July has a lot of fun “awareness” days. In fact, today is “International Nude Day” and “Shark Awareness Day.” International Nude Day may not necessarily apply to any food trucks unless you get a random streaker.
Shark Awareness Day is something altogether different. Most food truck owners are known to be scratch-made localvores that try to use organic and sustainable products. That being said, we can’t always know where our seafood is caught or harvested. Hopefully, the information presented here will give you additional tools to use when selecting the seafood that appears on your menu.
Sharks, shark attacks specifically, are gracing the news more frequently. Most recently, the attack on the surfer in Manhattan Beach, California brought to light several ocean safety concerns including, but not limited to shark fishing close to shore and the effects of changing ocean temperatures on shark behaviors.
When you buy local produce or meats and poultry, you can usually connect the dots between farmer and distributor and your kitchen. With seafood, unless you’re fishing for your own food or know the captain directly, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to connect the dots.
Our focus relating to Shark Awareness Day is awareness about how your seafood is caught. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium research and conservation site, SeafoodWatch.org, you should always ask your seafood provider, “Do you sell sustainable seafood?” Does the catching method produce large amounts of bycatch?
What is bycatch? “Bycatch” is marine life caught unintentionally in a fishery that is targeting other fish. Worldwide fisheries discard an estimated 38.5 million tons of marine life comprising of 40% of the estimated total catch.
What does this have to do with sharks? According to Shark Savers, most shark bycatch comes from open ocean fishing fleets that target valuable fish, such as, tuna. Until recently, shark bycatch was considered a nuisance and sharks were cut loose to swim away. Now that shark fins are so valuable, fleets have little incentive to reduce shark bycatch. Where sharks used to be released alive are now “finned” with their bodies dumped at sea. An estimated 50 million sharks are caught unintentionally.
Fishing methods that produce the most shark bycatch are longlines, bottom trawling, and gillnetting. We don’t need to fully educate you on fishing methods, just give you a tool to buy your seafood responsibly and sustainably.
We found the Monterey Bay Aquarium Buyer’s Guide a valuable resource for chefs, seafood professionals and consumers alike. This reference guide lists the best choices to items to avoid. The list is updated monthly and is also available in an app – great to use while at the store or when you’re dining out.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium and countless other organizations encourage you to make your buying decisions responsibly. Together we can save the oceans…one meal at a time.