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Happy National (Sustainable) Seafood Month! | Sanibel Sea School Blog

Happy National (Sustainable) Seafood Month!

October is arguably one of the most delicious months of the year; Pumpkin pie, apple cobbler, and all things pumpkin-flavored and autumn themed that are good and right in the world.  Let’s not forget, however, that it’s also National Seafood Month!  No wonder we like October so much.  Before we can go out and start eating seafood to our heart’s content, we need to work through a little thought-experiment about sustainability, so here goes:

The Bluefin tuna is one species experiencing enormous decline in both population and physical size - Pictured here is a catch of Bluefin tuna from the 1950s.

In 2011, the World Bank listed the human population as just shy of seven billion people – 6,973,738,433 to be exact, but who’s counting?  Suppose that of those seven billion people, only ten percent of the population consumed seafood on a daily basis – that’s still seven hundred million people, a staggering amount of individuals munching down on fish.  As it turns out, over one billion people worldwide rely on a daily catch from the ocean as their main source of protein, so here’s where the question comes in: Do we really think there are enough fish in the ocean to simply throw out our nets and fishing lines and catch whatever we want?  Furthermore, if we blindly consume as much fish as humanly possible, where does the fish population finally give way to our seafood addiction?

As it turns out, our methods of consumption are actually having an enormous global impact on fish populations.  Scientists estimate that large fish populations, the ones like Bluefin tuna and Atlantic salmon that are so tasty and fit well in a roll of rice, are in decline by 90%! That means only ten percent of the fish are left in the sea.  Furthermore, the average size of the fish we’re catching is WAY smaller than what our grandparents were catching.  The truth of the matter is we’re eating so much fish that we’re not giving their populations long enough to produce the large individuals we once used to see.

Dragging a net 600m long and 200m wide, a supertrawler can process up to 250 tons of fish per day. Thousands of endangered species like sharks and turtles are killed as a result of bycatch. Does this look sustainable?

Because overfishing is a problem that we’ve eaten our way into, we can eat our way out as well!  We’re not saying that we need to completely stop eating seafood, actually quite the contrary.  Choosing to consume seafood in a sustainable manner is not only good for the environment, but it just plain makes you feel good. But what does that mean to ‘consume sustainably’?  Well, we’re glad you asked – Buying from local fishermen who support healthy catch limits and use fishing methods to minimize or prevent ‘bycatch,’ the term used to refer to catching an unintended species while fishing, is a great place to start.  Asking for the sustainable seafood alternatives in restaurants is another sure-fire way to get involved and make a difference. We’re dishing out all sorts of tips, facts, pictures, and great information this month about the sustainable seafood movement, so be sure to stay tuned.  Not sure if you’re making the right choice about your seafood? We’d love to help!  Shoot your questions to us on Twitter (@SanibelSea) or Facebook.  It’s time to get serious about caring for the blue heart of our planet – If you love seafood and want to continue eating it tomorrow, make smart choices today.

As always – Love the Ocean.

~The Ocean Tribe

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