Save the Sea Life

A panel of experts discussed sustainable seafood at Boston University's George Sherman Union after a showing of the documentary film The End of the Line. The panel consisted of (from left to right) Michelle Cho, a wild fisheries expert from the New England Aquarium, Katy Hladki, an aquaculture specialist from the New England Aquarium, Niaz Dorry, Coordinating Director of the Northwest Marine Alliance and Professor Les Kaufman a Boston Univeristy professor of Marine Biology. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

The Earth’s fish are disappearing, and unless human beings change their ways, some species may not have a chance at recovery.

A panel of local sea-life experts spoke about the issue of the depleted oceans as part of the capstone event of Boston University’s Earth Week. Presented by the Office of Sustainability, the event also featured a showing of the documentary “The End of the Line” about the world’s problem with overfishing.

The film presented the issue of overfishing in a dire light, going so far as to say that most seafood could be gone by the year 2048. Fisheries around the world were near the point of collapse because of the ignorance of politicians, the actions of irresponsible fishermen and the ravenous appetites of consumers.

“American fishermen are under very, very strict regulations because America committed itself to rebuilding our fisheries,” panel moderator Les Kaufman, a CAS professor of biology. “And because we got we got ourselves into quite a whole by overfishing it’s a very painful process and it requires a loss of many our fishing jobs.”

Kaufman was joined by Katie Hiadki, an aquaculture (fish farming) specialist from the New England Aquarium, wildlife fisheries expert Michelle Cho and Niaz Dorry, an environmental activist and director of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.

According to the film, some fish species, such as the bluefin tuna, wild salmon and cod, are being fished at rates far beyond what is required to replenish their numbers. Still, despite their threatened status, restaurants and fish markets around world continue to sell these fish, because, according the film, people keep buying them.

“The good news is we’re at ebb tide and with strong force of will, this is one of the problems that can be addressed and solved,” said Kaufman. He said that before the early years of the new millennium, sea-life experts did not even realize the world fish population was decreasing. SInce then, efforts by the United States and other nations have resulted in a slowing the losses

Thursday’s panelists advocated mostly for consumer activism to combat the problem of overfishing. Insisting on buying locally-caught or farmed fish is better for sustainability efforts, as is staying away from “red listed” fish that are known to be overfished or farmed in environmentally unfriendly ways.

“The best thing we can do is know what we’re eating,” said Kaufman. “Seek out sustainable seafood and favor those vendors who are buying from fishermen who are playing by the rule and who are part of the solution.”

The Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, one of the most widely used of its type, lists over 25 types of seafood to avoid and another two dozen or so that should be consumed with caution.

“The issue can be complicated, not all wild choices are good and not all farm are good. You really specifically at the fish or where it where caught and how it was caught,” said Hiadki. Hiadki said that while fish farming is sometime pointed to as a part of the overfishing problem, the practices prevalence in the seafood industry will mean it must also be part of the solution.

“It’s complicated but it’s definitely worth getting the information and asking the questions because as the consumers, you definitely hold the power.”

According to Sabrina Harper, BU Dining’s sustainability coordinator, all of the fish that is served in BU dining areas is sustainable. If the food providers cannot prove that the fish they sell is caught in a sustainable manner, the school will not buy from them.

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