Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Oregon Trail Part III: Sea otters and Sustainable Fisheries

Day two, we wake up in Cambria tired from sleep deprivation and a long day of driving. We are also excited about the day ahead of us, and glowing about the day behind. The main attraction today is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which we have been told is The Aquarium by which all others are measured. It is an impressive measuring stick.

As we drove up the coast, through foot hills along cliffs and over bridges, I was listening to back episodes of Good Food, a favorite radio show of Courtney and I. In one episode, Mark Bittman (author of "How to Cook Everything" and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian") came on to discuss sustainable seafood, and mentioned the Monterey Bay Aquarium, specifically the fact that they offer a simple pocket guide to sustainable seafood. So of course, we picked a few up.

Of course, the 'simple guide,' as Bittman points out, glosses over some issues and provides some information that seems useful, but is impossible to apply at the market. So, I thought I would recap a little and provide some links.

Here is the issue in a nutshell: for most of human history the ocean has provided much more fish than we can possibly catch and consume. But recently, and I mean very recently, we have started catching and consuming much more fish than the ocean can provide. And really, that is impressive. Fish farming is sometimes a good alternative, but in some cases it is much, much worse. Farmed salmon, for example, requires feeding tons and tons of wild caught fish, and their waste flows directly into coastal waters (the 'farms' are pins in the ocean) contaminating the areas where they are grown. Meanwhile, wild salmon fishing in the pacific is sustainable (even if the way the fish gets to market is not), so farmed salmon is essentially a useless practice.

Clams, oysters and mussels, on the other hand, are best when farmed. And just to highlight the confusion, sustainability of fisheries is only one small part of the seafood minefield. The next biggest mine is mercury. If you haven't heard, it's in almost everything that we take out of the sea. And the crazy part is we put it (the mercury) there.

Our experience at the aquarium was awesome, especially the otter exhibit (did you know that otters eat floating on their backs, and use their chest as a table? neither did I). Sea horses and jelly fish are also amazing, but I don't have enough room to talk about them here. In short, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was a great experience, and very educational. I highly recommend it to anyone who is going through the area, and also highly recommend making one of the scheduled otter feedings.

1 comment:

  1. Gabe,

    I'm enjoying your blog quite a bit, and I just wanted to chime in to say that I LOVE the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Will and I went a few years ago as part of a little long weekend getaway to Monterey (I really wanted to see the Wild About Otters exhibit), and it was just fantastic. I love those otters. Too cute for words.