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In this issue:
Oysters in the Gulf
Mike Mitchell
Holly Bamford
Olivier Roellinger
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Dire Situation in the Gulf and Perspectives on Ocean Conservation
 
This year, World Oceans Day took place amid a climate of uncertainty as oil continued to flow into the fragile Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, threatening marshland, beaches and a vibrant seafood industry. Numerous endangered species are threatened by the disaster, which is in the migration path for bluefin tuna and other depleted species.  As the celebrations of World Oceans Day have drawn to a close, this edition of Afishianado examines what is happening to the seafood industry in the Gulf as well as perspectives about what are other pressing issues in ocean conservation from a British seafood retailer, an American scientist and a French chef.
Oystermen in Gulf Among Hardest Hit By Spill

As oil poured into the Gulf, much of the seafood has stopped coming out. More than 30 percent of federal waters in the Gulf, some of the most productive fishing areas in the United States, have been closed primarily as a precautionary measure to prevent any tainted seafood from entering the market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) also have been employing highly trained "sensory experts," in addition to lab tests, to detect off smells and flavors in seafood and to prevent any tainted products from entering the market.
 
Photo Credit: Curt Hemmel, Bay Shellfish Co.
Oysters_Curt Hemmel, Bay Shellfish
Mainly as a result of closures, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board estimates that oyster production has decreased approximately 75 percent in the region. "Oystermen are among those that are being hit the hardest," says Rene LeBreton, Assistant Director of the Louisiana Seafood Marketing Board. "This is largely due to the closures of fisheries, though some have also put themselves and their boats to work for BP, helping with cleanup activities due to the stable income it provides."
 
As a result, local eateries are unable to provide certain menu staples because local oysters and shrimp aren't available. Some have been forced to move to imported seafood to fill the gaps in local supply, though at up to twice the price for imported shrimp they've had to either raise prices or take losses, putting pressure on the industry and further economic pressure on the region. Given the scope of the crisis, it may be several years before the Gulf oyster market fully rebounds, leaving the future of businesses dependent on oysters in the region uncertain.
 
For additional information on the impacts of the oil spill, please see SeaWeb's comprehensive online resource center that includes a compilation of news articles on the disaster. For information on impacts of the spill to Louisiana seafood please visit the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
Three Perspectives on Ocean Conservation

The ocean is international but often people experience it locally. One of the challenges with sustainability in the seafood industry is tension between the global demands of the industry and the local realties that fishing communities face. In this special Afishianado feature, three seafood stakeholders share their philosophies on ocean conservation and what led them to seafood sustainability.

  • Mike Mitchell, Technical Director, The Seafood Company (Findus Group), United Kingdom
  • Holly Bamford, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), United States
  • Olivier Roellinger, Chef & Vice President, Relais & Châteaux, France
MikeGrowing up in Grimsby Leads to Career in Sustainability
Mike Mitchell, Technical Director, The Seafood Company (Findus Group), United Kingdom

The ocean and seafood sustainability means a lot to me personally. Being a Grimsby, England, lad, I was raised in an era when fishermen were thought of as heroes and fishing as a noble but often fatal calling. I have been pained by recent decades when these heroes of my childhood have been recast as criminals and irresponsible enemies of the environment. Whilst I have never championed those who have cynically taken more than their fair entitlement, it is heartening to see the potential of a future in which fishermen are no longer disenfranchised from decision-making processes and can once again be appreciated and respected for the difficult and dangerous work they do in bringing seafood to our tables.
 
There is still a lot to do in order to realize this future, but we have made great progress so far. I have thought for some time that the green seafood movement would develop beyond the limiting strategy of "do buy-don't buy" fish lists that previously prevailed, and that responsible businesses would become increasingly engaged with activities that really make a difference, working towards improving fishery gove
Mike Mitchell, The Seafood Company
Mike Mitchell
rnance and the development of best practice standards for fishing and fish farming. I believe this has been borne out as we witness an unparalleled level of engagement by ourselves (Findus Group) and other seafood processors with governments and national agencies in the evolution of more inclusive and responsible marine policies.
 
I am very proud of the Findus Group (Findus, Young's and The Seafood Company). I believe that we have made a real difference to our industry in the United Kingdom, Europe and Scandinavia and, indeed, much further. Consequently we have made a significant material contribution toward more sustainable stewardship of the ocean. Our "Fish for Life" initiative has been a powerful tool for self-improvement and for raising the scope, profile and pace of our responsible seafood agenda.

Our brand's aspiration for 100 percent MSC certification for wild-captured species by 2012 is an example of our commitment to best practices. This has come after many years of work within the supply chain, encouraging fisheries towards participation in the scheme and building a supply base, which could ultimately deliver this challenging objective.

Whilst focused very much on our own brand values and on delivering our sustainability objectives, we must also be mindful that the global world of seafood at large is indeed, very large and that we cannot fix all of the issues that the sector faces on our own. There is no doubt though that the combined influence of all the businesses that have recognized the value of our efforts and have subsequently aligned and joined with us in this movement has been fundamental in achieving a wide range of improvements in both fishery governance and practice.
Our "Fish for Life" philosophy has given focus and direction to an active agenda of engagement and thought leadership. It has become one of the foremost influences for positive change in the seafood sector. As a sector, we must continue to work together to find new ways to conserve ocean resources while building sustainable fisheries and seafood business throughout the supply chain.
HollyScience and Passion Meet to Address Threats to the Oceans
Holly Bamford, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management, NOAA, United States

Many people feel the environment and coastal economic growth need to be at odds. However, I believe you can't have one without the other.
 
As an undergraduate, I was a business major with a minor in environmental studies who fell in love with ocean and coastal science. My biggest concern was how to conserve and sustain our coastal ecosystems and still be able to grow and maintain our coastal communities and economies. This led me into the science field where I earned a Ph.D in environmental chemistry studying the impacts of organic contaminants derived from energy consumption on the health of our coastal ecosystems. Armed with a duel background in business management and the physical sciences, I joined the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2002 as a science advisor to help bridge the gap between conservation science and economic sustainability. 
 
Today's threats to our coasts and oceans include the increased populations along our coasts, coastal development, and near-shore and off-shore energy exploration, production and consumption. All of these are vital to our economic sustainability. However, to ensure our coastal lands continue to support these demands, we need to ensure the health of our coastal environment remain intact. As we have seen recently from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, our coasts are vulnerable to these acute injuries. In my job, I strive to provide the best science tools to coastal managers so they are fully informed to make well-informed decisions that balance economic prosperity with environmental preservation.
OlivierChef Olivier Roellinger Commits to Preserving Resources
Olivier Roellinger, Chef & Vice President, Relais & Châteaux, France
 
A native of Brittany and now residing in Cancale, France, Olivier Roellinger has always been different than other chefs. With a degree in engineering, he began cooking at the age of 24. At the Maisons de Bricourt, which opened in 1982, Olivier Roellinger landed his first Michelin star in 1984, a second in 1988 and a third, the most coveted, in 2006. In 2008, he decided to give up these three stars and ever since, he has devoted himself to his seafood bistro "Le Coquillage," which is nestled in the Château Richeux above the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay, and which received its first Michelin star this year.
Since November 2009, he is also vice president of the Relais & Châteaux Association. Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 481 of fine hotels and gourmet restaurants in more than 58 countries. Established in France in 1954, the Association's mission is to spread its unique art de vivre across the globe by selecting outstanding properties with a truly unique character. The Relais & Châteaux signature reflects this ambition: "All around the world, unique in the world."

Olivier Roellinger, Relais & Châteaux
OlivierRoellinger
The sea is the pantry of humanity. We forget that it is fragile and not an inexhaustible resource.
 
On November 17, 2009, during our conference organized in Biarritz, members of Relais & Châteaux approved six commitments for the sustainable supply of marine products. We appealed to all of our colleagues throughout the world to recognize the major role that we all can play in the preservation of resources, as key advisors on the choice of species that we buy, prepare and serve. Chefs are responsible, sensitive people who must act as driving forces with the wider public.
 
Therefore, since January 1, 2010, we are committed to removing bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) from menus of restaurants that are members of Relais & Châteaux. This species is endangered; action must be taken immediately. We must be the first to sound the alarm. Being aware of the impending extinction of Atlantic bluefin tuna is very important, but we must also be vigilant with regard to all endangered species. 
 
We have the power to choose the products that we order from suppliers and propose to our clients. If a species is endangered, why not use another whose stock is not limited? All of the fish in the sea are delicious! We need to diversify the species that we use. Wherever we are on the planet, it is important that we know which species are endangered, the fishing zones and techniques, as well as the size of species at sexual maturity. We have a shared responsibility. Let us be responsible, united and committed.
 

Seafood Choices is an international program that provides leadership and creates opportunities for change across the seafood industry and ocean conservation community. We're about synergies and identifying creative solutions to long-held challenges. By building relationships and stimulating dialogue, Seafood Choices is encouraging and challenging all sectors of the seafood industry along the road toward sustainability.

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SeaWeb, founded in 1996 to raise awareness of the growing threats to the ocean and its living resources, utilizes social marketing techniques to advance ocean conservation. By increasing public awareness, promoting science-based solutions and mobilizing decision-makers around ocean conservation, SeaWeb has brought together multiple, diverse and powerful voices for a healthy ocean. www.seaweb.org.