Archive for the ‘Fish’ Category


Making Waves About Sushi: An Interview with Mark Hall

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Nourishing the Planet’s Victoria Russo recently spoke with Mark Hall, an independent filmmaker based in Austin, Texas, who produced the 2012 documentary, Sushi: The Global Catch. Inspired by the prevalence of sushi in seemingly unlikely places, from Warsaw, Poland to football games in Texas, Hall created the film to track the global implications of the international raw fish industry and to better understand the consequences of sushi as a global phenomenon. 

“Sushi: The Global Catch” tracks the global implications of the international raw fish market. (Photo Credit: Francesca Forrestal)

How did your interest in the sushi industry begin? What inspired you?

I have always enjoyed eating sushi, and actually got my inspiration for the documentary while doing some non-film related work in Poland a few years ago. I was working with a group from the Ministry of Agriculture in Warsaw to assist a private organic cooperative with small farmers. When we broke for lunch, I was shocked by the fact that they proposed going for sushi. I later discovered that there were about 30 to 40 sushi restaurants in Warsaw at the time, and I was struck by how much of a global presence sushi had become in such a short amount of time. The original idea for the documentary focused largely on the lengthy global supply chains that support our growing desire for sushi, but as we delved deeper into the filming, we realized that there were significant economic, social, and environmental consequences of the growth of the sushi industry that needed to be addressed.

How did sushi grow from being a traditionally Japanese dish to a global favorite?

The Japanese pride themselves in inventing and maintaining a strong cultural tradition of making sushi. In fact, while I was in graduate school in Japan some of my Japanese friends would tease foreigners by daring them into eating sushi, because Americans at the time were not used to eating raw fish. By introducing sushi to the world, the Japanese opened something of a Pandora’s box. Now the rest of the world loves it, and it is making it more difficult for the Japanese to access the dish that they created and love. While filming “Sushi: The Global Catch,” I received a letter telling me that the first sushi restaurant in Rwanda had just opened, and I was amazed by how globalized eating sushi has become.

How has sushi changed since it has been exposed to the global market?

As sushi has grown in popularity, we have lost a sense of the cultural origins of the cuisine. In Japan, sushi started out as a meal intended for special occasions. Now, it is accessible in most parts of the world—even in gas stations. There has been cultural dilution, and non-Japanese chefs have created variations on the dish that the Japanese themselves would not even consider sushi. There are California rolls, Philadelphia rolls, and in my hometown of Austin, Texas, they even serve a Longhorn roll that has ribeye steak and candied jalapenos in it.

The film includes a segment about a school district in Texas that serves sushi at football games and various events. When you can get a good-sized sushi meal for around $10, sushi becomes more available to those working with a lower budget. The Sushi Popper, a portable package of sushi on a push-up stick, recently entered the global market and is redefining how sushi is understood. It makes it easier to buy, ship, and serve sushi in vending machines, airplanes, and schools. We need to consider the implications of sushi’s global supply chain.



Aquaponics: An Interview with Sweet Water Organics’ Matt Ray

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Nourishing the Planet’s Kimberlee Davies spoke recently with Matt Ray, the principal farmer for Sweet Water Organics, an aquaponics training organization in Milwaukee, about his experience in the field of aquaponics.

Sweet Water Organics uses aquaponics technology to grow food in downtown Milwaukee.

What is aquaponics? How did you become involved?

Aquaponics has been around for centuries. It was traditionally a technique in tropical climates, using floating bamboo rafts with vegetation in fresh water pools. This was simply the adaptation of agriculture to the tropics. The technique has become cutting edge over the last 20 years. We can adapt aquaponics to today’s geographies and culture.

Aquaponics is a blending of aquaculture (the raising of aquatic animals) and hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil). In aquaponics, aquatic animals serve as the nutrition base for the plants. The great thing about aquaponics is that it is a closed system; it doesn’t have to flow in one pipe and out of another.

I saw it begin to pop up in the late 1980s, starting with the Virgin Islands, Australia, and even Asia, where fish are grown symbiotically with rice paddies. Forward-thinking farmers and activists began to develop the practice in non-tropical climates, and academics began researching the field. Twenty years later, we have a lot more people doing it. Scientific data has emerged to support the spread and success of this technique. It’s possible to take the nuts and bolts and adapt them to wherever you are. It’s going to work and it can be replicated.



Nourishing the Planet TV: Aqua Shops

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In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet discusses FARM-Africa’s aquacultural initiative in western Kenya, which has established an Aqua Shop franchise that provides farmers with technical advice about aquaculture practices and give them the necessary materials to set up and maintain healthy fish ponds.


To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE.


Aquaculture Feeding World’s Insatiable Appetite for Seafood

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By Danielle Nierenberg and Katie Spoden

Total global fish production, including both wild capture fish and aquaculture, reached an all-time high of 154 million tons in 2011, and aquaculture is set to top 60 percent of production by 2020, according to new research conducted for Worldwatch’s Vital Signs Online service. Wild capture was 90.4 million tons in 2011, up 2 percent from 2010. Aquaculture, in contrast, has been expanding steadily for the last 25 years and saw a rise of 6.2 percent in 2011.

The global demand for farmed fish is increasing (Photo Credit: Vera Kratochvil)

Growth in fish farming can be a double-edged sword, however. Despite its potential to affordably feed an ever-growing global population, it can also contribute to problems of habitat destruction, waste disposal, invasions of exotic species and pathogens, and depletion of wild fish stock.

Humans ate 130.8 million tons of fish in 2011. The remaining 23.2 million tons of fish went to non-food uses such as fishmeal, fish oil, culture, bait, and pharmaceuticals. The human consumption figure has increased 14.4 percent over the last five years. And consumption of farmed fish has risen tenfold since 1970, at an annual average of 6.6 percent per year. Asia consumes two thirds of the fish caught or grown for consumption.



Cobia: Out of the Ocean, Into the Pen

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By Joseph Zaleski & Jeffrey Lamoureux

Many of the world’s most popular fish species are being overfished to satisfy growing demand for seafood. For researchers, the challenge is to find species that can be sustainably harvested with minimal damage to the world’s ecosystems. The cobia, Rachycentron canadum, is a promising species.

Cobia produce flavorful, healthy filets. (Image credit: Florida Sport Fishing)

Cobia is found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical waters. Dark brown with white stripes along the sides of their long, spindle-shaped bodies, they can grow to be six feet long and live for 15 years. Because of their size they are occasionally mistaken for sharks, and are often called “crabeaters” because the bulk of their diet is crustaceans and other invertebrates.

Cobia is flavorful and is used regularly in sashimi, ceviche, and grilled dishes throughout Asia and the Americas. It is a good, low-fat source of protein and several vitamins and minerals. Cobia is not a household name, however, because the fish are difficult to produce on a large scale. Cobia is generally solitary and stays near the ocean surface, preferring the shade of objects like buoys, piers, and platforms. This makes them a great catch for recreational fishers, but unviable for commercial fishermen.



Sushi with a Side of Conservation

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By Graham Salinger 

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” so the saying goes.   But how do we feed ourselves once we run out of fish? The U.N.Food and Agriculture Origination (FAO) reports that the number of people around the world who rely on fish for protein is increasing. And, as a result, the world‘s fish resources are being depleted.

A sushi restaurant in Portland helps preserve marine protected areas (Photo credit: Bamboo Sushi)

According to Nourishing the Planet’s research for the Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs Online, global fish production is at its highest level. Meanwhile, the FAO reports that an estimated 53 percent of fisheries are considered fully exploited. Furthermore, scientists predict that by 2030 an additional 37 million tons of farmed fish will need to be produced per year in order to meet demand.

To address some the challenges that overfishing present to people’s livelihood, Kristofor Lofgren started a sustainable sushi restaurant in Portland, Oregon. He created the restaurant to involve consumers in the process of conserving food resources.  He calls it the principle of “consumer regeneration” and he believes that it will help food lovers give back to the environment.Menu items at Lofgren’s Bamboo Sushi restaurant include salmon, tuna, and other sushi favorites. Conservation is also on the menu as patrons are invited to make donations to help save endangered sea life.



What Works: Aquaculture

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By Caitlin Aylward

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!

Aquaculture can be an effective means of feeding our planet and encouraging economic development. (Photo credit: Burt Lum)

As world population and incomes increase, so has the demand for fish and seafood. As of 2009, the world’s total fish production from fish caught in the wild and aquaculture reached an all time high of 145.1 million tons, a number that is only growing.

But aquaculture can be a way of procuring seafood that not only protects wild fish species and the environment, but also helps alleviate global poverty and food insecurity.

Aquaculture, in contrast with commercial fishing of wild fish, is the cultivation of fish and other aquatic life under controlled marine or freshwater environments.

According to the FAO, aquaculture is the world’s fastest-growing source of animal protein, providing around half of the world’s fish supplies. From the years 2000 to 2008 alone, fish production from aquaculture has grown more than 60 percent, from 32.4 million tons to 52.5 million tons annually.



John Foley’s TED Talk Calls Agriculture “The Other Inconvenient Truth”

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By Cameron Scherer

When asked to identify the greatest threats to our 21st century lifestyle, most of us would likely choose war or economic crisis over farming. But according to Jonathan Foley, Director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, agriculture is in fact the “single most powerful force unleashed on this planet since the end of the Ice Age.”

The Aral Sea used to be a source of irrigation and fish. Today, as a result of intensive agriculture, only a fraction of its original volume remains. (Photo credit:

In an online video of his recent TED Talk “The Other Inconvenient Truth,” Foley speaks in depth about the havoc modern agriculture is wreaking on our global environment. He says the Earth is running out of available land for farming. Today, we devote 16 million square kilometers – an area the size of South America – to croplands, and 30 million square kilometers – an area the size of Africa – to pasture for livestock. Together, this acreage comprises 40 percent of Earth’s land surface, an area 60 times greater than urban and suburban land combined.

As agriculture expands into deserts and other arid climates, our global demand for crops is putting a huge strain on our fresh-water resources as well. Seventy percent of the water we consume goes towards agriculture. Looking at it a different way, we use enough water to fill 7,305 Empire State Buildings every day.



A Dam Brings Food Insecurity to Indigenous People

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By Patricia Baquero

Along its 760-kilometer course, from the Shewan highlands in southern Ethiopia, down to Lake Turkana in Kenya, the Omo River supports half a million Indigenous People from more than two dozen different tribes, including the Bodi, Karo, Muguji, Mursi, Elmolo, Gabbra, Rendille and Hamar in the Lower Omo valley and around Lake Turkana. For generations, the Indigenous People have farmed sorghum, maize and beans along the lower Omo and around Lake Turkana region, depending on the annual flooding cycle of the river. The natural ebb and flow of the Omo River provides water for agriculture, livestock, and fishing.

The Gibe III Dam, currently under construction, could exacerbate water scarcity and conflicts in the region. (Photo credit: Mark Angelo)

But since the 1970s, droughts have increased in frequency and length, bringing famine and displacing thousands of people. Water scarcity and conflicts over water resources are also likely to worsen when the Gibe III Dam project finishes in 2012. The dam is situated about 300 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa with a capacity of 1,870 MW, and can provide power to 400 million people. Ethiopia is among the countries with the lowest rates of electricity—currently, only 15 percent of Ethiopians have access to electricity, and this access is mainly in cities.

But the dam potentially threatens the lives of the Indigenous farmers and fishers from the Omo-Turkana region. According to the African Resources Working Group (ARWG), the Gibe III dam will reduce the lake’s depth by about seven to ten meters in its first five years, adding to the effects of climate change, which has likely reduced the depth by about five to eight meters already. The dam will disturb the natural flooding cycle of the Omo River, eliminating the seasonal floods and the nutrients deposited along the river.



On the Frontlines: An Interview with Peter Hammerstedt

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By Marlena White

Name: Peter Hammerstedt

Affiliation: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Bio: Peter Hammerstedt is a regular cast member of Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars,” which covers the anti-whaling efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He will also appear on “Whale Wars: Viking Shores,” premiering Friday, April 27, at 9:00 PM (ET). The series will focus on Operation Ferocious Isles, the Sea Shepherd’s campaign against whaling in the Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic. Peter is passionate about animal rights and has often put himself in harm’s way to protect them. When he is not working on Sea Shepherd campaigns, he is pursuing a degree in Media and Communications at Stockholm University and actively campaigning with the Swedish Animal Rights Alliance.

Peter Hammarstedt can be seen on Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars: On Viking Shores.” (Photo credit: Animal Planet)

How did the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society become involved with whaling in the Faroe Islands?

Sea Shepherd has a long history of both bringing attention to and intervening in the pilot whale slaughter on the Faroe Islands, known as “The Grind.” Captain Paul Watson launched two ship-based campaigns to oppose the hunt in 1985 and 1986 and again in 2000. On all three occasions, no pilot whales were killed while Sea Shepherd patrolled the islands. In 1986, Sea Shepherd brought a film team from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to the Faroe Islands in order to capture the cruelty of the hunt, resulting in the award-winning documentary Black Harvest. The film captures a dramatic confrontation of when a Faroese gunboat pursues the Sea Shepherd’s vessel and attacks them with tear gas, in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the ship and arrest the crew.