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Clare Leschin-Hoar's Posts

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The big blue: Can deepwater fish farming be sustainable?

Photo by Bryce Groark.

There’s been a closely watched experiment floating and bobbing in the eddies off the Big Island of Hawaii. Since July, an unanchored pen stocked with 2,000 hatchery-born fish known as kampachi (related to the more familiar yellowtail) has been drifting in the open ocean, tended by marine biologists from the aquaculture company Kampachi Farms. Led by industry pioneer Neil Sims, it’s been dubbed the Velella Project, and it is the first and most important attempt at commercializing offshore aquaculture in the U.S.

Most of today’s marine fish farming takes place close to shore, but many in the industry believe that in order to expand, they need to look further out to the open ocean. And they’re not alone. Aquaculturists in countries like Norway, Ireland, Canada, and Chile are also beginning to explore offshore options, though the technology to accomplish this remains in its infancy.

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Can carnivorous farmed fish go vegetarian?

Next time you order that icy jumbo shrimp cocktail, you can use this little factoid to impress your date: Shrimp are what scientists call “shredders and tearers.” They're considered opportunistic eaters, meaning they will nibble on anything they can get their grubby little hands on. Plankton, algae, maybe a dead fish they’ve bumped into by accident. They’re not fussy eaters, which is why a byproduct of the ethanol industry -- dried distillers grains -- looks especially promising to scientists focused on developing new kinds of farmed fish feed. Nom. Nom.

While there’s been some confusion over when exactly the world will be eating more farm-raised seafood than wild caught -- what’s not disputable is that our trajectory is pointed straight in that direction. (The Food and Agriculture Organization first predicted the milestone in 2009 [PDF], but has since revised it to 2015 [PDF].) Since then, the aquaculture industry has been in a race to develop more sustainable and efficient feed for all types of farm-raised fish with wildly varying nutritional needs -- after all, a vegetarian tilapia has different requirements than a carnivorous salmon. The trend, however, is to move toward more plant-based options, in part as a way to put less burden on the sea.

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Fleeced again: How microplastic causes macro problems for the ocean

On Black Friday, outdoor retailer Patagonia took out a full-page ad in The New York Times asking readers to "buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime." Beside a photo of their iconic fleece jacket, the headline read: "Don't Buy This Jacket." And, while their message about retail consumption undoubtedly made a splash, there may be yet another reason to take a pass on that cozy, modern outerware. Besides Patagonia's confession that the process of creating the R2® Jacket leaves behind "two-thirds of its weight in waste" on its way to their Reno warehouse -- it turns out …

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Small fish, big ocean: Saving Pacific forage fish

Photo: Eric Ch A few weeks ago, we told you about the contentious debate over the fate of a tiny fish known as menhaden. Meanwhile, a similar concern is quietly surfacing over several other varieties of small "forage fish" that live along the West Coast. And by forage fish we don't mean you'll find them while walking in the woods. They are small fish -- sardines, anchovy, mackerel, menhaden, squid -- that serve as food to larger carnivorous fish. They're the base of the food web, and are extremely important. When they start to disappear, then fish like salmon, halibut, …

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Good menhaden are hard to find

Menhaden, a tiny fish considered "the most important in the sea," is making big waves off the Atlantic coast. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which manages the menhaden, discovered a technical error in how they had been measuring the stocks of the forage fish that showed overfishing had occured in two of the last ten years. In fact, a longer view of the Atlantic menhaden stocks indicated that the small fry had, in fact, been overfished for more than half of the fishing seasons over the last 54 years. (Whoops!) The ASMFC has been gathering comments through public hearings …

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Feds help GMO salmon swim upstream

Photo by Isaac Wedin. AquaBounty Technology's genetically modified salmon just got a hefty financial boost from the USDA: On Monday, the agency awarded the Massachusetts-based company $494,000 to study technologies that would render the genetically tweaked fish sterile. This would reduce the likelihood they could reproduce with wild salmon, should any escape into the wild -- a scenario that has many environmentalists concerned. The Atlantic salmon, which is branded with the name AquAdvantage, has been genetically altered with a growth-hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and a "genetic on-switch" gene from an ocean pout that will allow the fish to …

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Big Food exerts unhealthy influence on America's nutritionists

The FNCE show floorIt's the second day of the Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE), the annual conference of The American Dietetic Association (ADA) -- often dubbed "the world's largest meeting of food and nutrition experts." One of the morning's sessions -- titled A Fresh Look At Processed Foods -- is well attended by around 200-300 registered dietitians (RDs), researchers, policy makers, and health-care providers. Victor Fulgoni, a 15-year Kellogg's veteran, who now runs a consulting firm called Nutrition Impact, asks the audience for help. "Rather than removing [processed foods] from the diet, let's use the power in this …

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Small fry: The case for smaller fish portions

Photo: Prize PonyThere's no question that animal protein is losing cultural prominence. It's now common for high-profile chefs to embrace the notion that meat no longer needs to sit squarely in the center of a plate, flanked by a starch at ten o'clock, and a vegetable at six. High profile eaters like President Clinton and Mark Bittman have publicly embraced vegetable-centric diets, Meatless Monday has taken off around the nation, and when we do eat meat, more and more of us are getting comfortable eating "nose-to-tail." This reconsideration of animal protein is starting to feel (almost) mainstream -- which is …

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For sharks, a race to the fin-ish line?

Photo: Robert HuffstutterCheers rang out across the Twitterverse on Tuesday when the California Senate passed legislation banning the possession, sale, or trade of shark fins, and sent the measure upstream for Gov. Jerry Brown's signature. If signed into law, California would join Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington, where similar bans have already been enacted. The gruesome practice of shark finning has made headlines for some time: Scientists estimate that 73 million sharks are caught a year. Their fins are then brutally sliced off and they are tossed back into the water to die. The results are catastrophic: Of 400 known shark …

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