Teaching Kids to Care About Abalone

I think I love abalone. Usually it’s sauteed in butter and wine and other times it’s being pleasantly surprised when I find one on a dive just hanging out between a rock and a hard case. Mainly I love them though because they are such a unique keystone species that’s integral to the grand ecosystem of marine life here in California. That being said,  the complete destruction of  abalone to the point of biological extinction here in the southern California bight does depress me. Whether it was pink, white, black, red, or  green, this mollusk that once carpeted the local sub tidal zone and supported a huge multi-million dollar fishery is only a memory these days. It collapsed as it was fished to it’s sustainable edge because we we were confident we knew what we were doing. All the while as we fished our way through one abalone species after another, nobody counted on  Mother Nature waiting in the wings with a particularly lethal strain called withering foot to provide the final nails in the coffin for the ab.

So basically they’re gone. Never to be seen again for the most part. It’s a hugely lamentable loss but I guess we have to accept it. Or do we?

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, South Gate Middle School was profiled for their efforts to raise green abalone in a classroom aquaculture environment. These efforts are are part of a larger program that challenges students to understand ocean sciences in ways that engage them personally. Developed by Nancy Caruso, a marine biologist and  executive director of the nonprofit Get Inspired Inc, the program is operating in over a half -a-dozen schools in the southland and would like to expand to  include a larger ocean abalone restoration project and they need your help, both personally and financially. So read the article below and also check out Get Inspired Inc and Nancy Caruso. It’s mission is something that all people who love the ocean can get behind.

Link to the Los Angeles Times article profiling South Gate Middle School and Get Inspired Inc.




Los Angeles Food Policy Council Nets Interest with Sustainable Seafood Solutions

Even blurry people like sustainable seafood

Baffled by what fish is the best choice when the weather is rainy(Like today) and you have to go to the store to get your seafood fix on because you can’t catch your own stuff? Welcome to the club as conscientious folks all over California are asking the same questions at local markets and restaurants “What to order?” Luckily for about 200 people at Loyola Marymount University last night, The Los Angeles Food Policy Council set out to answer that question.  Armed only with an array of delicious sustainable seafood samples and an equally impressively diverse array of experts to explain the what,where,why,when,and how of sustainable seafood, the LAFPC managed to educate, inform, and feed quite nicely a highly interested crowd.

As for the food, I could dazzle you right now with stories and photos of trout mousse, oysters Rockefeller, and smoked sable fish canapes but that wouldn’t be the point. What is important is that it’s foodie safe not to order the tuna, swordfish, or the chilean sea bass anymore. As Mary Sue Milliken, panelist chef of Border Grill and “Two Hot Tamales,” put it “Chef’s are creative” and making new food “sexy” is what they do. I feel in good hands.

Expert Panel
Mary Sue Milliken talking about making sustainable seafood sexy.

From the scientific management standpoint, Mark Helvey of NOAA, as well as Sheila Bowman of Seafood Watch,  made the argument that local is way to go. Tracking the sustainability of a local fishery and how the fish is brought to market is so much easier than trying to do the same thing with a shrimp brought in from Thailand. Fun, fascinating, and surprising facts that came out of the panel included that 70% of all seafood consumed is done through restaurants and that, according to Tim Aupperle of Whole Foods, consumers actually drive the buying practices of seafood retailers. That’s really good news.

I could spend a lot of time talking about how damaged and declined so many of our favorite fish choices have become but I don’t think that fear is the best way to move forward.  Instead, I think we should take a different route by asking the right questions and influencing the people providing your seafood. Letting them know that you expect more and are willing to pay for your principles is just as important. That’s called market-driven change and is part of why economics are such a huge part of any sustainability solution.

In a time when popular and longstanding seafood stocks are either in decline or at risk as we fish our way down the food chain, making the right choice is just half the battle. We need to do better. The Los Angeles Food Policy Council just made our battle a little easier.

Click here for food policy you can sink your teeth into
This is where you find out which fish is sustainable
This is who is trying to protect sustainable seafood
This is where you go to get sustainable seafood