Cooking to save the Vaquita: Part 3

Part 2: https://vlogvaquita.com/2013/12/22/cooking-to-save-the-vaquita-part-2/

*Vince Radice has brought to my attention that the sardine fishery in the Gulf of California is not as sustainable as the MSC believes, due to the seabird bycatch caused by the purse seine nets. More information below.

During our incredible trip to Boston for the New England Aquarium’s 2014 World Oceans Day Celebration (recap coming soon), we were treated to a live demonstration of sustainable seafood cooking by one of the most famous seafood chefs in the world, Barton Seaver. Barton is a leading ambassador in sustainable seafood awareness, with two amazing cookbooks on this topic. I bought a copy of his first book, For Cod and Country, and already have made two meals from it. A recurring theme in his books is: eating sustainable seafood alone will not save the ocean. Eating vegetable-oriented meals with small portions of sustainable seafood will. Salads are a perfect example.

The first dish was “Smoked Atlantic Sardines with Mixed Greens and Fig-Olive Dressing”:

Sardine Salad

Sardines are the ocean’s superfood, packed with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B2 and B12, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, niacin, iron, selenium, vitamin D, and tons of protein: http://www.amazon.com/The-Perfect-Protein-Lovers-Feeding/dp/1609614992. Additionally, they are low in mercury levels due to their position on the food chain and their short life spans. Unfortunately, these little sea gems are not caught sustainably in the Gulf of California.

The sardine fishery is one of the main fisheries in the Gulf of California, and is sustainable due to how they are caught: http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/pacific/gulf-of_california-mexico-sardine. By eating sardines from the Gulf, you are giving incentive to the gillnet fishermen to switch from shrimp, corvina, or other finfish to sardines instead.

*“The sardine fishery in the Gulf of California is not nearly as sustainable as [the MSC says]. I know the players in Guaymas who have spent a great deal of money to become sustainable, [but] incidental bycatch is a huge issue, especially with marine birds.

http://sancarlos.tv/guaymas-commercial-sardine-fishery-preliminary-report/

Also check out this article, one of my photos from the above link made it into the gallery, http://e360.yale.edu/feature/brown_pelicans_a_test_case_for_the_endangered_species_act/2764/ and for a movie that is being produced about brown pelicans by Judy Irving which is going to go into some detail on the big crash in pelagic sardines this year hopefully. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pelicandreams/pelican-dreams/

After speaking with scientists from all over the gulf they all concur one thing. The ecology of the Gulf of California has been forever changed by two factors more than just about anything. The commercial sardine fishery and the commercial shrimp fishery (the big boats, not the small artisanal fisherman as pictured in the video above).”

—Vince Radice

This means that it is not good to buy sardines from the Gulf of California. However, this does not mean that all sardine fisheries are unsustainable, so buying sardines is still a great idea for their health benefits alone. Hopefully in “Cooking to save the Vaquita: Part 5,” Vince will be able to give some more valuable insight on what is and isn’t sustainable from the Gulf.

Most people think of sardines as gross. I was one of these people until a few days ago. When I first tried the sardines, I was reluctant to even put them in the salad because I wanted to eat them all straight out of the can. They have a delicious smoky flavor with a hint of tuna. The meaty sardines perfectly complemented the salty olive dressing. Sardines have quickly become one of my favorite seafoods, and I (and hopefully you) will be eating a ton of them in the future.

Learn more here: http://www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/sardine/species_pages/pacific_sardine.htm

The main course was “Spinach- and Parmesan-crusted Tilapia”:

Spinach Tilapia

This might have been my favorite seafood dish of all time. The delectable cheesy spinach did not overpower, or was overpowered by, the sustainably farmed tilapia. It was just right, and the Panko breadcrumbs added a slight crunch that topped off the meal. Tilapia is very easy to work with due to its mild flavor, and it is always sustainable, so there is never any guilt while chowing down on the flaky white meat.

For these incredible sustainable recipes and hundreds more, purchase Barton’s book here: http://www.amazon.com/For-Cod-Country-Delicious-Sustainable/dp/1402777752

As I have said before, AVOID shrimp from Mexico, unless you are at a specifically-designated sustainable shrimp festival for the Vaquita. Here is Seafood Watch’s comments on wild-caught shrimp from Mexico:

Although shrimp are generally highly resilient to fishing pressure, many shrimp populations in the Mexican Pacific and Gulf of Mexico have been depleted. Management efforts to protect shrimp populations that include reducing the size of the fishing fleet, seasonal closure of fisheries, creating marine protected areas, and restrictions on gear have produced mixed results. Some shrimp populations are experiencing rebuilding, while others continue to decline. Even where strong regulations have been implemented, poor compliance and illegal fishing continue to plague the Mexican shrimp fisheries.

Fishing methods commonly used in Mexican shrimp fisheries result in a large amount of bycatch. Vaquitas are a critically endangered porpoise endemic to the Upper Gulf of California, and are caught in entanglement nets used by the shrimp fleet. Although entanglement nets have been banned in part of the Vaquita’s range, the extent of protection and level of enforcement is insufficient, and bycatch from the entanglement net fishery continues to threaten the species with extinction. Shrimp trawls catch other threatened and endangered species including sea turtles, seahorses, sharks and rays. However, Turtle Excluder Devices, or TEDs, which can reduce sea turtle bycatch by more than 90% if deployed correctly, are required in the shrimp trawl fishery. The mortality rates of bycatch species caught in Mexican shrimp gear and the impact on the populations of bycatch species is unknown.

With all of these factors, Seafood Watch recommends that consumers “Avoid” all wild-caught Mexican shrimp.”

 

As always, I would love to see some of your sustainable seafood recipes and dishes! Please share them with us in the comment section or by emailing me at gl.tamarin123@gmail.com. Thanks!

For more info on sustainable seafood, check out these links:

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/seafood-decision-guide/

http://kategeagan.com/2011/04/7-myths-about-sustainable-seafood-and-sustainable-seafood-recipes/

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World Wildlife Day

Today, March 3rd, is World Wildlife Day. Today is the day to take the time to appreciate our planet’s incredible creatures. In recent years, we have been depleting our world’s natural resources, especially our amazing animals. The Vaquita is one of these animals. We cannot afford to lose it in the fight against extinction, and there are many ways to help the Vaquita today.

One way is to purchase an awesome Beach Bar Radio ¡VIVA Vaquita! t-shirt, where all proceeds go to the Vaquita! The campaign ends in 28 days and their goal is 50 t-shirts. I will be getting one for my birthday!

You can also purchase my book, The Vaquita: The Biology of an Endangered Porpoise, for only, $12.95, again with all profits going to Vaquita charities.

The Vaquita: The Biology of an Endangered Porpoise

An even easier and free way to help the Vaquita is to participate in the Post-a-day Challenge! Simply write at least 1 post on social media every day for the entire month of March. #SaveTheVaquita

Post-a-day Challenge

Of course, there are many other ways to help the Vaquita, such as cooking to save the Vaquita, or just by telling your neighbors about the world’s most endangered marine mammal. No matter how big or small your contribution is, just know that the Vaquita greatly appreciates it!

Cooking to save the Vaquita: Part 2

Part 1: https://vlogvaquita.com/2013/10/26/cooking-to-save-the-vaquita/

I strongly believe that the best way to help the Vaquita is to promote sustainable seafood (and promote the Vaquita as you are doing it). As Barbara Taylor said in this article, “Fishermen are more likely to convert to Vaquita-friendly fishing gear if there is market incentive to do so.”

What is sustainable fishing in terms of the Vaquita? I think of it in 3 levels; Worst: Gillnet-caught from Vaquita’s range, Good: Anything else, and Best: Vaquita-friendly trawl from the Vaquita’s range. The reason this is the best is because not only are you not supporting gillnets, you are supporting their ‘rival,’ giving them “market incentive to convert to Vaquita-friendly fishing gear.” Of course, you generally don’t just find Vaquita-friendly shrimp in the grocery store, except for maybe very close to the Vaquita’s range, and even if you do, how do you know it is actually Vaquita-safe? So with this in mind, how are you supposed to support Vaquita-friendly shrimp if you can’t find any? The answer is shrimp festivals:

“WWF Mexico, with funds from the US Marine Mammal Commission and several private foundations are planning a series of events to promote Vaquita-safe seafood. The hope is that this will do for Vaquita what ‘dolphin-safe’ labeling on cans of tuna did for millions of dolphins in the eastern Pacific. These events will feature top chefs serving Vaquita-safe shrimp alongside Vaquita wine. The idea is to connect the fishermen who are sustainably harvesting seafood with outlets that cater to conscientious consumers, and rewarding those fishermen with a bit higher price for their value-added product. The events will need planning, labor, and folks to enjoy the food.”

Barbara Taylor

These events are incredibly important ways to help the Vaquita, and are completely accessible to the general public. The amazing group San Felipe Pescados y Mariscos recently had one of these events in Mexico. This group is doing exactly what needs to be done for the Vaquita: monitor and promote sustainable seafood from the Upper Gulf of California, including Vaquita-friendly labeling. If you can, please attend these kinds of events, show the fishermen that we do appreciate their efforts to save the Vaquita, and enjoy some of the best shrimp there is.

But what if you have my problem: location? There are still ways to support sustainable fishing without visiting a Vaquita-friendly shrimp festival near the Vaquita. The best is to make your own Vaquita-friendly seafood dish (remember my list above; if it says wild-caught in Mexico, don’t risk it. Though it could be Vaquita-safe, there is a higher chance it was gillnet-caught). Create your own recipe, or pick any of the endless dishes online or in cookbooks. Use Seafood Watch (or their great app) as your guide to make the right choices for your meal’s ingredients. Once you finish making your delicious dish, please send some pictures of it to me at gl.tamarin123@gmail.com so I can spread it around the Vaquita community! Please, share this with your friends so we can make this a really big movement!

Here is my holiday Shrimp Scampi with MSC-certified sustainable shrimp. It tasted beyond amazing!

Shrimp Scampi

New Vaquita short film!

In October I posted Chris Johnson’s new Vaquita short film. You can read that post here: https://vlogvaquita.com/2013/10/07/new-vaquita-short-film/. The video was taken down for a little while, but was re-launched on December 8 at the Society for Marine Mammology Conference in Dunedin, New Zealand. You can read all about the extraordinary video, and of course watch it, on the Whale Trackers blog (also below): http://www.whaletrackers.com/new-vaquita-short-film/. Please share!

Also, Argent Aqua Jewelry just came out with an update to this pendant: a Vermeil and diamond Vaquita. Quite a holiday gift, and $12.25 from each purchase goes to Vaquita conservation!

Please don’t forget to think about the Vaquita over the holidays. I know it is hard to worry about a porpoise while you are chowing down on a warm apple pie, but the little things really do make a huge difference. For example, you can Adopt-a-Vaquita for someone as a gift, or donate a few dollars from a Christmas card to ¡Viva Vaquita!. Maybe make a Vaquita-conscious holiday meal, buy a beautiful Vaquita item from ¡Viva Vaquita!’s gift store (with the new Memuco collection), or easiest of all, write a Facebook post or Tweet about everyone’s favorite critically endangered porpoise. And please, show us what you did! Leave a comment or shoot me an email at gl.tamarin123@gmail.com saying the wonderful things you came up with this holiday season!

Book signing recap

Here is the email I received from Beth Whittenbury (mother of William, Muskwa Club President) who so graciously helped me out by setting up and attending my “book signing” today:

“Hi Aidan:

Today went really well. They made two sales of your book, but I talked to about 20 people. I gave them all flyers with your blog address and also asked them to “like” the Muskwa video so that we can start to show the Mexican government how many people actually care about the Vaquita. You might want to ask friends and family to do the same as I do think it will make a big difference. Also, if you haven’t already subscribed to “TheMuskwaclub” YouTube channel, please do so that we can start streaming videos when we get to 100 subscribers. Everyone I talked to couldn’t believe a 13-year-old wrote and illustrated the book. They were also really impressed that you were donating back your proceeds to help save the Vaquita. Really good press for you! Also, I was wearing your “Save the Vaquita” shirt. 🙂

The event today was covered by both our local TV channel and our local paper. Your book should be prominently featured both ways over the next two weeks. So, overall, I would say it was a very successful day!”

The table that Mrs. Whittenbury manned to raise awareness for the Vaquita and my book.

The table that Mrs. Whittenbury manned to raise awareness for the Vaquita and my book.

I cannot thank Mrs. Whittenbury enough for all the help she has given me with the book, and I might not have even gotten it published in the first place if she didn’t refer me to CreateSpace.

Also, today my 9-year-old sister made the clay Vaquitas below. Please feel free to send me pictures of your Vaquita crafts at gl.tamarin123@gmail.com (especially your recipes) so I can post them on this blog. Thanks!

Clay Vaquita

Clay Vaquitas

Cooking to save the Vaquita

It is no secret that gillnets are the only danger to the Vaquita’s population. It has been that way for as long as we have known about the endemic little porpoise. So it should be quite clear what needs to happen in order to save it: get the gillnets out of the Vaquita’s range. A huge step in making this a reality is completely eliminating the purchasing of gillnet-caught seafood from the Gulf of California. The Gulf’s principal exporter is the company Ocean Garden, and the people there are big on Vaquita conservation and even founded the group Alto Golfo Sustentable (Sustainable Upper Gulf). Here is a quote from one of their newsletters:

“As a founding member of the sustainability group Alto Golfo Sustentable, Ocean Garden has taken a leadership role to protect the endangered vaquita marina porpoise and the Sea of Cortez environment, improve the efficiency of the shrimp fishery and support the native fishermen.”

It is extremely important and comforting that the primary marketer of the Gulf’s shrimp prioritizes Vaquita conservation. This should mean that the only gillnet-caught shrimp from the Gulf is for self-sustenance or local markets. However, it is thought that up to 80% of the Gulf’s shrimp is exported to the United States. It is therefore vital that we support sustainable fishing for two reasons: first, to save the ocean (the whole point of sustainable fishing), and second, to encourage the gillnet-users to make the switch to Vaquita-safe gear when they see the success of sustainable fishermen. So of course, this gave me an idea…

The idea is to use this blog as a sharing platform for sustainable recipes in order to spread the excitement of saving the Vaquita. I got the idea while reading this great post about the restaurant Misión 19’s Vaquita-friendly shrimp celebration. I have started off our own celebration by making Shrimp in Coconut-milk Broth, a dish inspired my Misión 19 chef Javier Plascencia. It was absolutely delicious and 100% sustainable.

Shrimp in Coconut-milk Broth Recipe

20131026-192910.jpg

Now it’s your turn. Do you know any sustainable seafood recipes? If not, a great resource is Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. You can even create your own dishes! Leave your recipes in the comments or even make them yourself and share it on Facebook or your own blog and send me the link. I will post any recipes I receive and might even make a few myself if they sound really good! The most important thing is that the seafood is sustainable and you have fun while helping the Vaquita!

I look forward to seeing what all you cooks out there can stir up! 😉