Conservation & Science

Julie Packard named ‘American Food Hero’ for tackling seafood sustainability and slavery

 

For American Food Hero Julie Packard, protecting the rights of people in the seafood industry is as fundamental to sustainability as are sound environmental practices. Photo courtesy Motofumi Tai.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s commitment to sustainable seafood has grown over the past 20 years, from a simple Seafood Watch consumer guide to a program that influences seafood production and government policy around the world.

The impact of that work—including a new initiative to address slavery and other labor abuses in seafood supply chains—has earned Executive Director Julie Packard recognition as an American Food Hero from EatingWell, the influential print and online publication that’s been at the forefront of the healthy-eating movement for more than 25 years.

EatingWell cites the “wildly successful Seafood Watch program,” which has “revolutionized the way we buy fish and shellfish today.”

It’s a view shared by ocean conservation leader Carl Safina, who told EatingWell: “Julie Packard has been the single most effective person in raising public awareness about seafood sustainability.”

A Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press series found that even seafood landed in Hawaii was being caught by crews of slaves. Photo by Associated Press

The honor singles out the launch earlier this year of a Seafood Slavery Risk Tool that helps major seafood buyers assess potential risk of labor abuses in their supply chains, so they can work with suppliers globally to correct problems and improve the sustainability of their seafood.

When news articles highlighted the scope of the problem, EatingWell notes, “The thought of slave-caught fish landing on American plates—or any plates for that matter—was a galvanizing moment for Julie Packard. To her, protecting the people working on our waters was no different than protecting the fish swimming in them.”

“’I felt it was imperative that we include human rights issues in our definition of sustainable, because sustainable isn’t just about the environment,’ she says. ‘It’s about the broader social impact. And the seafood industry is rife with problems in that area.’”

You can read the full article here, with profiles of Julie Packard and 11 other American Food Heroes: men and women doing extraordinary things to make food and food systems better.

Featured photo: Shrimp are left on an abandoned peeling table after a raid in Thailand connected with seafood slavery investigations. Credit: Associated Press/Dita Alangkara

Action Alert: Keep U.S. seafood sustainable—speak out against H.R. 200

The United States has some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world, thanks to our strong, science-based federal management. Most of the fish populations swimming off U.S. shores are at healthy levels, and many have recovered from decades of overfishing.

SK17-228 (1)
A seafood market worker fillets halibut in Monterey. Photo by Steve Kepple

That’s something Americans can be proud of.

But a bill introduced in Congress could undo that progress, taking our country back to the old days of overfishing, unsustainable management and crashing fish stocks.

There’s still time to stop this harmful legislation—but we need your help! Please join us and tell Congress to vote NO on H.R. 200.

Your voice matters

H.R. 200 would weaken our successful federal fishery law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. On Wednesday, July 11, the bill is headed to a vote on the House floor.

This is where you come in! Please contact your House representative today, and ask them to vote NO on H.R. 200.

Click here to contact your representative, and tell them to vote NO on H.R. 200.

Here are some suggested talking points:

  • Americans want sustainable seafood. Listening to science is the best way to protect fish, fishermen and consumers from the risk of overfishing.
  • Please keep the Magnuson-Stevens Act strong by maintaining science-based management, annual catch limits and timelines for rebuilding fish populations.
  • Americans can be proud of our country’s sustainable fishery management, which is inspiring nations around the world to follow our lead. Let’s keep it that way.
  • Please vote NO on H.R. 200!

Read more…

Chefs serve up support for sustainable U.S. seafood

On June 14, chefs nationwide will be serving up support for our U.S. sustainable seafood law.

DanielleLeoni_TheBreadFruit&RumBar
Chef Danielle Leoni of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix, Arizona shows off sustainably harvested short-spined thornyheads from California.

Over 50 culinary leaders across the country in cities like Honolulu, Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, Sarasota and New York are joining together that evening to celebrate the successes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), our country’s premier fisheries management law—and to defend it from threats in Washington D.C.

Two bills currently before Congress, H.R. 200 and S. 1520, would weaken the MSA’s sustainability measures that have largely ended overfishing and recovered depleted species in U.S. waters. Chefs have been particularly vocal in their opposition to these proposals, pointing out that fisheries management is not just an issue for fisherman or coastal residents—it’s a food issue.

The culinary community from landlocked states knows this better than most. Seventy-two chefs from Midwest and Mountain West states recently weighed in with a letter to Congress, urging them to maintain science-based management and accountability measures of the MSA.

“Fisheries management may seem like a weird topic for chefs to get involved in,” says Danielle Leoni, chef and owner of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix, Arizona. “But we all love fish. And as a businessperson, I want access to a consistent supply of sustainable seafood—even though my restaurant is hundreds of miles from the nearest coast.”

Read more…

On World Oceans Day, it’s time to protect Earth’s largest habitat

As we celebrate World Oceans Day, it’s too easy to forget about the deep sea. It’s the largest habitat on the planet, and is increasingly threatened by human activities. Monterey Bay Aquarium scientists, and our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, are working to understand and protect the deep ocean. It’s a big job—and we’ll need your help.

To bring the message about the deep ocean to a wider public, Executive Director Julie Packard and MBARI President and CEO Chris Scholin shared their thoughts about safeguarding the deep sea in an op-ed column published in today’s New York Times.

“The oceans are the largest home for life on our planet and the blue heart of Earth’s climate system,” they write. “We must use them wisely. Otherwise, we risk using them up.”

You can read the full commentary, and their action plan for the deep sea, here.

A time machine to understand ocean health

For scientists seeking to understand how the ocean is changing, perhaps the ideal research instrument would be a time machine. Absent such technology, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been working to create the next best thing. It’s a new facility called the Ocean Memory Laboratory.

The white-tailed tropic bird was one of eight species from the North Pacific included in the Ocean Memory Lab study. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For the lab’s inaugural project, researchers have put together a dataset of the feeding habits of eight species of seabirds over the span of almost 130 years. They analyzed archived feathers dating as far back as 1890, using a technique called compound-specific stable isotope analysis, to better understand how the birds’ diets shifted in response to factors ranging from competition with humans to the changing climate.

“In the grand scheme of things, in our field of science, even 10 years of data is encouraging,” says Tyler Gagne, an assistant research scientist at the Aquarium and lead author of the new study, published February 14 in Science Advances. “This is a 130-year-long dataset, which is really amazing.”

Data, data everywhere

The study exemplifies the promise of the Ocean Memory Lab—the brainchild of Aquarium science director Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, who co-authored the publication together with two colleagues based in Hawaii, Dr. David Hyrenbach of Hawaii Pacific University and Molly E. Hagemann of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

Dr. Kyle Van Houtan conceived the Ocean Memory Lab as a way to learn about past ocean conditions and inform current conservation policy.

Identifying novel sources of long-term data is at the heart of the lab’s mission, Kyle says, because conservation projects often lack an informed baseline of ecosystem health to compare against.

“What are the conservation targets? What are we managing for? How do we know when we’re done?” he asks. “We often don’t have enough data or a sufficiently long-term record to provide informed answers to those questions.”

The solution, as Kyle sees it, may lie within the creatures themselves—or more precisely, in the chemistry of their tissues, which can record what they were eating, as well as clues about the surrounding ocean. Read more…

Shining a light on seafood slavery

Imagine you’re a young father, from Myanmar, who has come to Thailand to find work as a fisherman and support your family. Once aboard ship, your time at sea stretches to weeks, months, or even a year. You find yourself working 20 hours a day, at one of the world’s most dangerous occupations. You sleep in unsanitary quarters, and are subject to violence and intimidation.

The risk tool can help businesses engage with suppliers to eliminate slavery from their supply chains.

But your biggest surprise occurs when the boat finally docks: You are kept in locked quarters, and not allowed to come ashore. The captain has taken your passport and keeps much of your wages.

Seafood slavery is real, and occurring in many parts of the globe. And the byproducts of this underworld economy—shrimp, crab, snapper and other popular seafood items—can make their way to dinner tables in the United States.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program wants to help businesses keep slavery out of their seafood supply, and improve conditions for people who are—literally—slaving to produce the world’s seafood. In coordination with Liberty Asia and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, it just released an online tool so major seafood buyers—retailers, foodservice companies and restaurant chains—can identify the risk of forced labor, human trafficking or hazardous child labor in the seafood they purchase. Read more…

Fish carbon-era: How our fossil fuel habit is changing the future of seafood

Jim Barry and deep-sea urchin
MBARI researcher Jim Barry handles a sea urchin in his lab. Photo © 2009 MBARI / Todd Walsh

In the early days of ocean acidification research, experiments were simple, says benthic ecologist Jim Barry. Some involved plopping fish into containers of high-carbon seawater. This sort of lab test allowed researchers to observe animals’ physiological responses to our ocean’s changing chemistry.

These days, many studies attempt to address the more difficult question of how acidification and ocean warming might affect interconnected marine species. “What you can’t learn from tests of fish in a jar,” Barry says, “is how climate change affects the way energy moves through a food web.”

That line of inquiry may start in the pages of scientific journals, but it leads somewhere more intimate: our dinner plates.

Read more…

%d bloggers like this: