Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Photo: Hannah Wright via Unsplash.
The Mekong River, where it passes through Cambodia.

You would think that because I was around in the 1960s, mention of the Mekong River would bring to mind only Vietnam War scenes from television. I do think of those but also of Colin Cotterrill’s Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery series, where the river is a character all its own, and where Laotian characters may cross secretly to Cambodia, Thailand, or Vietnam.

So naturally, research on the river’s improving quality caught my eye.

Stefan Lovgren has a report at YaleEnvironment360. “Among the many ailments plaguing Southeast Asia’s Mekong River, ‘hungry water’ stands out with particular clarity. In recent dry seasons, the Mekong has in places turned a pristine blue as upstream dams rob it of the nutritious particles that normally color the river a healthy mud brown. It’s a phenomenon that can be highly destructive, with the sediment-starved water eating away at unbuffered river banks — hence the ‘hungry’ epithet — and causing harmful erosion.

“It also encapsulates the troubled state of the Mekong, a river that may look healthy on the surface but has grown increasingly sick from a wide range of problems, including dam building, overfishing, deforestation, plastic pollution, and the insidious impacts of a changing climate. During El Niño-induced droughts in recent years, things got so bad that some people suggested the Mekong River was approaching an ecological tipping point beyond which it could not recover.

But events in the past year suggest such doomsday predictions may be premature, especially in Cambodia, which sits at the heart of the Mekong basin.

“Thanks to the last monsoon season, which delivered above-average rainfall to the region, and authorities cracking down on illegal fishing, fish stocks have increased. Fishers along the Mekong have discovered giant fish thought to have disappeared, and the Cambodian government, which has a mixed environmental record, has stepped up conservation efforts.

“Among them is a new government-backed proposal that seeks to turn a particularly bio-rich stretch of the river in northern Cambodia into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Such a designation, reserved for sites of great scientific or cultural significance, means this part of the river should, at least on paper, enjoy protection from various forms of development, including dam building. …

“ ‘The Mekong is not dead,’ says Sudeep Chandra, director of the Global Water Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, who leads the USAID-funded Wonders of the Mekong research project. ‘We’ve seen huge environmental pressures causing the Mekong to dry up and fisheries to almost collapse. And yet we also see the incredible resilience of this river in the face of those threats.’

“Originating in the Tibetan highlands and winding its way through six countries before disgorging into the South China Sea, the 2,700-mile-long Mekong River is home to the world’s largest inland fishery, with about 1,000 species of fish. Many of the 70 million people living in the basin rely on the river for their livelihoods, whether that is farming, fishing, or other occupations.

” ‘A case could be made that the Mekong is the world’s most important river,’ says Chandra.

“The river’s extraordinary productivity is linked to a giant flood pulse that, in the wet season, can raise water levels 40 feet. With the increase comes sediment that’s essential to agriculture as well as vast numbers of young fish, which are swept into Cambodia’s vital Tonle Sap Lake and other floodplains where they feed and grow.

“But the river’s natural flow regime has been increasingly disrupted by dams, especially those that China began building in the early 1990s in the Upper Mekong and which the country has operated with little regard for downstream impacts. 

“A subsequent frenzy of dam building in Laos and elsewhere, mostly on tributaries to the Mekong, has greatly exacerbated the problem, with dams blocking fish from completing their natural migrations. Already under extreme pressure from overfishing, some fish populations have plummeted, especially large species like the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish, which can grow to 10 feet in length and more than 600 pounds, but is now on the brink of extinction.

“With climate change intensifying, monsoon rains have become more unpredictable. During droughts in 2019 and 2020, the flow of water from the Mekong into Tonle Sap, the largest lake in Southeast Asia, dried up. …

“Mass deaths of fish due to shallow and oxygen-poor water were reported in the lake, and many of the hundreds of thousands of fishers operating on the lake were forced to abandon their work. On the Tonle Sap River, which connects the Mekong and the lake, two thirds of the 60-something commercial ‘dai’ operators working stationary nets, which in years past could each catch several tons of fish in just an hour, had to shut down. …

“However, the river system caught a break with the most recent monsoon season, which runs roughly from June to November, delivering greater than average rainfall to the lower basin and the Tonle Sap Lake region. Although China continued to hold back water to counter its persisting drought, water levels in Tonle Sap rose more than one meter above recent-year averages. With the lake expanding into seasonally flooded forests, which provide excellent feeding grounds for fish, fish populations appear to have been boosted. …

“On a recent visit to the lake, Ngor noticed an increase in medium- and large-size carps, including Jullien’s golden carp, also known as the isok barb, a critically endangered species. There were spottings of other rare fish too, like the Laotian shad and clown featherback, along with increases of more common fish, like the climbing perch and snakehead. Several wallagos, a catfish that can grow up to 8 feet long, could be seen jumping from the open water.

More at YaleEnvironment360, here. No firewall.

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Photo: David M. Jensen (Storkk) via Wikimedia.
Capuchin monkeys like the same fruits that certain fish like. And the fish know it.

My husband is up very early and often checks to see what’s doing in the No Man’s Land of early morning television. There are always lots of ads for pharmaceuticals geared to the elderly. Sometimes there are ancient black and white movies. Or there might be reruns of David Attenborough nature shows.

That’s how he learned about fish that have a symbiotic relationship with monkeys. I had to search online to learn more.

One helpful article was from DPZ in Germany, here.

“Eckhard W. Heymann of the German Primate Center (DPZ) and Shin Shin Hsia von Earth Corps have found by reviewing literature, that various vertebrate species intermittently associate with primates to profit from the primates’ behavior.

“The idea suggests itself: Where one animal species feeds, remains of the food might be dropped which will be a meal to another species or potential prey might be flushed. If both species tolerate each other, they might even benefit from each others’ alarm calls against predators. But data about such associations in primates have been mostly confined to stray remarks in primate studies.”

The authors of Unlike fellows – a review of primate-non-primate associations “have now reviewed a large number of relevant studies and by comparative analysis found that such associations have been documented quite often throughout almost all ranges of primates worldwide. Highlighting this conclusion, the review adds a new role in primates’ significance for their habitat to the roster.

“The researchers have found evidence for 174 such primate – non-primate associations (PNPA) in total, involving 64 primate species and 95 other vertebrates. Most of these associations can be categorized as commensalist: They are beneficial for the one part, neutral for the other (in this case mainly the primate species).

“Most often birds associate with primates. In Africa for example, the black-casqued hornbill (Ceratogymna astrata) joins several medium-sized primate species while these feed on fruit from trees. The birds take advantage of the relative security produced by the primates’ vigilance and alarm calls against predators. Also the asiatic chital deer (Axis axis) entertains a close relation to northern plains gray langurs (Semnopithecus entellus): the deer follows langur groups on average 2.6 hours a day to eat fruit and leaves the primates drop.

“Even associations as improbable as between fish and primates are documented: In South America, fruit-eating Piraputangas (Brycon microlepis) have been spotted following a group of capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) up to 100 yards along a river to snap up fruit dropped by the monkeys.

” ‘The geographical distribution of such associations is also significant,’ Eckhard Heymann says. Most of them are reported for the Neotropics, many for Asia and the African Continent, but none for Madagascar. ‘We have so far only documented associations for diurnal species, which in part accounts for the fact that in the madagascan species, often being nocturnal lemurs, no associations are known,’ Heymann adds.” More.

At Riozonas Acai, here, the focus is on the symbiotic relationship between certain monkeys and fish. The website hails the “ingenious fish species named piraputanga [that] can jump out the water to pick fruits off of trees that overhang the jungle rivers of Brazil. In one swift jump, it’s able to grab a handful. … This feat involves strength, agility and precision.

“The name comes from the indigenous language tupi-guarani, with two meanings, ‘fish that eats fruit’ as well as ‘reddish fish.’ Although they have a preference for fruits, their diet also consists of seeds, flowers, small fish, insects, arachnids and crustaceans. This fish lives in clear and crystalline waters, which makes it much easier to be caught. So here’s one interesting fact: if you notice crystal clear waters and little presence of piraputangas, it might be an indication that the place is not preserving the species as well as it should.

“For us humans, this fish is very well known — we could even say famous — for being hard-to-catch for those who enjoy fishing for sport. It battles and offers great resistance to be caught, and that is a great thrill for those into fishing. It is also known for providing tasty meat, being included in several recipes. It becomes slightly red when cooked, making people think tomato sauce was used during its preparation!”

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Along the Minuteman Bikeway, one finds a variety of art exhibits that stay up about a year.

There are some really good bike paths in my neck of the woods, although they don’t all connect yet because some property owners fear them. But where they do exist, they give delight to all kinds of people, not just bikers. In many sections, artists have put up temporary displays, which add to the delight.

As I showed, here, the Bruce Freeman Trail currently has imaginatively painted doors by Umbrella Arts Center artists.

And when Cate McQuaid reported in the Boston Globe about crocheted plastic-bag art in the Arlington section of the Minuteman Trail, I knew I had to check it out. Three good things at once: a pretty walk, art, and volunteers fighting to end plastic litter!

While hunting the location of “Persistence: A Community Response to Pervasive Plastic,” I also got to see the Colony installation, which was scheduled to come down. It consisted of castle-like architecture that invited visitors to add their own little elements — for example, Fisher-Price “Sesame Street” figures.

About the crocheted creations, McQuaid wrote, “Plastic persists, breaking down into microplastics, which fish eat — and if we eat fish, we also eat plastic. But there’s another reason ‘Persistence: A Community Response to Pervasive Plastic,’ an installation by Michelle Lougee along the Minuteman Bikeway, got its title.

“ ‘It’s also the persistence it took everyone to get through this time, and who helped our project persist,’ said organizer Cecily Miller, public art curator for the Arlington Commission of Arts & Culture.

“The project kicked off late last year, with rosy hopes of community crafters coming together to crochet plastic bags. Lougee would turn the components they made into sculptures of aquatic microorganisms and suspend them from trees along the Bikeway overlooking Spy Pond. Workshops and meetups kept the momentum going. Miller says more than 100 people were collecting plastic, flattening, and folding it into plastic yarn, and doing the needlework. Then came the fog of COVID-19.

“ ‘Do the plastic bags hold the virus? Can we quarantine them? Nobody really knew the answers,’ Miller said.

“Miller and Lougee forged ahead with plastic the sculptor had in storage. The social element of the project came to a halt. They posted online resources for volunteers at home. …

“ ‘We had people who did more than they would have done without the pandemic,’ Lougee said. ‘Some people were happy to have this to focus on.’ “

They persisted. The display will be up through Halloween of next year. See www.artsarlington.org/artist-in-residence. And read more from Cate McQuaid at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Cape Cod Fishermen’s Alliance
Captain Eric Hesse is a member of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, which is participating in a collaborative initiative to help food banks and fishermen at the same time.

Even though fishermen have been able to fish during the pandemic, reliable clients like restaurants have not been able to buy. Fishermen — and those who support the industry — have had to put their creativity to work to find new ways to survive.

This story highlights one recent solution, a win for food pantries as well as for fishermen.

As Meg Wilcox reported at the Boston Globe, “Massachusetts fishermen have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic, as restaurants — their main market — have closed or scaled back. Less demand for seafood means fishermen get paid less for their catch, or worse, they can’t sell it. That’s led some to make the painful decision to forgo fishing.

“Now, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance has found a way to keep fishermen on the water while also helping local families in need keep food on their tables. Haddock chowder.

“With philanthropic support from Catch Invest, the fishermen’s alliance will pay fishermen a fair, predictable price for haddock, making it worth their while to harvest the fish. The alliance will also pay a Dorchester fish processor, Great Eastern Seafood, to fillet the fish, and a Lowell soup company, Plenus Group, to produce the chowder, which it will donate to Massachusetts food banks.

“Starting Monday, Aug. 17, chowder frozen in 18-ounce containers will be provided to four Massachusetts food banks. The first donation includes 18,720 containers, providing about 56,000 individual servings. All told, some 100,000 pounds of haddock will be donated through the program. …

“Hearty, yet light, the chowder recipe features 25 percent locally caught haddock, potatoes, celery and onions, and milk sourced from New England dairy farms. Most chowders typically use only 10 to 15 percent fish, according to Seth Rolbein, director of the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust and coordinator for the effort. ‘But we felt very strongly we wanted to increase that, and make a really great chowder.’ ”

Food insecurity has increased 53 percent in Massachusetts as a result of COVID-19, so this is big.

‘Our big hope is to help with food security,’ said Rolbein, while also supporting Cape Cod’s historic small-boat, independent, fishing fleet.

“After the initial donation, the alliance plans to introduce the chowder to retail outlets under the brand name Small Boats, Big Taste to raise revenue to keep the program self-sustaining. …

“Other kinds of chowders, including quahog or oyster stew, could be added to the line based on the needs of local fishermen and the availability of product.

“The Plenus Group, maker of Herban Fresh, a soup line that supports local agriculture, and Boston Chowda, sees potential in Small Boats, Big Taste. ‘We’re hoping it takes off and are looking forward to growing it along with the fishermen’s alliance,’ said Michael Jolly, Plenus’s marketing director. ‘It’s a great product, with a great story.’ ”

More at the Globe, here. You might also be interested in this retail/wholesale seafood vendor that gives Rhode Island fishermen an outlet for their catch. I follow the family-owned company on Instagram, @andrades_catch, and I can attest that the photos are really mouth-watering.


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Photo: Julia Cumes for the Boston Globe
Mac Hay (left) and Robert Campbell at Mac’s Seafood Market in Wellfleet, Mass. Fish markets are the final link in a blockchain initiative to inform consumers about the food they buy.

Last summer I met a woman running a thriving experimental community garden on an old tennis court in the New York City projects. She told me that she got into growing produce because she found herself overthinking every decision in the grocery store: was that lettuce really organic; were the lettuce pickers paid a living wage; how much fossil fuel was burned transporting the produce to New York?

She may be an extreme example, but I’m hearing that many consumers want to know more about the origins of what they’re eating. They are much less passive about food.

Hiawatha Bray reported at the Boston Globe in October, “A Massachusetts fishing company will soon be able to show diners at a restaurant chain in California exactly where and when the seafood on their plates was harvested, in some cases even showing video of scallops being hauled out of the sea.

“ ‘They can watch it as we catch it,’ said Dan Eilertsen, owner of Nordic Inc., which operates six scallop boats based in New Bedford. ‘The whole story about the product you’re eating will be right in front of you.’

“Nordic Inc. and its distributor, Raw Seafoods Inc. of Fall River, are deploying Food Trust, a system from IBM Corp. that captures detailed information about food production from harvest to table. Now the companies are about to share this information with the consumers who feast on their products — and scallops are just the start.

Food Trust essentially creates a digital tag for each step of the food production process, the data forming a complete biography of every bite we eat, down to each ingredient in a package of processed food. …

It’s already started at French grocery chain Carrefour, which operates stores throughout Europe, China, Africa, and South America. Carrefour customers can use a phone app to find detailed information about two dozen items, including chicken, eggs, oranges, pork, and cheese; Carrefour plans to add about 100 more items by the end of 2019.

“In the United States, early Food Trust adopters are mostly using it internally, to track inventory and monitor freshness. Giant US grocery chains such as Walmart, Kroger, and Albertsons have signed on, as have a number of food suppliers such as Swiss-based Nestle, pork producer Smithfield Foods, and distributor Golden State Foods.

“An IBM spokesperson said that Nordic and Raw Seafoods will be among the first US users of Food Trust to deliver food data to consumers. The experiment begins in November, at TAPS Fish House & Brewery, a four-restaurant chain based in Brea, Calif. A special barcode will appear on the menu next to the restaurant’s scallop dishes. Tom Hope, TAPS director of food and beverage, said customers who scan the code with a smartphone will see the day and date of the scallop harvest. …

“It’s all made possible by blockchain, the technology that underlies digital currencies such as Bitcoin. A blockchain is an immense string of data, each digital tag along the food chain, as it were, adding to the string. The information is stored in an encrypted database that is dispersed across hundreds or thousands of computers. A blockchain can be easily updated with new data, and because it’s encrypted and widely distributed, it’s virtually tamperproof.

“Fishing on the open sea is hard, dangerous work, with little time to punch data into computers. Food Trust makes it easy. The name of the person on watch — the captain or the mate — is punched in once, at the start of each shift. After that, the fishermen just start bagging and tagging.

“Every time a bag hits the scales, a computer records the date and time of the catch, the boat’s latitude and longitude, and of course the weight — generally around 50 pounds each bag. There’s no need for a worker to enter data by hand; it’s all collected automatically from the boat’s GPS system, which acts as clock and calendar as well as a navigator. All this information is uploaded to the blockchain via satellite radio. A fisherman slaps a label onto each bag, with a barcode that links it to the recorded data.”

For a lot more detail, please read the Globe article, here. And start asking questions where you buy food.

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Photo: Thomas Turner/Reuters
This hoodwinker sunfish, a species discovered only in 2017, has washed up on a California beach. Scientists believe it belongs in the Southern Hemisphere.

As much as I love learning about new species like this giant sunfish from the Southern Hemisphere, I can’t help feeling concerned that it ended up on a beach where it doesn’t belong. Is this another sign of global warming? Not likely. This fish likes temperate water and would have had to pass the hot Equator. A mystery.

Christina Zdanowicz has the story at CNN. “This is the extraordinary tale of how a massive, strange-looking fish wound up on a beach on the other side of the world from where it lives. The seven-foot fish washed up at UC Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point Reserve in Southern California [in February]. Researchers first thought it was a similar and more common species of sunfish — until someone posted photos on a nature site and experts weighed in. …

“It turned out to be a species never seen before in North America. It’s called the hoodwinker sunfish.

‘When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt. This is totally a hoodwinker,’ said Marianne Nyegaard, a marine scientist who discovered the species in 2017. ‘I couldn’t believe it. I nearly fell out of my chair.’

“Nyegaard … works in the marine division at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand. … ‘We know it has the temperate distribution around here and off the coast of Chile, but then how did it cross the equator and turn up by you guys?’ …

“An intern at Coal Oil Point Reserve alerted conservation specialist Jessica Nielsen to the dead beached sunfish on February 19. When Nielsen first saw it, the unusual features of the fish caught her eye.

” ‘This is certainly the most remarkable organism I have seen wash up on the beach in my four years at the reserve,’ Nielsen said in a UC Santa Barbara press release. She posted some photos of the fish on the reserve’s Facebook page. When colleague Thomas Turner saw the photos later that day, he rushed to the beach with his wife and young son. …

“He snapped some photos of what he thought was an ocean sunfish, a rare sight up-close, he said.

” ‘It’s the most unusual fish you’ve ever seen,’ said the UC Santa Barbara associate professor.

‘It has no tail. All of its teeth are fused, so it doesn’t have any teeth. It’s just got this big round opening for a mouth.’

“Turner posted his photos on iNaturalist, a site where people post photos and sightings of plants and animals. A fish biologist commented and alerted Ralph Foster, a fish scientist and the fish curator at the South Australian Museum.

“It was Foster who first said this may be a hoodwinker sunfish and not an ocean sunfish in the comments on iNaturalist. …

“Foster excitedly emailed Nyegaard, the woman who discovered the species, and told her what he was thinking. …

“It had been two days since Nielsen had first seen the fish. When Turner and Nielsen went back to the beach [to get sharper photos], the creature was no longer there.

“They started two miles apart from each other on the beach and kept looking, walking toward each other until they found the missing fish. It had refloated on the tide and washed up a few hundred yards away, Turner said. …

“All of the features in the photos matched up with the hoodwinker. When Nyegaard saw the photos, she knew she had a hoodwinker case on her hands. …

“Both Nyegaard and Turner marveled at how social media and the iNaturalist site can help bring researchers closer to an answer. …

“Turner said it was exciting for him to help identify the first recorded sighting of a hoodwinker sunfish in North America — and only the second in the Northern Hemisphere.

” ‘I’m a professor, I’m a biologist but I didn’t actually know what was special about this fish,’ Turner said. ‘I just posted a picture and that connected me with the world’s expert and the discoverer of the species.’ ”

Super photos at CNN, here.

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98989420_04ba6d56-1f9e-40c2-a5e0-e5d9484b2294 Photo: Penny Dale/BBC Africa
In Nigerian markets the smell of stockfish — a culinary stable that comes from Norway — permeates the air.

I was interested to learn that something called “stockfish,” from Norway, has become a staple of the Nigerian diet. Penny Dale and Victoria Uwonkunda of BBC Africa have the story.

” ‘The taste of stockfish is life. We can’t cook without stockfish.’

“That’s the verdict of women at the bustling Onyingbo market in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, as they carefully choose pieces of the specially dried cod. …

“The smell of stockfish is pungent. … As the moisture drips out, the flavour of the fish deepens to create a rich, intense and complex taste.

“It is perfect for a Nigerian palate, which favours big and bold flavours such as fermented locust beans and chilli pepper, says young chef Michael Elegbde.

“Based in Lagos, Mr Elegbde is a rising star in Nigeria’s culinary world — and his signature dishes revolve around stockfish. Growing up, he spent a lot of time helping his grandmother in the kitchen, and she loved stockfish as a key ingredient in traditional dishes. …

“It was only later in life — when he had followed in his grandmother’s cooking footsteps — that he discovered the fish that he had grown up with actually came from almost half-way round the world, in the cold Arctic waters off the coast of Norway. …

“Between January and April, millions of cod migrate from the Barents Sea to breed in the fjords — and the climate is perfect for the natural drying process.

” ‘You need both cold and dry weather, and you need sun. We have everything here. We are gifted from God,’ laughs Erling Falchs, whose family business Saga Fisk has been in the stockfish trade for six generations.

“After gutting, cod is hung out on huge wooden A-frames, up to 10 metres high, and left to dry for three months in in the cold, crisp winter air. No salt, no additives – just in the same way that it has been dried since the time of the Vikings.

“Although Nigeria has a long coastline teeming with other species of fish, people say the stockfish has a unique taste and so it is Norway’s biggest export market for the fish. …

“It was the Biafran civil war in Nigeria 50 years that really set the scene for stockfish to become a must-have ingredient in Nigerian cuisine. In the course of three bloody years, more than a million people died — mostly from hunger. It was a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale, and churches and relief agencies from all over the world joined together to fly in emergency supplies.

“Norway’s contribution was stockfish. It doesn’t need refrigeration, and it is full of protein and vitamins — perfect to combat kwashiorkor, the malnutrition that characterised the Biafran war.”

Read more at the BBC, here.

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People I know are feeling wistful now that kids are heading back to school and the most beautiful days of the year have a strong hint of autumn in them.

But it’s still summer, and we should enjoy it (while also sending good vibes and more tangible support to hurricane victims in Texas).

The first of today’s photos is a Narrowleaf Evening Primrose. It took quite a Google search to find the name of this wildflower/weed. It usually blooms in our area toward the end of summer.

Again this year I tried to capture the progress of the exotic lotus blooms in a neighbor’s pond, but for some reason the full flowers I saw just hung their heads in a dispirited way, and I never got a good shot of the final glory.

I have been in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts as usual. I got to the Public Garden in downtown Boston, as you can see from the photo of Mrs. Mallard and the kids — and the shot of the swan boats at rest.

Other than that, lots of tempting shadows indoors and out. And a new fish-identification sign in Galilee promoting fish from Rhode Island fishermen.























































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Wouldn’t it be strange if China, the smog capital of the world, started assuming leadership on environmental causes like global warming, clean air, and … sustainable fish farming.

The PRI radio show Living on Earth recently explained how China was tackling the latter challenge.

“Consumer demand in both the U.S. and China for safe and healthy farmed fish is shaping aquaculture practices in the world’s most populous country. And fish farmers are using traditional Chinese medicine as well as high-tech monitoring systems as they strive to keep their fish healthy and their farming practices transparent. Jocelyn Ford reports from the Hainan Province. …

“HAN HAN: With such a huge population in China, if we didn’t have aquaculture, if we totally relied on the wild fishery. I guess we would already running out of all these wild fish, maybe 10 or 20 years ago.

“FORD: That’s Han Han, the founder of the China Blue Sustainability Institute, China’s first non-governmental, environmental organization focused on sustainable fishing and aquaculture. Today, aquaculture accounts for one of every two fish that land on the dinner table worldwide, and it’s growing faster than other sources of animal protein. China is the global aquaculture leader, and because of its expertise here, it wants to help other countries. …

“Aquaculture is expanding globally at about five percent a year, and that’s a plus for some of the Earth’s most pressing environmental issues. For example, compared to a pound of beef, a pound of fish has only about one-seventh of the carbon footprint. But large-scale aquaculture has created new problems. Naturally, farmed fish need to eat. And gone are the days when Chinese fish farms were all organic. Qi Genliu is a professor at Shanghai Ocean University.

“QI: Traditionally we used grass to culture grass carp.

“FORD: That changed with the growth of the fish feed industry and the need to feed carnivorous marine fish [and keep them disease free with antibiotics]. …

“The founder and president of The Fishin’ Company, Manish Kumar, started coming to Hainan to build a coalition for a safer, more environmentally sound and sustainable tilapia industry [using traditional herbal medicine instead of antibiotics]. His company is sponsoring trainings, and offering financial incentives to a few model farms that invest in improvements. The idea is, others will follow suit if they see it makes financial sense. …

“FORD: His ideas include increasing omega-3 levels in the tilapia, the fish oil that may help lower risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis. To help reassure customers who are nervous about what their fish are eating, next year he’s planning a state of the art oversight system that involves cameras, QR codes, and consumer monitoring.

“KUMAR: We will now proceed to do something no one in the industry has done before. Put a camera system into the farm area. A customer buys a bag of fish. You have a QR code on the bag. Run your smartphone through our QR code on the bag, and you will have a chance to see the actual farm that raised this fish in your bag. And how it’s being raised.

“FORD: Customers can see the type of feed, and the plant where the feed was made, and the insomniacs can watch the fish grow 24/7. Manish Kumar says the extra cost will be negligible. As the largest supplier of tilapia, he expects to be able to take advantage of economies of scale.”

More at Living on Earth, here, where you can learn more about the use of Chinese herbal medicine to ensure the fish stay healthy.

Photo: Jocelyn Ford
Harvesting tilapia for export on an internationally certified farm in China.

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I added Ello to my social media a while ago but am only now beginning to explore it. A kind of Facebook without ads, it seems to be preferred by people in the arts. Lately, Ello has been publishing interviews with particularly interesting users.

Here are excerpts from Ello Chief Marketing Officer Mark Gelband’s interview with Ben Staley.

“Ben Staley is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, storyteller, photographer, and professional adventure-haver. His striking portraits and nature photography are a constant source of inspiration to the Ello team. …

“Mark: I started paying really close attention to your work when you were documenting the film you’re making about ships and welders. Could you tell us more about that project?

“Ben: The project is called ‘Starbound’ and it’s about a boat of the same name. The boat is a catch processor that fishes on the Bering Sea. It’s a top performer but the factory was outdated and inefficient and they were losing money. The construction project would lengthen the boat, making it as environmentally friendly as possible and saving the jobs of the 100+ crew members. The owners are doing it for the best reasons. They could have taken the easy way out and and saved a lot of money up front and had no risk, but they undertook this incredible challenge because they care about the environment and their employees and their families. …

“For me as a storyteller it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture this process and tell their story. The family that owns the boat are incredibly committed and hardworking people and they will willingly spend more money and take on this risk to do things the right way. …

“Picking a 240 foot-long boat up out of the water, cutting it in half and sticking 60 foot section in the middle, welding it back together and putting it back in the water. All in the space of a couple months. The hard work, skill and craftsmanship are incredible. …  I’ll be making the first trip to sea with the boat later this summer and hope to have the doc done by end of year. …


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There are people who like to cook and people who like to fish, but if they are not in the same family like John’s in-laws, the caught fish may never get eaten.

Fortunately, there are now a growing number of services that will enable you to catch your fish and eat it, too.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright describe a few at the Boston Globe.

“Fishing charters are wildly popular along the sunset coast of Florida. The Gulf Coast, from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater, has some of the best deep sea fishing in the country and plenty of days of sunshine and calm seas. It’s dubbed the ‘grouper fishing capital of the world,’ but mackerel, snapper, barracuda, tuna, dolphin, wahoo, hogfish, and more are also plentiful.

“Most charters guarantee that the boat will bring back fish, and they often include free fish cleaning and ice. But what do you do with your catch if you’re staying at a vacation resort or local hotel? These restaurants in the St. Pete Beach area will gladly prepare your keepers: You catch ’em, they’ll cook ’em.”

The reporters list these spots: Friendly Fisherman (150 John’s Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach, 727-391-6025, www.gofriendlyfisherman.com); Sea Critters Café in St. Pete Beach (2007 Pass-a-Grille Way, 727-360-3706, www.seacritterscafe.com); Conch Republic Grille (16699 Gulf Blvd., N. Redington, 727-320-0536, www.conchrepublicgrill.com); and Maritana Grille (3400 Gulf Blvd., 727-360-1882, www.loewshotels.com/don-cesar/dining). Descriptions of the delicious preparations here.

My husband and John have often brought back bluefish after going out on G Willie Make-It’s charter. G Willie (Bill) cleans the fish you want and sells the fish you don’t want to local restaurants.

Not everyone loves bluefish, but the first one of the year says summer has arrived.

Photo: Pamela Wright for the Boston Globe
Eating on the outside deck at Sea Critters Café, where you can get the fish you caught turned into a meal.

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I liked this Marketplace radio story on Duluth, a very cold place where people are managing to grow lettuce and fish in the same water year-round.

Chris Julin reports, “Tony Beran is standing in the kitchen at the Lake Avenue Restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota, with a head of romaine lettuce in one hand and a clump of curly lettuce in the other.

” ‘They’re beautiful,’ he says.

“Beran’s the executive chef, and one thing he likes about these bunches of lettuce is how clean they are. ‘They’re grown aquaponically instead of in dirt,’ he says. ‘Which is wonderful in the kitchen. It’s less labor for us.’

“Another thing he likes about this lettuce is that it was grown just up the road. The restaurant features local ingredients, and Beran serves locally grown lettuce all year, which is a bit of a trick in a place like Duluth. Last winter, the temperature was below zero 23 days in a row.

“But it’s always warm in the greenhouse at Victus Farms, where Beran’s lettuce came from. It’s about an hour’s drive from Duluth in a little mining town called Silver Bay.

” ‘These are all our babies,’ says Mike Mageau, as he shows off his latest lettuce crop. [He’s a] professor of geography at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He runs a program in environment and sustainability, and this indoor farm is a research project. …

“Most of Mageau’s lettuce is floating. Each plant is stuck into a hole in an inch-and-a-half-thick sheet of polystyrene foam. The foam rafts float in pools in the greenhouse, and the lettuce roots dangle through the foam into the water.

“The fish live in a neighboring room. They’re tilapia, and they swim in nine round plastic tanks, each one about six feet tall. Waste from the fish gets pumped over to fertilize the plants in the greenhouse, and some of the pools in the greenhouse grow algae and duckweed that come back into this room to feed the fish.”

Learn more about this continuous loop and the cost to set one up at Marketplace. People commenting on the website say the concept isn’t new, but it was new to me.

Photo: Chris Julin
Mike Mageau, a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, grows lettuce year-round — indoors.

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Casey Kelly has a story at WBUR’s Only a Game on a sport enabled by the removal of dams on the Penobscot River in Maine.

The recent removal of two dams (and upgrades to others) in Maine’s Penobscot River made available over 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and other fish — and also made the river available to whitewater enthusiasts.

“The dam removal was the culmination of years of restoration efforts by several groups. The Penobscot Nation, for whom the river has been vital for centuries, helped lead that effort.

“ ‘The creator put us here, in the Penobscot River Valley,’ said James Eric Francis, Sr., the director of cultural and historic preservation for the Penobscot Nation. ‘We are surrounded by the sacred river.’

“Last month, paddlers from all over the country gathered for a race celebrating the removal of the dams.” More here, including a video.

Here’s how freeing the river came about. It was a major collaboration by disparate groups committed to identifying and acting on the values they held in common.

Photo: Craig Dilger for The New York Times  
The dismantling of the Veazie Dam is also giving 11 species of fish better access to 1,000 miles of spawning habitat.

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Photo: Masaki Miya et al. Wikimedia Creative Commons
Anglerfish use bioluminescence to attract their prey in the darkest depths of the ocean.

When John was little, he liked a book called Fish Do the Strangest Things. Strangeness is a great focus for a nature book, because everyone likes offbeat critters.

Steve Curwood, founder of the radio show Living on Earth, recently interviewed the author of a book that focuses on the strangeness of ocean life.

CURWOOD: “In an engaging new book called The Extreme Life of the Sea, biologist Steve Palumbi and his novelist son Tony deepen our understanding of how strange sea life has managed to survive against all odds. … Why did you write this book. Why now?

PALUMBI: “Well, the real reason is that we’re trying an experiment: can you take the narrative style and approach that a novelist would use and combine it with what a scientist would do? … You don’t really care about the plot until you care about the characters, and so we wanted to write a book that made you care about the characters.

CURWOOD: “Now, you write about the extreme life of the sea, the oldest, the hottest, the shallowest, to name a few. Why did you choose this approach?

PALUMBI: “Because it was a way of getting people’s attention to the really sort of amazing things that these critters do. Organisms in the sea live in some of the hottest places, they live in some of the coldest places, and how they do that is something marine scientists have paid a lot of attention to. So it was really a way to make it more engaging, more fun, and to let us move credibly between different kinds of organisms all in the same chapter. …

CURWOOD: “You had one extreme that you called immortal.

PALUMBI: “That’s an amazing jellyfish called turritopsis, and it has the remarkable ability to age in reverse. So when the environment is bad, this animal can essentially go from its adult body form back, back, back to its larval form, and then start all over again. … It’s called transdifferentiation. It’s the only critter known to be able to do that.”

More here, where you can read the rest of the transcript and listen to the recording. It’s all pretty amazing.

Photo: Eddie Welker, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)

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In case you just tuned in, this blog was started at the invitation of my daughter, who is the founder of the birthstone-jewelry company Luna & Stella. Sometimes I blog about the jewelry, but Suzanne told me to write about whatever interests me. Already a customer who was previously wary of online purchasing found the blog and wrote Suzanne that it helped her decide that Luna & Stella was good people.

The blog is currently housed at WordPress, which makes life easy for a neophyte like me. One thing that is fun at WordPress is clicking on posts from the other bloggers, posts that are on the Freshly Pressed page or found by clicking on a key word at the Tags page.

Today I got quite interested in an entry from a WordPress blogger in northern England who calls herself Heather Uphillanddowndale. She shows her photographs of a lovely Scottish island and talks about its fight against a major commercial fish farm.

I used to think fish farms made a lot of sense, but lately I have read about possible environmental damage and overcrowding that can spread disease to wild fish.

Heather quotes from a statement by island residents: “Highland Council has recently received an initial application to site a fish farm off the east coast of Eigg, north of Kildonan. The site identified covers an area extending to 20ha (this equates to 28 football pitches) & would consist of 14 x 30m diameter cages which would be serviced by a 10m x 10m permanently sited barge (powered by diesel generator).

“The community has considered this proposal at length. The outcome of the resulting ballot which had an 86% turnout was 97% against the development.

“Eigg lies within the Small Isles National Scenic Area. A large fish farm would have a considerable negative impact on the approach to the island and could also impact negatively on the peace and quiet that visitors seek when they come to the island, as well as on the quality of life of nearby residents.” Read more at Uphilldowndale.

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