7 July 2012

Africa: Sushi With a Side of Conservation

Photo: UN-HABITAT / Julius Mwelu
Fishermen in action at Jamestown, Accra. Small-scale fisheries employ more than 90 percent of the world's capture fishers and are vital to food and nutrition security, poverty alleviation and poverty prevention.

press release

"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.

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.

Through its work with the Nature Conservancy, WWF , and Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bamboo Sushi buys marine protected areas with a portion of the money that it makes from sales. And for $2,000 dinner guests can pay to help track a shark with a satellite locator, they can even watch the shark's movement online. Or, for $4,000, patrons can go to Florida and personally tag a shark for tracking. These efforts have paid off and Bamboo Sushi is in the process of purchasing its first marine protected area and plans to purchase a second one are already underway.

Bamboo Sushi is not alone in its efforts to get consumers to eat sustainable sea food. Eating sustainable sushi is hard because consumers rarely know where the fish they are eating comes from. To help consumer eat more responsibly, Seafood Watch documentary "End of the Line," started Fish2fork -an online restaurant guide to restaurant specializing in sustainable seafood. Such efforts help teach us to conserve in the hopes of feeding us for a lifetime.

Graham Salinger is a research intern for Nourishing the Planet.

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