California Seafood Council Responds in the
Politically Correct "Good Fish, Bad
The following is a press release submitted
by the California Seafood Council in response
to recent boycotts of seafood products.
July 22, 2000
Once and again, U.S. consumers are being
urged by well-meaning groups to initiate
a product boycott. This time certain species
of fish are the target. The premise of the
boycott is to rebuild certain fisheries and
promote healthy populations of popular species.
The cause is admirable and shared. Yet politically
correct fish lists that broad-brush entire
species and donšt differentiate local fishermen
who follow strict limits are irresponsible
and, frankly, cavalier.
These "Do eat, don't eat"
clearly trouble us and our local fishing
industry, as they only punish our fishermen
and seafood suppliers who are strictly
and monitored, and who abide by very
limits on their catch.
For example, consider swordfish.
Calls to "give swordfish a break"
threaten the existence of U.S. fishermen
who cut their harvest by more than
beginning 10 years ago.
Dr. Rebecca Lent, Chief of the Office
Highly Migratory Species at the National
Marine Fisheries Service, says the
campaign "penalizes U.S. fishermen
are already abiding by the law, and
recognize that we have a rebuilding
in place (for North Atlantic swordfish)."
Locally, scientists consider Pacific
stocks healthy. California's swordfish
is considered the most strictly regulated
in the world. It is regulated by season,
time and area closures as well as by
size, type and deployment of nets used.
nets are considered small-scale in
with large mesh as wide as an open
which allows small fish and other marine
life to pass through. California nets
set a minimum of 36 feet below the
often as low as 75 feet, to minimize
with marine mammals and seabirds. The
fleet was instrumental in the testing
adoption of the requirement that all
nets carry acoustical pingers. These
marine mammals to the presence of the
The use of pingers, confirmed by official
observers stationed on the boats, is
to reduce marine mammal interactions
rate approaching zero in accordance
the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Our local swordfish fleet is small,
approximately 90 boats active in the
this year. These are small family-owned
typical of California's fleet. How
can these fishermen continue providing
local swordfish to market in the wake
well-meaning but seriously harmful
for a boycott of swordfish?
Another fish that we are misleadingly
to avoid is shark. In California, the
and mako shark season is strictly regulated,
open only August 15 to December 15
25 miles of the coast. The fishery
in spring and early winter to protect
populations. Typically fishermen harvest
a variety of fish in their wide-mesh
Shark is an incidental catch in swordfish
nets that can be sold at market, fully
the fishermen's catch. Isn't it better
use and market the entire catch?
Californiašs lobster resource is healthy
We've even heard a call for total avoidance
of "American lobster." By
label, the California spiny lobster
be mistakenly included in this list.
lesser known than the heavily-marketed
variety, California spiny lobsters
solely by trap and the season is limited
from the first Wednesday in October
protecting lobsters during their reproductive
cycle in the spring through early fall.
minimum legal size is set and all traps
escape ports, allowing undersized lobsters
to get out. California's spiny lobster
have been very effective. This fishery
been recognized in fishery management
for more than 20 years for sustaining
Other targeted species are also mislabeled
by the broad brush of these lists.
are now the activists' fish du jour.
to "preserve" rockfish can
confusing. There are 59 known species
California living in a variety of habitats
from midwater levels to hard bottom
rocky reefs. Their abundance is greatly
by natural "regime shifts,"
oceanic warm- and cold-water cycles
consequently, influence the availability
of their feed. The California rockfish
is regulated by strict quotas on various
species. New, even more stringent limits
have recently been put into effect
Pacific Fishery Management Council,
the more than six state and federal
that regulate and oversee various aspects
of California's commercial fishing
Advising consumers to avoid all species
rockfish only undermines efforts by
managers to protect distressed stocks.
Letšs talk about overfishing.
In part the confusion in well-meaning
to conserve fish stems from the word
The logical assumption inherent in
is that fishermen are catching too
However, as defined by Congress, "overfishing"
includes everything from too large
to natural declines caused by changing
cycles. Every possible cause of an
population decline --even a temporary
-- is lumped into this one category.
strict federal laws now require fishery
to "rebuild" stocks defined
overfished, even though the scientists
no control over Mother Nature.
A call for objective scientific research
The California Seafood Council advocates
the underwriting of more objective
research to better understand our local
cycles, marine resources and fisheries.
would benefit significantly if the
of dollars now used to fund nationwide
boycotts and public relations campaigns
redirected to fund long-term comprehensive
research to help us learn more about
local species and how to properly sustain
their health for future generations.
more we know about the ocean, the better
management decisions we will be able
The bottom line
The bottom line is that those who fish
and work closely with fishery managers
conserve and sustain local fish populations
can be seriously affected by wholesale
to not purchase certain seafoods. Many
boycotts are not based on sound science,
nor do their sponsors take the time
as specific as possible. From efforts
simplify the issues, gross distortions
as these seafood lists result.
Instead, concerned consumers can take confidence
in the fact that our local fisheries are
strictly regulated. We encourage people to
continue eating seafood as a healthy food
choice, and to ask for California seafood.
Our message is clear: "California seafood
is good for you and good for California."
For more information the website of the California
Seafood Council at www.ca-seafood.org