Even more good news!

Happy Friday! As if you need any cheering up on a Friday, I have even more good news to go along with the new 2-year gillnet ban.

After 40 years, the United States has finally made the decision to ban all seafood imports that are not marine-mammal safe. The ultimate form of a boycott, not only will this save hundreds of thousands of marine mammals from unnecessary death, it will encourage Mexican fishermen to switch to safe nets due to the increased demand of sustainable seafood by the US. Read the full article, http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/26080, below:

“In a landmark settlement reached yesterday, more than 650,000 whales, dolphins and other “bycatch” from fishing will be saved from accidental killing.

Despite US efforts to protect marine mammals in its own waters, we continue to import seafood from countries that don’t abide by our laws.

The lawsuit forces the US government to adopt long overdue policies that ban imports from those countries. All countries we import from will have to meet the same marine mammal protection standards required of US fishermen – a 40-year-old provision of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Fishing gear is the most significant threat to whale and dolphin populations worldwide. For example, Vaquita – the world’s smallest porpoise – is close to extinction because so many are caught in Mexico’s shrimp gillnets. There are only 97 left. Under the new policy, that shrimp would be barred from entering the US until fishing fleets meet standards that protect Vaquita.

Vaquita

“This law provides real, enforceable protections for marine mammals and sets up an even playing field that allows our fishermen to be competitive in the US market. If we’d had these standards 40 years ago, we wouldn’t be scrambling today to save the imperiled Vaquita. Thankfully, if this law is implemented, other species won’t share their fate,” says Zak Smith of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Americans eat 5 billion pounds of seafood each year, about 90% of which is imported and half, wild-caught.

The settlement in the US Court of International Trade is on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Natural Resources Defense Council. The US government has until 2016 to develop standards that imports must meet.

It’s supported by an executive order on oceans from President Obama last year, which takes aim at rampant seafood fraud and the global black market fish trade. He directed federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program that deters illegal fishing and prevents illegally caught fish from entering the US marketplace (20-32% of all wild-caught seafood!).

Global Fishing Watch will be there to help by exposing illegal practices and creating a deterrent to breaking the law.”

This new law will tie in very nicely with all of VIVA Vaquita and the Muskwa Club’s plans during the new 2-year ban. All of these new developments, if well-implemented, might have come just in time to save the Vaquita.

If we can save the Vaquita through sustainable fishing, we are showing the world that we can coexist with animals without one or the other suffering. Also, it will be an example of what can be done to save a species, inspiring other conservationists to not give up. So what I’m saying is, not only does it matter for the Vaquita itself, but saving this species will have timeless global implications.

Greenpeace’s petition was a big part of this new ban, garnering over 320,000(!) signatures, each one sending a letter directly to the President of Mexico. But they made an important point:

“There are some missing measures that must be included for this [2-year ban] to be fully effective. The most important is to strengthen surveillance and enforcement. Illegal gillnetting in the Vaquita habitat is common and must be eliminated. We’re also urging the Mexican government to make this a permanent ban on gillnet fishing.

By the end of this month the proposal will have passed through consultation and be ready for a final draft. This doesn’t mean the campaign is over, as there may be more campaigning needed… there’s a big difference between what’s written on paper and what happens on the water.”

It is wonderful to have such a big powerhouse organization like Greenpeace fighting for the Vaquita.

Each day I get more confident that we really will save this species.

Time for action

97. There are 97 Vaquitas left on this planet. For every Vaquita on earth, there are 82 million people.

To date, nothing that has been done to save them has worked. It is a harsh reality for all of us in the field of Vaquita conservation, and now there is the threat of Totoaba fishing for the Asian black market, which we didn’t think was occurring in substantial amounts anymore.

A big change is necessary if we plan on saving this species. We have been incredibly diplomatic with the fishermen, but obviously it has not been working. We need help from very important people, and we will certainly try our hardest to make that happen. Please read this message from ¡VIVA Vaquita!: http://www.vivavaquita.org/VV_Emergency2014.html.

¡VIVA Vaquita! is requesting that the Mexican Government do everything in its power (and make full use of assistance offered from other countries, such as the United States) to eliminate all gillnet fishing in the Vaquita’s range in the next two months. If this does not happen, we will immediately begin campaigning for a boycott of ALL Mexican seafood products, until such time that the ban is considered to be in effect.

Right now, the most important thing that the general public can do is sign and share this new petition from the Ocean Conservancy:

http://act.oceanconservancy.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=41469&em_id=30824.0

 

Graphic © Joe Dlugo

Graphic © Joe Dlugo

It is vital that everyone shares the Vaquita’s predicament on social media before it is too late. If you have not already, “like” ¡VIVA Vaquita! on Facebook for important updates.

A good example of social media helping a cause is “Changing Hearts, Minds, and Lives.” They are a Facebook group (of which I am a member of) that uses social media to spread the word about important environmental issues, such as the Vaquita.

Countless major news companies have been attracted to the Vaquita’s story, but unfortunately, it’s because of how close to extinction it is. Hopefully this new level of recognition can have a positive impact on the species.

If you live near the Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, then please attend their book signing on Saturday, November 8th, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Beth Whittenbury will be representing my book there, so please pay her a visit and buy my book! Thanks so much Mrs. Whittenbury!

Lauri Hamilton has submitted a video for National Geographic’s Expedition Granted program for a chance at a $50,000 grant to go out and film Vaquitas. Please vote for her on September 16 if she is one of the finalists! She used one of my drawings for the video, which I am very thankful for. Here is the link: http://expeditiongranted.nationalgeographic.com/project/the-vaquita-project/.

If we all work together to save the Vaquita, it really does have a chance…

Now is the time for action.

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/

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

The big 3

According to leading Vaquita researcher Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, there are 3 initiatives that we members of the general public can participate in to legitimately make a difference in the Vaquita’s situation. They are:

1. Raise awareness
2. Convince restaurants to only buy their shrimp from safe sources
3. Raise money towards the switch-out program

The first one has so many different levels to it. This blog is an example of the online branch of public awareness, as is a Vaquita-related Facebook post. Another branch is face-to-face awareness, such as the tables manned by the Muskwa Club and ¡Viva Vaquita!, or a Vaquita speech at an event. Some other things that can raise awareness are books (mine is the only one so far), pamphlets, or public service announcements (especially on the radio). The online branch is the easiest and most effective, because you can instantly send information around the world with the click of a button. The hard part is getting the information to a large enough audience with the information being worthwhile enough that they will, in turn, pass it around to other people. Luckily, the Vaquita is a very worthwhile cause. So all you need to do is start a chain of posts about it, and those very posts could end up being read by every person on earth.

The second one is only for the dedicated Vaquita conservationist. It would require quite a bit of research and getting out of the house. For example, the next time you go to Red Lobster, ask your waiter where the shrimp comes from. If they don’t know, ask to speak with the manager. I honestly have never seen shrimp that was not farm-raised somewhere in Asia, but I always make sure. Always. Even though there is much debate as to how/where shrimp should be caught for maximum sustainability, anything other than gillnet-caught in the Gulf of California is fine from a Vaquita standpoint. It is most important to check restaurants and grocery stores for Vaquita-unsafe shrimp if you live near Mexico, in places like California and Arizona. There are many sites, including http://vaquita.tv/, that go into detail about sustainable seafood. After all, gillnet fishing is the only thing wiping out the Vaquita. Why not make sure that you aren’t supporting it?

The third and final initiative is raising money towards the switch-out program. The Muskwa Club and the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter have teamed up to create the only charity that sends money directly to the switch-out program, and nothing else. This is vital because the switch-out program is believed to be the best chance for the Vaquita, because it is unreasonable to think that the fishermen will just give up fishing for some unknown business that could get them nowhere financially. The switch-out is a best of both worlds situation, because the fishermen still can fish with the new nets that have proven to be as or more effective than gillnets, while the Vaquitas are put in little to no danger whatsoever. To donate to the new charity, please write a check to P.O. Box 1208, San Pedro, CA 90733-1208 and write Vaquita on the memo line. Yes, I know it is a cliché, but every dollar really does count. But the Muskwa Club has bigger plans. We are attempting to contact eco-conscious celebrities and billionaires as potential funding sources. Leonardo DiCaprio and Pierce Brosnan are both part of huge efforts to save tigers and whales, so why not the Vaquita? Warren Buffett just donated $2.6 billion to charity. Yes, you read that correctly. The entire switch-out program can be funded with, at most, $180 million. I am not necessarily saying we are going to get $180 million from Mr. Buffett, but it is exciting to think about what one human can do. He can literally save a species, in theory.

Maybe I will start playing the lottery.