On the changes of a beloved waterfront in San Diego…
Captain Kelly Fukushima is in a good mood, bustling between fellow fishermen and customers eating tuna tacos at his stand. The open-air Dockside Market in San Diego’s Tuna Harbor, which required an amendment to state law to open, had nearly 100 customers waiting in line before it opened at 8:00 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning. It got busier as the morning went on.
The bustling market is a welcome sign of life for San Diego’s commercial fishing fleet, which has been struggling under four decades of the tightest fishing regulations in the world. The Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976 enacted gear restrictions, reductions in allowable catch in fleet capacity, and rotating fishing area closures (like letting a fishing ground lie fallow). While the regulations have succeeded in rebuilding California’s depleted fisheries, the industry has yet to fully recover.
A new study may prompt hand wringing among you tuna poke and sushi lovers. When it comes to pollutant levels, researchers now say where your tuna was caught matters.
In a first-of-its-kind global study, scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego analyzed 117 yellowfin tuna taken from 12 locations worldwide, measuring the contaminant levels of each. They found yellowfin tuna caught closer to more industrialized locations off North America and Europe can carry 36 times more pollutants — including pesticides, flame retardants and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — than the same species caught in more remote locations, like in the West Pacific Ocean.
On the new law threatening Indian fishing villages…
At the end of the monsoon rains every year, Mumbai’s fishing community perform a traditional pooja ceremony to mark their return to the sea, with offerings of coconuts and flowers, and prayers for safety and bounty.
This week, as they launched their freshly painted boats into the water, there was an added prayer: the preservation of their homes and livelihoods as a new coastal law threatens them.
Changes to India’s Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules this year have lifted the ban on land reclamation for commercial purposes, will allow tourism in ecologically sensitive coastal areas and permit construction of the world’s tallest statue on an artificial island near Mumbai.
Several years ago, Red’s Best developed software to track the fish it procures from small local fishermen along the shores of New England. Sea to Table, a family business founded in the mid-1990s with headquarters in Brooklyn that supplies chefs and universities, has also developed its own seafood-tracking software to let customers follow the path of their purchases. Wood’s Fisheries, in Port St. Joe, Fla., specializes in sustainably harvested shrimp and uses software called Trace Register.
Over the years, caviar-producing wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea have been poached, smuggled and overfished to the brink of extinction. Sturgeon fishing fell under a series of strict international quotas and in 2008 was subjected to a global ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The only caviar on the market since then comes from tame varieties farmed in concrete basins and cages. The result is a global free-for-all in which caviar’s country of origin has no meaning, and only the best eggs win.
“Once upon a time, great caviar meant the Caspian,” says Armen Petrossian, owner of the Petrossian restaurant and boutique in the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris. Now, he says, “geography and nationality do not count.” Yet business is so good that sturgeon are raised on about 90 farms in more than 20 countries, in places as varied as Israel, the United States, China, Uruguay and just about every country in Europe.
Frankly, I didn’t know anything about harpoon fishing before this trip, so I did some cramming before I left. Despite all the advances in technology, (they’ve been swordfishing with harpoons in these waters since the 1880s), it still requires a brave soul climbing out on a plank that’s attached to the front of the boat. Here, they come face to face with the swordfish before striking. A clean shot sends the harpoon straight through the fish and out the other side.
As reliably as a dinner bell, high tide brought the men with their fishing poles. The waves carried in a bounty of striped bass, bluefish, blackfish, fluke and sea robin to this makeshift fishing cove along the East River in the South Bronx. And on a gray weekday afternoon the regulars assembled inBarretto Point Park in Hunts Point for the daily hunt, their lines forming a web that glistened as sunlight occasionally broke through the rain clouds. At the end of one line was Carmelo Nazario, 63, a sun-weathered man with a balding head, grizzled salt-and-pepper beard and wide gap in his bottom teeth when he smiled.
No fish has inspired as much controversy over the past several years as the bluefin tuna. Sushi lovers, especially in Japan, love the fish’s fatty flesh and pay top dollar for prize cuts — but environmentalists say that the world’s hunger for o-toro has pushed the three species of bluefin around the world to the brink of extinction. Global fisheries managers have carefully negotiated the demands of these two wildly divergent (and highly vocal) constituencies by placing strict limits on fishing of bluefin tuna, and enforcing those limits to the best of their abilities.
IN MAINE, a state better known for its lobsters, residents have recently been netting huge profits from a new aquatic source: baby eels. Surging demand from Asia pushed the price of elvers, which look rather like clear noodles, to as high as $2,600 a pound ($5,700 a kilo) during the ten-week harvesting season last spring. But rampant poaching (the correct term for catching a grown-up eel with bait is to “sniggle”, though elvers are caught with something more like a giant sieve) is now prompting authorities to crack down well in advance of next year’s season.