Ocean Trust Calls for the Rationalization of Seafood Sustainability At Boston 2016 Show

Ocean Trust moderated a conference session on Rationalizing Seafood Sustainability at the 2016 Seafood Expo North America calling for changes in the certification and ecolabelling of sustainable seafood.  “We need to be realistic when looking at fisheries, the vast majority of which have not been certified because of the impractically and cost under the current certification programs,” said Thor Lassen, President of Ocean Trust.

Ocean Trust Presents New System for Assessing Sustainability to FAO

Ocean Trust and NOAA presented a new approach to assess the sustainability of seafood at the Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting in Rome. Thor Lassen, president of Ocean Trust and member of the US Delegation to COFI led the presentation. “Sustainability, although often gauged on a fishery by fishery basis, is actually the result of a well-designed and implemented management system,” said Lassen. “We present a structured evaluation process to assess management systems ability to maintain the sustainability of fisheries under national and state programs.” The briefing presented the methodology, initial assessments of US management systems, and its potential to bring greater recognition and acceptance of State sponsored assessments.

Ocean Trust/Bonefish Grill Help Sponsor AIFRB’s Fishing and Environment Symposium

The relationship between ocean climate and fisheries was explored during a three day forum on fish and the environment. Ocean Trust with support from Bonefish Grill joined as sponsors of this science forum on “The Relative Importance of Fishing and the Environment in the Regulation of Fish Population Abundance” held June 26-28, 2012 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Thirty-two scientists from the US and Canada presented scientific papers at the forum convened by the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists in cooperation with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries; Southern New England Chapter of the American Fisheries Society; University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science & Technology, Department of Fisheries Oceanography; Ocean Trust and Bonefish Grill; National Marine Fisheries Service; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and the New Bedford Whaling Museum. A program agenda and abstracts of papers presented is available here.

Ocean Trust/Bonefish Support Red Snapper Tagging

The South Atlantic red snapper population has been a valuable fishery since the 1950’s. The population declined in the 1980’s. The spawning biomass population has generally increased since then due to management and successful reproduction and survival of offspring, but the stock continues to be well below the optimum target level. In 2010, the commercial and recreational fishery was closed. The closure eliminated landing data (i.e., fishery-dependent data) used to monitor the stock status. There also was very limited fishery-independent survey data available to track positive signs of recovery starting to emerge in 2012.

Based on fishing industry input, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission secured limited funding in 2010 to implement angler-based tagging program to assessment the movement and growth of red snapper. Additional support was provided by Bonefish Grill, Ocean Trust, Southeastern Fisheries Association and other industry partners that funded 22 directed trips which tagged 1,064 red snapper. An additional 1,096 red snapper were tagged during other research projects for a combined total of 3,340 red snapper tagged. Input from the industry sponsored tagging program was invaluable. It aided in the development of long term reef fish monitoring methods, provided locations of historical hard-bottom areas and associated reef fish, and vessels from which research was conducted from to offset costs of offshore sampling to the State of Florida. See news video coverage of Snapper Tagging

Ocean Trust Forum Highlights Need for Competent Science in Sustainability Programs

Ocean Trust convened its second Science & Sustainability Forum with leadership from the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists and internationally recognized scientists and managers from leading fish producing nations.  Call for greater emphasis on science in sustainability programs issued with post forum press release on Making Sense of Sustainability

The 2012 Forum also set out several research priorities which Ocean Trust has implemented to examine new tools to measure the sustainability of fisheries.  Current projects include a comparative framework assessment of fishery management programs in the US with United Nations standards for sustainable fisheries.

Ocean Trust launched its Science & Sustainability Workshop series in 2010 in partnership with Bonefish Grill to bring top fishery research scientists from different parts of the world together with representatives from key seafood industry sectors. The aim was to bring science back into the discussion on seafood sustainability.  Highlights and testimonials supported the need for future workshops.

Representatives from the foodservice, retail, distributor, producer sectors engaged in direct dialog with scientists from the FAO, US, Mexico, Canada, Norway, Spain/ISSF, Russia, New Zealand, and CCAMLR who each gave presentations on status and management of stocks in their respective regions and key issues like:

  • Science and Sustainability - Are We Asking the Right Questions?, Brian Rothschild, SMAST/UMass Dartmouth
  • State of World Fisheries: Doom & Gloom or Are Fisheries being sustainably managed, Ray Hilborn, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences UWA
  • Sustainability of Global Stocks: Definitions and trends, Grimur Valdimarsson, formerly with FAO, Rome
  • Northeast Atlantic Fisheries: Four Pillars of Sustinability, Åsmund Bjordal, Institute of Marine Research, Norway
  • EU Fisheries Management: As Seen by a US Scientist, Michael Sissenwine, WHOI
  • Sustainability and Pacific Salmon, Dick Beamish, DFO/President American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists
  • Sustainability of Fishery Resources in the Russian Far Eastern Seas, Oleg Katugin, Pacific Research Fisheries Centre, Vladivostok, Russia
  • Transnational Tunas, Victor Restrepo, ISSF
  • Sustainable Fishing in New Zealand & Antarctic CCAMLR, Kevin Sullivan, NZ Ministry of Fisheries
  • Mexican Fisheries, Miguel Cisneros, INAPESCA
  • Sustainability in US Fisheries: The Southeast Regional Perspective, Roy Crabtree, NOAA
  • The next Science & Sustainability Workshop will be held in the fall of 2011 and bring scientists from other regions not covered in 2010 and provide a focus on overfishing and ecosystem management. Each year, the regions will rotate so that regional updates are provided on alternative years.

Some conclusions & testimonials from 2010:

“There has been a decoupling between sustainability proxies and scientific reasoning, but there is a significant opportunity to slow down (the) rhetoric and increase the focus on fundamental, management-related, scientific missions.” Brian Rothschild, UMassDartmouth/SMAST.

“The dramatic decline in fish stocks that Daniel Pauly published in 1998 never happened…and large depletions (of tuna and billfish as reported by Myers) that forms the core of this mythology on “oh, all of the fish are gone” is totally busted.” Ray Hilborn, UWA School of Fisheries.

”Something has to be done in the science community to speak out on these issues that appear in the popular press and are being promoted for wrong reasons. It is time for this to happen.” Dick Beamish, DFO Canada/President American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists.

“Our goal is healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable harvests; but who sets the definitions. We have to move in the direction of supporting competent authorities like ICES for the Northeast Atlantic and a global authority of fishery issues, that’s FAO. We have to keep this focus up and to try to present the right picture.” Åsmund Bjordal, Institute for Marine Research, Norway.

“One message (from this workshop) should be to support the competent authorities to do their job. Support the science and the regional organizations. Support the management.” Mike Sissenwine, ICES Science Committee Chair/Former NOAA Fisheries Science Director.

“We are subject to extensive regulatory requirements none of which translates to the end user at the point of sale. NOAA should consider a certification logo that would allow compliant seafood suppliers to confer to the point of sale that the seafood packed under this program is a safe, responsible and sustainable choice backed by US government.” Joe Nohren, Bama Sea Products

“If seafood is harvested under a fishery management plan then it should be sustainable because the stock is in rebuilding programs or harvested at sustainable levels. Just look at what is required under an FMP. If it is federally managed and in compliance of what the law requires, it has to be sustainable.” Roy Crabtree, NOAA.

“We should not be fixed on stock status, but the fishery management system as stocks fluctuate over time. It should not be a problem if you overfish in one year If you are part of a management framework plan you are sustainable.” Kevin Sullivan, New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries.

“I’m very impressed from what I have heard from scientists from all the countries represented. There is a lot more going on than I knew about. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being part of this project to put these scientists together, it’s fantastic.” Les Hodgson, Marco Sales.

“Thank you for a fantastic and insightful meeting, the collaboration and information helped give me confidence in our position as a premier seafood restaurant.” John Cooper, Bonefish Grill.

“This was outstanding; really helpful and very useful.” Joe Nohren, Bama Sea Products.

“It couldn’t be more timely and appropriate to hold a conference on science and sustainability, and it’s clear that we have made important first steps.” Brian Rothschild, UMASS/SMAST.

Full report available to members, join Ocean Trust today!

Sustainability Psychosis

Have we lost touch with reality as consumers and end users place too much faith in seafood choice cards and campaigan press releases over competent science and management?

"As convenient as it is to follow the advice of non-governmental organization campaigns or seafood buying cards, it can be over-simplistic, losing distinctions among stock groups like Atlantic cod and over-stated like advice to buy legal Mexican shrimp."

I was stopped in the aisle of the International Boston Seafood Show last month by a supporter who told me one of his customers received a complaint about serving an endangered species.

“What species?” I asked. “Atlantic cod,” he responded.

Ocean Trust Receives Multiple Conservation Awards

Ocean Trust’s leadership in coastal restoration was recognized during two separate award ceremonies. In June, Ocean Trust received top conservation awards from the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Coastal America for its leadership in building one of the largest public/private restoration partnerships and its role in restoring the Bahia Grande shallow water coastal estuary to provide nursery habitat for a variety of fish, shellfish and migratory waterfowl. The EPA Gulf of Mexico Program also awarded the seventy- nine partners associated with the Bahia Grande Restoration Project a Gulf Guardian Award for 2007 at the November 14 Gulf of Mexico Program awards ceremony. Thor Lassen, president of Ocean Trust accepted the award on behalf of the Bahia Grande partnership. This was the third award given to the Bahia Grande project where Ocean Trust has played a key role in its management, and the fifth national conservation award for Thor Lassen and Ocean Trust.

Read more about each conservation award:

Ocean Trust Bonefish Co-Sponsor International Forum on Sea Bass

CCAMLR Forum Focuses on Enforcement and Monitoring of Sea Bass Fishery

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) forum focused on compliance evaluation with monitoring systems that prevent illegal fishing such as "the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) used to track fishing vessels in theCCAMLR management zone along and the enforcement of the Dissostichus Catch Document system used to monitor trade in Chilean Sea Bass that have reduced illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by 75%,” said Thor Lassen, president of Ocean Trust.  Bonefish Grill and Ocean Trust supported the forum as co-sponsors.

“We want to insure that these programs have adequate funding to continue the progress made with the Chilean sea bass resource,” continued Lassen, “so we are happy to join with Bonefish Grill as a forum co-sponsor to make a positive contribution to sustain this fishery.” 


Bonefish Grill Supporting Series of Ocean Trust Restoration Projects

Bonefish Grill's NOTES FROM THE ROAD is highlighting Ocean Trust Projects which Bonefish Grill is supporting with funds raised from the sale its newly introduced Ocean Trust Martini in its restaurants. Each project brings together a partnership between local conservation and seafood industry participants to enhance coastal resourses throughout the US and Mexico. Initial projects include:

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Restoration - Bonefish Grill joined Ocean Trust's long-term efforts with the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Restoration in Tepehuajes , Mexico to help restore the population of one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world. Ocean Trust and supporters from the seafood industry constructed and continues to maintain the only privately owned facility that has become the second-largest sea turtle camp in the Gulf of Mexico region, where daily patrols monitor nesting activity, relocate turtle eggs within protected corals for incubation and release over hatchlings back into the wild.

Florida FISH Mangrove Reserve Restoration - On the west coast of Florida, near the commercial fishing Village of Cortez Ocean Trust and Bonefish Grill joined the local fishing community to begin the restoration of one of the last remaining stands of mangrove habitat important as a breeding area and juvenile nursery for coastal fisheries. The project area site was purchased by fishing community and set aside as a protected area now known as the FISH Reserve, and is becoming a thriving habitat for plants and aquatic life alike, and a source of survival for one of the last coastal fishing villages in the state.

Southern New England Winter Flounder Restoration - Bonefish Grill also joined Ocean Trust in a unique project to help the local East Hampton fishing community restore the stock of winter flounder off its coast. By hatching, tagging, releasing and monitoring 10,000 juvenile flounder into a sheltered shallow water estuary near East Hampton, Ocean Trust and the East Hampton Township are testing a restocking program to reestablish a thriving population that will lead to greater success for the local flounder fishermen after their original fishery collapsed.

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Restoration - The Chesapeake Bay is home to a wide variety of shellfish including the blue crab which has become a culinary favorite all through the East Coast. Facing a decline in the blue crab stock and fishery reductions to protect spawning populations, local fishermen have joined together with educators and scientists to promote and protect a sustainable fishery in the bay. With initial support from Bonefish Grill, Ocean Trust has started working cooperatively with the Maryland Watermen's Association Crab Restoration Around the Bay program to raise awareness and funds needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population through hatchery and restocking programs.

Bahia Grande Restoration - In Texas , Bahia Grande was once a flourishing and major wetland estuary supporting a rich population of fish, wildlife and migratory waterfowl, but for the past 70 years it has been a dry barren landscape cut off from the Gulf of Mexico . Working with federal, state and local organizations, Ocean Trust has built a national public and private partnership in what is now one of the largest estuary restoration projects in the United States . The Bahia Grande partnership and Ocean Trust have generated seven national awards for its conservation work re-constructing channels to reconnect Bahia Grande to the Gulf of Mexico and re-planting native vegetation to restore over 10,000 acres of habitat as an important coastal estuary. Support from Bonefish Grill is helping continue the efforts at this critical site.

Ocean Trust & Ocean Garden take steps to protect endangered porpoise in the Sea of Cortez

Conservation Agreement - In June, Ocean Garden Products and Ocean Trust met with several environmental groups to discuss the vaquita marina and shrimp fishing in the Upper Gulf of California (GOC) and worked out an agreement to protect the vaquita marina while promoting the sustainability of the fisheries and fishing communities in the GOC by eliminating the bycatch of vaquita marina, stopping illegal fishing, and improving the efficiency of shrimp fisheries so that bycatch is reduced while supporting fishermen and local communities

Conclusion - The Mexican Sea of Cortez shrimp fishery is among the most sustainable trawl shrimp fisheries incorporating advanced management tools such as satellite vessel monitoring systems, observers and light weight nets along with turtle and bycatch reduction devises, closed areas and seasons. Perhaps even more significant is that when confronted with environmental issues, Ocean Garden Products and the fishing groups in the Upper GOC worked with Ocean Trust to fact find the issues and identify positive areas of cooperation to enhance sustainability of their fishery and the ecosystem in the Sea of Cortez.