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White House honors innovators in sustainable seafood

A blog post by Dr. Kathryn Sullivan and Eileen Sobeck
October 7, 2016

Fishing is one of the country’s oldest and proudest professions, and greatest pastimes. For generations, men and women at sea and on shore have provided healthy and fresh seafood for our dinner tables, contributed to their local economies and communities, and helped create jobs around the country. 

 

An Alaskan commercial fishing boat off the coast of Kodiak Island. NOAA economists report that, in 2014 alone, commercial and recreational saltwater fishing in the United States generated more than $214 billion in sales and supported 1.83 million jobs.

The ocean, however, is not infinite in its bounty. After decades of decline, America has turned the corner on ending overfishing, and with the help of scientists, fishermen, fish farmers and managers today, our nation's fisheries are among the most sustainable in the world.

The shift wasn’t easy – it took hard work, collaboration, and sacrifice to ensure a sustainable future for our nation’s fisheries and the industry. This week, as we celebrate National Seafood Month, the White House is honoring 12 Sustainable Seafood Champions of Change. These individuals represent our  country’s finest leaders, innovators, and trailblazers committed to preserving and protecting our nation’s fisheries for the future.

Mussels farmed in coastal areas and in the open ocean are one of the most promising sectors of the U.S. marine aquaculture industry. In this photo, workers from Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Washington, harvest a mussel raft.
Mussel Harvest in Washington
Mussels farmed in coastal areas and in the open ocean are one of the most promising sectors of the U.S. marine aquaculture industry. In this photo, workers from Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Washington, harvest a mussel raft. (NOAA Fisheries)

Take Linda Benhken. Linda is the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Associationoffsite link. Fishing is iconic in Alaska. It’s also big business. In 2015, Alaskan fishermen caught 1.7 billion pounds of seafood valued at $467 million. Linda knows firsthand how much fishing means to Alaska’s communities and businesses. In 1982, she began fishing as a crew member on longline, troll, and crab boats, eventually buying her own small commercial fishing boat. She is also a founding member of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, which uses innovative financing to support pathways for the next generation of fishermen – ensuring sustainable fishing continues to be a way of life for Alaskan communities.

In 2014 alone, commercial and recreational saltwater fishing in the U.S. generated more than $214 billion in sales and supported 1.83 million jobs.

But, fishing doesn’t stop at the dock. Fishermen, seafood suppliers, and chefs work together so that families across the country have access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable seafood. Alan Lovewell comes from a Cape Cod fishing family that dates back to whaling times. In 2012, he founded Real Good Fishoffsite link as a solution to reconnect our nation’s communities with the ocean and local fisheries through a CSA-style service. He also started the Bay 2 Tray program in the Monterey Bay Unified School District to bring students local seafood that was once discarded as bycatch. These fish are now being served in tacos and salads – options that have become more popular than pizza!

A student excitedly fishes for catfish.
A student excitedly fishes for catfish. (istock)

Asian carp sashimi. Catfish stuffed in a potato skin. Lionfish. These are just some of the menu options at Bun Lai’s Miyaoffsite link’s, the first sustainable sushi restaurant in the world. But as evident from the menu, Bun decided to take sustainability a step further by making creative and inventive dishes featuring invasive species. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Bun said, “Early on I knew that in whatever I chose to do for a living, I — like my parents — needed to impact others in a positive way.” 

These are just a few of the leaders being honored this week for their efforts to find new and innovative solutions to ensure a future for our fisheries. 

It’s appropriate that we celebrate these achievements during the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the United States’ seminal fisheries law, and National Seafood Month, a time to highlight the contributions of the country’s commercial and recreational fishing industry and the value of making smart seafood choices.

Together with men and women around the country, we’re making real strides to end overfishing, leveling the playing field for U.S. fishermen and building sustainable, healthy fisheries for the future.

 

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan is the NOAA adminstrator, and Eileen Sobeck is the assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service.