Friday, May 24, 2013

Slow Fish, Catching on Fast | Focus on | Slow Fish - Local Sustainable Fish


Brett Tolley, from the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and part of the Slow Fish network, presented the Slow Fish campaign at the Slow Food USA national convention. Here's what he tells us.

In New Orleans last week, NAMA helped Slow Food USA present Slow Fish, a campaign for good, clean, and fair fishing practices and policy that's making waves worldwide. We're humbled and honored to be part of this fast-growing network that's critical to fixing our fisheries. Among those working to fix our food system, it's agreed: the time is now to bring fishers, seafood, and ocean health into the movement.

At NAMA, we spotlight the domestic issues all the time:
  • Policies that favor consolidation in the fishing industry also harm small-scale fishers and ocean health. 
  • Transparency about where seafood comes from is hard for the public to come by. 
  • 91% of our seafood consumption is imported (from untraceable sources) - even though we catch enough domestically to easily feed ourselves. 

These trends don't bode well for small-scale fishermen or lovers of fresh, local seafood. And it's not just in the United States. In early May, NAMA joined with other stakeholders at the biennial Slow Fish conference in Genoa, Italy where this years theme was ‘the fish belong to the people.’ But we need to take the fish back. The stuff we talk about at home? It's happening all over the world.
  • Community organizers in Chile told us that 90% of their fisheries quota is controlled by only seven companies. 
  • We heard that in places like Colombia and India, upwards of 60% of critical mangrove habitat is being destroyed by industrial shrimp farming. 
  • In Peru, most of the anchovy catch gets exported for fishmeal that feeds animal agribusiness and fish farms. 
The good news is that Slow Food and networks like it have a track record for helping to reverse these trends by raising public awareness, helping people "vote with their fork," and encouraging community activism.

We know these strategies are working when it comes to food grown from the land - think of how farmers markets, CSA's and organic food has become part of the mainstream in the past decade. It's encouraging for sure, but when it comes to the fisheries, the reverse is happening. Small, low-impact fishing businesses are the fastest shrinking segment of the industry. This is why Slow Fish is needed now and stands to play such a critical role.

If we don't act fast and apply the Slow Food principles of good, clean, and fair food to the food that comes from the ocean, U.S. fisheries will continue on a path toward their transformation into an industrial, global production system. And while that system may favor a few, it certainly won't favor most of us - fishers and fish-lovers alike.

Brett Tolley
Who Fishes Matters

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