Tag Archives: reef

You Must Read—American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

We are what we eat, we are told. But we Americans do not eat what we truly are. We are an ocean nation, a country that controls more sea than land and more fishing grounds than any other nation on earth. And yet we have systematically reengineered our landscapes , our economy, and our society away from the sea’s influence. As of 2012, Americans ate a little less than 15 pounds of seafood per person per year, well below half the global per capita average and miniscule in comparison with the 202 pounds of red meat and poultry we consume. [Page 233]

Paul Greenberg is familiar to readers of this blog because I was a big fan of his prior book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. The author is back with a take on seafood that is closer to home, which is appropriate given the rapid rise in local food movements across the United States.

51dbCQm3YhLAmerican Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood is about the relative dearth of seafood eaten by American diners that is sourced from American waters. Through the lens of three types of seafood—oysters, shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaskan salmon—Greenberg illustrates the odd market forces at work with respect to American sourced seafood.

Nothing illustrates his point better than the juxtaposition of Alaskan salmon and imported tilapia:

It was then and there that it hit me—the bizarre devil’s bargain that Americans have entered into with their seafood supply. Americans now harvest our best , most nutritious fish in our best-managed Alaskan fisheries and send those fish over to Asia. In exchange, we are importing fish farmed in Asia, with little of the brain-building compounds fish eaters are seeking when they eat fish. [Page 190]

Yes, we basically trade Alaskan salmon for fish that is barely fish. Tilapia is fish with training wheels. It is fish for people who find the flavor of cod, haddock, or Pollock not quite bland enough. My father, who slurped oysters with the best of them, referred to it as “Chinese junk fish” because it offered none of the benefits of fish while serving up a host of economic and environmental concerns.

We, as a whole, do not really consider the bounty of the sea. Cattle and the steaks that are cut from their carcasses are the apex foodstuff that comes from American land followed closely by the legions of swine and chickens processed into McRibs and nuggets of various odd shapes:

We need to understand that the marshes of Louisiana are not just an idyll to observe egrets and alligators; they are a food system, one that provides a large portion of the catch in the continental United States. If we choose to , we can support the environment that is home to shrimp, redfish, bluefish, blue crabs, oysters, flounder, sea trout, and others. Yes, there is a small risk of contamination from eating wild seafood from the Gulf. But that risk, when compared to all the other food risks we take as a nation, is infinitesimal. [Page 155]

It’s about consumer behavior and realizing the bounty that is present on our shores. If we could just get out of the whole bland white shrimp, slightly pink salmon, and piles of tilapia complex their could be a huge outpouring of economic support for American seafood. The challenge lies in getting people to accept something that is outside of their comfort zone. Ironically, this has been done already with more familiar land based foods. A few years ago odd cuts of beef like flank or skirt were sold for a fraction of the price of more mainstream cuts, but now those flavorful cuts command a premium. Heritage breeds of pork and poultry populate our palates in increasing numbers every year. Why can’t we do the same with food that swims?

But the future of the American catch depends not only on American governance , but also on the behavior of American consumers. There is no more intimate relationship we can have with our environment than to eat from it. [Page 16]

Take a weekend, read Greenberg’s American Catch, and think about the next type of seafood that you order at a restaurant or buy at the supermarket. Make it Alaskan salmon or Gulf shrimp or an odd filet that the fishmonger at the co-op is all excited about that week. America depends on it.

Friday Linkage 8/15/2014

Moving to a new job is interesting. I have not had a job change in six years, so it kind of feels like a milestone but it is odd at the same time. Who knows what next week will bring?

On to the links…

Sales of Shark Fin in China Drop by up to 70%–I hope that international pressure and the realization that the soup really tastes like warm snot is starting to make people reconsider this outdated practice. Again, it could be just some spin from China’s PR machine.

China Will Install More Solar This Year Than The U.S. Ever Has—Is solar taking off? Well, here is one little stat to make you think about the volume of deployed solar. Remember, solar PV destroys demand.

Stacked Solar Cells could make Solar Power Cheaper than Natural Gas—Even cheaper solar power would be sweet. It’s already cost competitive, but if it were cheaper that makes the adoption curve go crazy.

Wind Farm Powering A Million Homes Nears Approval Deep In Coal Country—Considering that Wyoming is coal country this is a big deal.   3,000 megawatts of power would put this single wind farm on par with all but a few states total wind generation capacity. Damn.

Carbon Dioxide ‘Sponge’ could Ease Transition to Cleaner Energy—Here is the thing that climate deniers and opponents of the new EPA regulations forget, their vaunted market will come up with cost effective solutions because the demand is present.

When Did Republicans Start Hating the Environment?—When did Republicans start hating everything? Seriously, what does the party stand for as opposed to what it stands against? It’s a party devoid of big ideas.

20 Big Profitable US Companies Paid No Taxes—As you read this list, remember that Republicans want corporations to pay even lower taxes. The thing that kills me is that if corporations are people why don’t they pay taxes like people?

Absurd Creature of the Week: This Goofy Fish Poops Out White-Sand Beaches—A parrotfish is an amazing thing to watch when you are snorkeling. You can watch little puffs of white sand come out from their rear ends. Cool and gross at the same time.

Judge Refuses To Throw Out Challenge To Utah’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law—This is important and should be followed by anyone with an interest in activism and free speech. If “ag gag” laws are allowed to stand there will be a chilling effect on speech and it will encourage industry to promote even more restrictions on our rights.

America Now Has Over 3,000 Craft Breweries—and That’s Not Necessarily Great for Beer Drinkers—The beer aisle is crazy now. How many IPAs and amber ales and bocks and sour ales and whatever else can a beer drinker choose from effectively? As I read more and more articles I believe a shakeout in the industry is coming.

Fermenting Beer Time Lapse Shows one Beautiful Breathing Sludge Monster— These open fermentation tanks are crazy mad scientist stuff:


Friday Linkage 11/8/2013

I cannot believe that Initiative 522 failed to gain approval in Washington.  If passed, Initiative 522 would have required foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled as such.  It would have been the first such state to require the labeling.  Interestingly, almost all of the money funneled into the campaign on both sides of the issue came from out of state.  Hmmm…

On to the links…

The Stunning Collapse Of Infrastructure Spending In One Chart—I think the chart speaks for itself:


I think that everyone needs to send this to their members of Congress and ask, “Why?”  I am going to start sending the message every day.

The Climate Impact Of Canada’s Tar Sands Is Growing—Here is why opposing the Keystone XL pipeline is so important.  It’s not just about the singular issue of the pipeline.  Rather, it’s about opposing the dirty oil from the tar sands more generally.  That stuff is just nasty.

Methane: A Key to Dealing With Carbon Pollution?—Methane is a bad actor.  No one can deny the fact.  Regulating methane may be an indirect way to regulate carbon emissions because the two are wedded in some ways.

5 Reasons Solar Is Already Beating Fossil Fuels—I would only need one…it’s awesome.

In Heated Arizona Solar Battle, Top Regulators Tied To ALEC—Like the Koch Brothers, if you read about someone fighting solar or wind power usually ALEC shows up.  These clowns do not like anything that might be cleaner than coal or less damaging than fracking.  Clown shoes.

Johnson County’s Field of Beams—Sometimes we think of solar energy as something that happens in Arizona or Colorado, but it is happening on a pretty large scale right here in Eastern Iowa.

Poland Wedded to Coal, Spurns Europe on Clean Energy—No matter how much clean energy that western countries deploy, it must be remembered that unless countries that still deploy inordinate amounts of coal are brought along the effort is somewhat for naught.  I am not advocating for doing nothing, but we need to deploy the technology in all places to displace dirty fuels.

Oil Company Predicts Gas Powered Cars will be Nearly Gone by 2070—By 2070?  Given the trend in miles driven and the ownership demographics I would guess that that the bulk of gas powered cars might be gone before that date.  Granted, the long tail of eliminating the platform will take longer.

Texas Oyster Reef Restoration Project Begins in Gulf of Mexico—I am increasingly fascinated by oyster reefs, especially the artificial variety put in place to help restore ecosystems damaged by a variety of factors.  This seems like something that we should be deploying on a larger scale to help heal the scars of our coastal waterways.

3-D Printed Reef Brings Back Sea Life in Persian Gulf—This is a sweet application of 3-D printing to create complex objects for reef restoration.  Again, why are we not deploying this kind of technology on a massive scale?

These Fish are Eating the Plastic You Throw in the Ocean—Humans suck.  We truly suck.  Our plastic pollution epidemic is truly horrible in so many ways that it is hard to find the appropriate adjective to accurately describe our stupidity.

Obama’s 5 Biggest Sellouts to the Meat Industry—The meat industry is not less a many tentacled beast now than what it was like in the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  It’s just a lot less visible to people now because the production of meat is such a rural affair.

Why Are Pig Farmers Still Using Growth Promoting Drugs?—It appears that improved hygienic practices—e.g. better farming and livestock management—have reduced or eliminated the need for prophylactic antibiotic treatment of hogs.  Yet, many farmers still dose their animals.  Why?

It Turns Out Kopi Luwak is Not Just Weird, it’s Cruel—Before anyone thinks about having a cup of Kopi luwak—yep, the cat poop coffee—consider how cruel the process actually is.  This is not some farmer collecting random beans in the morning sun.  It’s an industrial animal cruelty operation.  On top of the fact that it is just gross.

Why Does Cooking at Home Fight Hunger?—I have long thought that if everyone dedicated themselves to cooking a couple more meals per week at home—not just reheating, but actually cooking—that a lot of problems would solve themselves.  So many things that I hold dear come together in the kitchen in a visible and powerful way.

This is What the Earth will Look Like if All the Ice Melts—Get ready for some nice coastal property in Arkansas.  Ugh.

Friday Linkage 8/17/2012

It’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, so I thought some shark themed links were in order…

This infographic from the Discovery Channel is a nice primer on the status of sharks today.

What Would Happen if Sharks Disappeared?—Sometimes you have to think about the worst case scenario to get people thinking about making some kind of positive change today.  We have a hard time understanding the role of apex predators in the environment.

In Cancun, Trying to Protect Reef with Underwater Statues—I do not know if this is more about promoting tourism or protecting a reef, but the underwater statue park sure is interesting:

Superfund Efforts to Clean up Waterways Come with Risk—I love how companies are allowed to pollute for the better part of a century and then make the claim that it is better to leave the pollution alone.  Sorry Charlie, but we need to remediate these problems.  It is your responsibility.

Paul Ryan’s Budget is Nice to Big Oil—Imagine that, Republican wunderkind Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican candidate for vice president, has a budget that is very nice to oil and gas interests.  Call me shocked…oh wait, not really.

Soot Pollution 101—Soot pollution is one of those insidious environmental problems that is hard to talk to people about, yet it impacts everyone in various ways.  All of them negative.  Get educated and make a difference.

50 Year Decline in Some Los Angeles Vehicle Pollutants—The next time some right wing proto-fascist tells you that government regulation is shackling the United States take the time to point out that the government regulation of tailpipe pollutants is a major cause for celebration.  The air is cleaner and people are healthier because the government required car and fuel makers to clean things up.  End of story.

Efficiency is Powering Job Growth in Automotive Manufacturing—Vehicles are getting increasingly fuel efficient and not always at the cost of size, so people are not forced to compromise when making choices.  These same people are buying new, more fuel efficient vehicles that replace older, less fuel efficient vehicles that are raising the average fuel economy of the fleet.  There are some victories out there.

U.S. Using Less Gas than Anytime Since 2007—How much of a victory?  Oh yeah:

The U.S. consumption of gas peaked in 2007—just prior to the 2008 mega recession—and has not recovered, so to speak.  Sometimes I feel like I am screaming at the rain and at other times I feel like dancing.  Break out the dub step.

We Must Put a Price on Nature in Order to Save It—I have seen this argument made in the past and I do not know if I agree with it.  Do we need to put a price on something to save it or can something have a value so great that it cannot be monetized?  If we monetize nature, do we destroy its inherent opposition to a cold, industrial world?

How a Texas Town got Water Smart—San Antonio is water smart and with most of the country in the throes of drought we would be wise to consider learning as many lessons as possible.  Often, it is not about reducing our use of water, but reducing our waste of water.  There is a small and critical difference when making that argument for change.

Bears Break into Cabin and Drink All the Beer—Who can blame some bears for seeing a fridge full of beer and wanting to enjoy themselves?

Friday Linkage 6/22/2012

What a difference a couple of overnight storms can make.  This week we had two decent overnight storms that drenched eastern Iowa and tipped the scales away from drought.  Everything was much greener by Thursday afternoon and the air had lost its arid edge.  It was like a return to a normal and pleasant Iowa summer.

On to the links…

Gardener Sues City of Tulsa for Tearing Up Her Garden—Lawns blow me away.  It’s okay to have a landscape that requires constant attention and is frequently doused in nasty chemicals, but if someone dares to do something different the city comes down like Thor’s hammer.  WTF?  Then again, this is Oklahoma.   I guess it’s not just the wind sweeping down the plains but the city’s scythes as well.

What to Buy Organic—This story got a lot of play, but it makes people’s decision easier at the grocery store.  Here is a list of the produce to buy when it is available as organic because the pesticides and other chemicals used are so bad or used in high quantities.

How Climate Change is Fueling Western Wildfires—Unless you are an ass like James Inhofe, it is staring you right in the face that our changing climate is fueling ever nastier western wildfires.  Granted, part of the problem is a hundred year legacy of not allowing any fires to burn so the hillsides are full of tinder and the encroachment of development means these fires now threaten homes where before there was no damage to private property.

Renewable Energy in the EU—The Guardian in the United Kingdom has an excellent look at the state of renewable energy in the European Union.   In 2010 the EU 27 got 12.4% of electricity from renewables with Norway leading the pack at 61.1%, which includes hydropower.  Those crafty Norwegians are always up to something.

U.S. Renewable Energy Future—The National Renewable Energy Laboratory released a study showing how the U.S. could greatly increase the share of renewable energy.  Senators from oil and gas states will fight any mention of this report tooth and nail.  Why?  Because they are bought and paid for.  Ass clowns.

German Solar Installation Cost at $2.24 per Watt, the U.S. is at $4.44—Here is why the U.S. is going to have a hard time getting critical mass on solar—the balance of system costs are driving the installed system costs too high.  It used to be the panels were too expensive, but that is no longer the case as the price per watt of a panel has come down immensely.  Now it is all the other equipment and, more importantly, the red tape.  For once I will agree with Republicans—there is too much regulation and red tape surrounding getting solar installed.  Somehow I do not see Mitt Romney taking up that banner anytime soon.  No Koch money in it.

Let’s Add a Little Dirt to Our Diets—I am not advocating a lunch of top soil and compost.  Neither is the author.  Rather, the central thesis is that our increasingly clinical and clean world is depriving our bodies of the bacteria that have evolved to ward off various maladies.  With the recent completion of a census of the bacteria on the human body it will become increasingly clear that we need a little filth.

Battery Costs Down to $250/kWh by 2015—This is one of those boring but important kind of stories.  Due to improving technology and a glut of capacity, industry analysts are predicting that lithium-ion battery packs will cost just $250 per kilowatt hour by 2015.  Currently, a lithium-ion battery pack costs approximately $700 per kilowatt hour.  This is a great reduction in cost that will allow electric vehicles to come down in price and, thus, speed adoption.

Oil Rig Reef—The dormant offshore oil platform High Island 389-A is supposed to be demolished soon.  However, its structure beneath the surface of the water has become a wonderland for aquatic life.  It’s even becoming something of a reef:

Isn’t there a better fate than destruction?

Why Wooden Bikes Ride Better and Look Stunning—Just reading this article made me want to get a wooden bike.  Until I saw the price tag.  The sunk coast of my sixteen year old Bontrager is looking better and better.   I feel like I should apologize to my old bike for even looking at a younger model.