Council MSC
Friend of the Sea
The Alaska-based Responsible Fisheries Management program.

While many of these groups have reserved comment until NOAA says more about what it has in mind, many told SeafoodSource they questioned whether NOAA needed such a program, and whether having one would matter much on the international level. Some believe it would be seen not as an independent operation.

The director of media relations for the National Fisheries Institute said NOAA already has a worldwide reputation for accuracy, and a NOAA-sponsored program would gain more traction in international markets.

Others, however, question whether a sustainability certification program from NOAA would be necessary given the existence of the other programs.

"They're essentially already doing that, and we're paying for it, it's just promoting that's been missing from the equation," he said.

NFI was unsure if it would be planning on submitting a comment. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which oversees the RFM program, also was unsure whether his group would participate. Friend of the Sea would be submitting comments. The MSC declined to discuss the matter directly with SeafoodSource.

News by SeafoodSource

Cape Ann Seafood Exchange

Thursday April 10, 2014

Cape Ann Seafood Exchange, April 2014

The Buyers And Sellers Exchange (BASE), an electronic auctioning company that sells landings at owner Whaling City Seafood Display Auction in New Bedford, Boston's Whaling City Auction, and Gloucester's Whaling City Auction, handled 21,400 pounds of fish March 31.

Top species landed and average prices were:

Ocean perch (redfish): 6,000 pounds (85 cents)
Small greysole: 3,000 pounds ($2.04)
Skate wings: 2,500 pounds ($1.30)
Market cod: 2,200 pounds ($2.12)
Mixed yellowtail: 2,000 pounds ($1.56)
The Portland, Maine, Display Auction handled 4,300 pounds of fish March 27.

Data by the National Marine Fisheries Service

Japanese whale market plummets

Monday April 7, 2014

Reflects impacts of protesters

As of April 2014, is is clear that residents of Japan are becoming disinterested in whale meat.

The whale meat stockpile has nearly doubled over the last 10 years, despite the fact that annual catches have decreased over the same amount of time. Over 2,300 minke whales worth of meat - try to envision that - is sitting in freezers while whalers still plan to catch another 1,300 whales each year.

Low demand adds to the uncertainty that looms ahead of an International Court of Justice ruling on Japan's whaling in the Antarctic Ocean. The whaling is for "research," but Australia has argued it's a cover for commercial hunts.

The number of whale meat distributors and processors declined by half between 1999 and 2012. Distributors say the meat is unpopular because of the high price and negative image, thus Japan's government-subsidized whaling program is sinking deeper into debt. The research program began a year after an international ban on commercial hunting took effect. Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales despite the moratorium.

Whale meat not used "for study" is sold as food in Japan. According to fisheries agency statistics, the amount of whale meat stockpiled in freezers is about 4,600 tons at the end of 2012, from less than 2,500 tons in 2002. The Sea Shepherd's efforts to harass whaling ships have kept the stockpile from growing.

Whale meat supplied half of Japan's protein needs 50 years ago, but today it's limited to specialty restaurants and school lunches in most of the country. It is a bigger part of the local diet in several coastal whaling towns that are allowed to conduct small-scale coastal whaling outside of International Whaling Commission oversight.

Information by Associated Press

Exxon Valdez Spill Effects Still Present

Friday March 28, 2014

At the time it happened, the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska was the nation's largest oil spill.

On March 24, 1989, the 987-foot tanker, carrying 53 million gallons of crude oil, struck Bligh Reef. Within hours, an estimated 10.8 million gallons of thick, gross crude oil poured into the water. Storms and currents then spread it over 1,300 miles of shoreline.

For a generation, the spill contaminated the coastline in Prince William Sound. Animals such as sea otters, herring and birds were soaked in oil, and workers washed crude off the rugged beaches of rock by hand.


Twenty five years later, many in the area are still struggling with the spill.

According to fisherman Bernie Culbertson, fishing came to a standstill and life for fishermen drastically changed. Prices crashed for Alaskan fish for fear of eating toxic fish and consumers turned to farm fish or tuna out of fear of tainted salmon. Exxon compensation checks, minus what fishermen earned on spill work, arrived too late for many. His opinion is that shrimp are slowly coming back while crab and herring have yet to return. Only salmon are back.

Spill response drills are now commonplace and spill equipment is increased. About 400 local fishing boat owners are trained to deploy and maintain booms.

After the spill, the herring population crashed. It is now listed as "not recovering." Because it is eaten by salmon, seabirds and marine mammals from otters to whales, it has a large effect on the ecosystem.Adult herring feed on zooplankton, which crashed for three years after the spill. With less to eat, herring may have been more susceptible to disease normally fended off within a herring population. Responders estimated that as many as 3,000 sea otters died the first year. Hundreds more died in the years after of exposure to oil that persisted in sediment, where otters dig for clams. The U.S. Geological Survey study released in February 2014, concludes that sea otters have finally returned to pre-spill numbers.

Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News

Fish schools play Follow-The-Leader

Tuesday March 25, 2014

Study finds older fish guide migrations

According to a study published March 18, 2014, in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the removal of older fish from a migratory school inhibits the group's ability to migrate successfully to feeding grounds.

A team of biologists and biophysicists developed a mathematical model to calculate how fish navigate. In doing so they might have deduced that information about migration sites is stored by knowledgeable, more experienced fish. This theoretical result strengthens anecdotal evidence that fish learn about migrations and feeding from each another.

Most mathematical models predict how fish behave in relation to others near them. Researchers from the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, developed a model that relies on "stochastic adaptive networks," which was used to study the probabilities of interactions among fish.

The researchers based their model on:the strength of the social links between the fish; the fraction of informed individuals; and the preference these informed individuals showed for certain destinations. The study found that social cohesion between fish and the presence informed individuals were the two most important factors. Without a threshold of informed individuals, the group became uncoordinated.

The model could explain the collapse of migratory fish populations, such as bluefin tuna in the Northern Atlantic, which collapsed in the 1960s following overfishing. It also suggests that fish from juvenile species up to the adult and most experienced individuals need migratory experience.

The study could trigger researchers to change their managing of fish stocks, by protecting not just younger fish, but older individuals, as well as on maintaining food resources at informed fishes' preferred migration sites. Researchers also observed that if migration sites are depleted of food stores, even older fish may have trouble sustaining migration routes to those destinations.

China Bans U.S. West Coast Shellfish

Saturday March 22, 2014

In December 2013, China banned the import of oysters, clams, mussels and scallops from Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California. China detected high levels of inorganic arsenic in geoducks, a species of very large, edible, saltwater clams, from Puget Sound. The geoduck is native to the west coast of North America. The shell of the clam ranges from 6 to 8 inches in length. The neck, or siphon, can be three feet long. It is both one of the largest clams in the world, and one of the longest-lived animals of any type. As adults they have very few predators.

China also discovered paralytic, or paralyzing shellfish poisoning in geoducks from Alaska.

On March 21, 2014, U.S. officials visited China to discuss its ban on geoducks and other shellfish from the West Coast.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokeswoman says Chinese authorities have agreed to meet with NOAA's seafood inspection program. NOAA has asked China to limit its ban to two localized areas rather than shellfish from the entire West Coast.

The ban comes oddly enough from China, a country famous for its formaldehyde drywall and lead-painted children's toys.

Introducing the Edible QR Code

Wednesday March 19, 2014

Better food through smartphones

If you like sushi then perhaps you should try this. Harney Sushi, a restaurant in San Diego, is serving edible QR codes along with their fish. You can scan the codes with a smart phone. The code directs users to FishWatch.gov. As if that's not enough, the actual code is printed on rice paper with edible ink. The QR codes sit atop maki, nigiri, and sashimi, and they're used as a garnish. Once scanned, they provide valuable information on fish.


Executive Chef Robert Ruiz was looking for accurate information to share with customers. The restaurant serves more than 25 tons of sashimi-grade fish each year. Unbiased, up-to-date seafood facts about sustainability and origin were important to Ruiz, especially after he witnessed fraudulent practices in other kitchens, such as misidentified species on menus and mystery meat created from boiled fish scraps.

So he approached NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, and met with fisheries scientists who research highly migratory species and the state of our fisheries and oceans. As the FishWatch QR code made its way onto rice paper, consumers could access seafood profiles and population data on various fish stocks, right from their plate.

Customers have embraced the use of these codes, and Ruiz has seen sashimi sales skyrocket with a wave of more confident diners. Harney's other QR codes feature albacore tuna and farmed cobia. For the albacore, a video brings customers face-to-face with a sixth generation fisherman, who explains how he catches and packs albacore, why it is a sustainable fishery, and the health benefits of eating tuna.

More codes are on the way. A new code will focus on sea urchin, explaining how it's harvested and why it's an undervalued species in California. Others will focus on salmon and sablefish.

Maine lobster landings increased $23 million last year

Monday March 17, 2014

Due to a 20-cent increase in the average price lobstermen received for their catch, the landings value of Maine's most lucrative commercial fishery jumped by more than $20 million in 2013.

The overall value of Maine's lobster landings in 2013 has been estimated $364.5 million, according to statistics released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. That value is nearly $23 million more than the $341.7 million landed in 2012.

The actual poundage caught last year was virtually the same as in 2012. The state's 6,000 licensed commercial lobstermen brought ashore nearly $126 million pounds of lobster in 2013, slightly less than the 127.2 million pounds caught in 2012, according to the state.

Photo:Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The average price lobstermen got for their catch in 2013 was $2.89, up from $2.69 the year before.

Jeff Nichols, spokesman for DMR, said that the 20-cent increase in the average price certainly is helpful, compared to the prior year. But prices of less than $3 per pound are still far below what they were in the mid-2000s, when fishermen averaged more than $4 per pound for four consecutive years. The prices that fishermen pay for bait and diesel fuel remain significantly higher than they were in the late 1990s, when lobstermen could expect to receive around $2.90 per pound.

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