Perfect, ethical, sustainable fish.
Gastronomers! You may be interested in attending this event.
The 21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy will be celebrated in Melbourne, Australia, from Friday 2 to Monday 5 December 2016. Friday and Saturday sessions are at the University of Melbourne and Sunday and Monday sessions at the William Angliss Institute, with intriguing expeditions elsewhere – see the current Program. I am very honoured to be involved as a speaker.
My Comments about Victorian Government’s proposed ban on commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay Victoria.
I’ve been meaning to comment on this earlier as I’ve been getting requests for my thoughts on this ban.
Let me cut to the chase … The ban is great. The Victorian Government need to be applauded for having the guts to finally make a decision based on the protection of the resource and environs … rather than insipidly be swayed by the power of the vote !! One can only hope that Canberra will also take a leaf out of their book.
The mindless selfishness that motivates the protestors opposing this ban is beyond belief. I have many questions for them, but one in particular that I must ask of them …”Why is it that Port Phillip Bay was once ‘the home of the XL Snapper’, yet now they are so very rarely caught”.
Let’s do a comparison of net vs individual line caught fishing.
Individual Line Caught Product
6. All of the above are very significant points … but this one is the biggest disadvantage of them all … Mass Net Caught product devalues the resource by at least 50%. Quite often a premium line caught product will bring 2 or even 3 times the price of it’s mass caught counterpart.
Those who are protesting are purely motivated by their desire to either sell or purchase “cheap” fish…with zero concern for either the resource nor the environment.
BEYOND BELIEF ?? …… INDEED !!!!
Subsequent to this program airing last Thursday night, some of my clients have experienced ill-informed diners demanding to know if the establishment has MSC Certification. This prompted the following statement being made by Shannon and I. For your further information, I have provided links of relevance to MSC certification and its dubious nature below.
As you might be aware, an SBS program debuted Thursday night entitled “What’s the Catch?”.
While both Mark and I agree that bringing attention to the issue of sustainable fishing methods is crucial, there are some flaws with much of the content in this series.
This email is designed just for education purposes, there is nothing political here and nothing to gain, we just need people to be more informed and make better choices.
This is our joint statement:
Let us start by saying that we commend both SBS and host Matthew Evans for bringing attention to the plight that Mark has lobbied so hard for, over the past 25 years, and we applaud their intent.
That said, we do have problems with many different parts of this program but of major concern is the championing of the MSC Certification and of a restaurateur that has this dubious certification – leading the national audience to believe that this was ‘world’s best practice’.
MSC Certification in our opinion is a bureaucratic con, that goes not even 10% to achieving genuine sustainability. Yes, it is an improvement, but not enough. Four years ago, Mark refused to be involved with MSC Certification, telling them that their criteria for sustainability is a farce – the techniques that they approve and endorse are still destroying our oceans and the industry.
It gives its ‘MSC Certification tick’ to operators that have improved from being TOTAL ARMAGEDDON to the fishery and environs to being just ‘TOTAL DEVASTATION’.
You can clearly see in the footage that Matthew and SBS obtained, that sickening level of by-catch. But that is when Matthew and SBS were on-board and the operators are obviously minimising their impact on by-catch by their mode of operation that night.
It is even more horrific in reality, which we have actual footage of and you will all see over the ensuing weeks – the ‘MSC Certified Vessels’ by-catch is quite often over 70% of the total catch! And there are 50 vessels doing exactly the same thing in the gulf, at the same time. One can only wonder how much fish there would be if practices like this were outlawed – along with all trawling, dredging and mass long lining.
We know how to trap prawns, which IS sustainable BUT that will mean the average punter having to be prepared to pay more for the luxury of sustainably-caught prawns and they should be a luxury – just like truffles, or a Ferrari.
Our seafood is caught with ZERO by-catch, utilising world’s best practices, with Mark factually and practically fighting this battle for over 25 years now.
Instead of asking for ‘MSC Certification’ ask for that level of detail from your ‘Sustainable’ seafood outlet or restaurant, and we will get somewhere towards a sustainable industry.
We will provide further comment on this at a later stage but thought it was important to share this information for now. In the meantime, here is an article I wrote for Munchies of VICE Magazine about sustainable seafood & my
relationship with Mark.
Shannon Bennett, Director Vue de monde and Mark W Eather
Here’s a brief list of articles with a content summary as to what each is about. Hopefully they will be of use to you or at least be at-the-ready should you need something.
“Sustainable fish customers ‘duped’ by Marine Stewardship Council. The body which certifies that fish have been caught sustainably has been accused of “duping” consumers by giving its eco-label to fisheries where stocks are tumbling.” http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jan/06/fish-marine-stewardship-council
MSC Sustainable accreditation considered for shark finning.“In what has already been branded a highly controversial move, Western Australia’s Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has announced he is seeking ‘sustainable’ certification for shark fins which regional fishermen wish to export to Asia. The situation raises the question why MSC would even choose to consider the option and in turn, why it would even be a possibility to seek this type of certification for the killing of species that are known around the world for being so heavily threatened.“http://www.theblackfish.org/news/sustainable-shark-finning.html
Collapsed Herring Fishery certified as sustainable by MSC. “A herring fishery has been declared sustainable despite catches being at the same low level as when it collapsed from overfishing”
Seafish Tasmania, the company that own the Supertrawler Margiris, is undergoing assessment for MSC accreditation. Wait. What? http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/supertrawler-abel-tasman-may-rise-again-as-seafish-tasmania-starts-fishery-assessment/story-fnj4f7k1-1227086936104
This is a disgrace!
You are all aware of my thoughts on high density Aquaculture … please spend the time to look at this article, and pass this on to everyone that you know. Quite simply, Aquaculture grow-out densities [per enclosure] have quadrupled over the past 20 years – hence the need for antibiotic in the feed !!
We have to have Aquaculture for our future, but it has to be done at optimum densities for the fish to be healthy … and additionally, not to rely on mass caught wild fish stocks to feed them. The Aquaculture Industry has to educate the average punter that genuine sustainable and healthy Aquaculture product is going to cost substantially more. Just like Trawling and other mass catch wild fisheries, Aquaculture companies are getting away with these practices – because the average consumer can’t see it … or begin to understand. Wherever these principles have been utilised in terrestrial [land based] activities – they have been banned, or at least much maligned by consumers !!
This time last year I was invited to participate in the first incantation of the MOMA markets on the rooftop of David Walsh’s amazing MONA complex. Aside from having lots of fun, and spreading the sustainable and ethical fishing message, I was continually impressed by the average punter expressing their desire for quality sashimi and seafood. We initially started out with traditional raw produce and then evolved, over a number of weeks, into a myriad of sushi, sashimi and cooked seafood dishes. My intention was to again participate this year, but the recent bushfires intervened.
In May 2012 we assisted Environment Tasmania in a gala fundraising dinner which was well-received and very successful with special thanks to my great friend Kylie Kwong and David Walsh’s incredible generosity along with his marvellous staff at Moorilla/MONA.
The Supertrawler debacle became public knowledge around the same time as this event and we all know the wonderful victory that people-power ensured…..although the Supertrawler has not gone away yet…and we must keep chipping away as she is still at Port Lincoln and her operators are still trying to morph her operation and dupe the public-bureaucrats into believing that her acting as a Mother-Ship and having smaller vessels fish into her is in some way a better result. I know I am a broken record but…they will still be using the same purse-seine techniques and pillaging the same volume of fish from the same area. When are our policy-makers going to understand that our oceanic resources are diamonds and not rocks……so that their maximum-possible value is achieved, instead of their current policy of bigger-is-better and more ‘efficient’ in harvesting large volumes….which results in ever-cheaper product and the resource being disgracefully devalued? The mass-catch technique used by the Supertrawler (and others) attains only 5 % of the premium price possible for that exact same product when its caught, handled and treated for the ever-increasing sashimi market. It is just beyond comprehension, and we need to keep fighting the fight guys.
On a much lighter note, Shannon Bennett Matt Moran along with the outstanding people at Audi, asked if I would conduct one of my ‘Sustainable Catch, Prepare and Dine Onboard” fishing trips for 30 VIP guests during the Audi Hamilton Island Race week. The day was a spectacular success, as evidenced by the photo gallery below…and nobody wanted to go home! What a spectacular outing it was ! Here’s some comments:
“Cooking along side Matt Moran is always an inspiration and a boat trip with Mark always re affirms this. Mark has a way with nature that seems like to turning a tap on a nature show. You walk away with such a great feeling of respect and responsibility to look after Mother Nature. For Matt and I this always provides a great story for the plate. I urge anyone with a passion for great produce and an interest in where their food is sourced to take a trip on Mark’s boat, it truly is a once and a life time experience.”- Shannon Bennett
“Thanks to Mark and the team, was a great day out on the water, caught some amazing cod and red emperor – can’t wait to do it again!!!” – Matt Moran
“I recently had the enormous privilege with my wife to be invited to the most interesting and exclusive fishing trip ever. Among a group of very distinguished guests we had the honour to have 2 of the finest Chefs in Australia in Matt Moran and Shannon Bennett on board. But for me and my wife the highlight of the trip was the encounter with Mark Eather and the learning we got about the Iki-jime technique as well as Mark’s constant drive on sustainability in fishing. This clearly highlighted his passion and respect to mother earth we all should have without forgetting the delicious Sashimi Shannon prepared for us with the fresh caught fishes. An unforgettable moment with a truly passionate and genuine person in Mark. Keep on going my friend!- Patrick Boutellier
Please note, that due to the recent bushfires, and my infrastructure losses as a consequence, I will not be taking any further bookings for similar outings until perhaps spring of this year (and then I hope to be back in full-swing again)…sadly we were devastated by the loss of factory, equipment, vessels and family home to the bushfires.
The wonderful support and offers of assistance has been overwhelming. I am currently exploring several avenues that will enable me to rebuild bigger-and-better so that the Dunalley community has some opportunity of continued employment prospects in the seafood industry. Sadly there are several businesses who do not intend to rebuild and I’d like to find a way to employ the people whose jobs have been lost. There are some really positive opportunities that very much in their infancy at present and I will keep you further informed as we progress.
In the mean-time we have improvised such that it is ‘business-as-usual’ and I so much appreciate your continued support. God Bless.
Last weekend I attended a couple of events on the ‘Blue on Tour’ Film Festival run by Environment Tasmania.
The renowned marine biologist and International Fisheries expert, Dr Daniel Pauly, delivered a talk on the persistent re-baselining of fish ( See his TedTalk here. “We transform the world, but we don’t remember it. We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there.”
“The ocean has degraded within our lifetimes, as shown in the decreasing average size of fish.” Daniel Pauly is the principal investigator at the Sea around Us Project, which studies the impact of the world’s fisheries on marine ecosystems. He shows that each time the baseline drops, we call it the new “normal.” At what point do we stop readjusting downward?”
I agree with him whole-heartedly. I’ve been espousing the same view for years. Trying to get the Fisheries management people to adopt a more sustainable view.
Also during the weekend held by Environment Tasmania was a discussion on the “Future of Tasmanian Fisheries” including an expert panel which comprised of:
The discussion on the “Future of Tasmanian Fisheries” was essentially hijacked to become, well, let’s say the “Future of Supertrawlers” and how “efficiency” is the primary goal in fisheries management.
Dr Colin Buxton, who was one of the authors of the paper which SeafishTasmania (operators of the Supertrawler) used to support their Supertrawler fishing objectives, himself an audience member , stood up, did not identify himself as an author of this paper, nor his involvement with IMAS. A lively discussion on the Supertrawler ensued. His two colleagues from IMAS contributed enthusiastically.
So much for discussing the “Future of Tasmanian Fisheries”.
Recently there was an article in The Australian by Necia Wilden where she described definitions of “Sustainability”.
Necia has likely been misdirected by well-read spin doctors, referring to analytical number-based definitions of sustainability rather than considering the necessary ETHICAL component required for GENUINE sustainability.
On genuine sustainable / ethical fishing …. I could write 10 pages … but I believe there are 4 major criteria which must be met, before claiming THIS status.
1. The methodology must optimise the true maximum value for that species – thereby optimising the value of the resource that Mother Nature is providing us. Respect the resource and turn every morsel into the “diamond” that it is … not wantonly mass-catch huge volumes “efficiently” and degrade these gems into a “cheap commodity”.
2. There must be ZERO resultant footprint from your fishing effort. The environs must be as pristine and untouched as when you commenced your effort.
3. There is NO such thing as “acceptable collateral damage” – as to unwanted bycatch and environs damage.
4. Catch to orders [or your own personal needs] only … never “over-catch, just because they are there”.
5. Respect the Science, as a guide only. Genuine relativity of stock assessment is reliant on a “control” to compare to. We have been trawling our Oceans since the 14th century … so quite simply, there is no “control” with which to compare to. [Refer to the Dr Pauly comments above re: “the new normal !!”].
I am yet to see any “Sustainable and Ethical” fishing certification that encapsulates all of these criteria – particularly #1, which by design I always place first in my list. It is conveniently ignored by all ….. as it is an “inconvenient truth” …… mass catching, on massive vessels, for trips that take weeks and months at a time – simply ARE NOT optimising the resource’s value. Yet, it should be the first criteria – each and every time a fishing right is to be afforded to a prospective operator.
The recent Supertrawler “Magiris” [now “Abel Tasman”] debacle is a classic example. Last weekend, I was met with a response from Martin Exel [one of her learned support team ] that the Supertrawler “is the most efficient way to catch the resource” . This “bait fish” [their terminology] which is caught by the Supertrawler, when in premium condition, can command a price more than 20 times that of their mass trawled catch YIELD. Why intentionally DEVALUE a product?
Of further concern is:
(a) why does the Supertrawler not catch their fish in their Northern Hemisphere home ?? – answer, there aren’t any left … so the EU subsidise them to come down south and plunder our hemisphere instead ??
(b) this scale of operation has never been tried in our waters … who knows what such massive catches will do when caught in a very small and localised manner ?? and;
(c) I undertand that the people on the ground in Port Lincoln have a whole different slant on where the fish caught by the Supertrawler is going …. far different to the mantra of the vessel operators, who state publicly “this fish is going to feed the starving of West Africa !” …. which by the way, are ALSO waters that the Supertrawlers have already plundered into oblivion.
Globally, we must stop all mass catch techniques. No trawling [which Dr Pauly quite rightly referred to as the “chainsaws of the sea”]. There should be no dredging, no auto-lining, no longlining or droplining [with more than 50 hooks at a time with the lines being attended to CONTINUOUSLY].
We should go back to basics with genuine “individually line caught” techniques … then, and only then, will we be able to achieve a pristine control, rather than constantly adjusting the “normal baseline” downward ….. we might even find that Mother Nature will bless us all with local sustainable bounties that will feed us all into the future.
When people who are involved in fisheries management are proposing that high-volume efficiency is king, how do we even begin to make the significant changes required to ensure sustainability?
The recent toxic algal blooms in Tasmania affecting all bi-valve molluscs and other organisms worries me. These blooms keep re-occurring. No Marine organisation seems to be seeking (and eliminating) the cause. I have noticed trends of commercial trawling and dredging followed by algal blooms and I am concerned that the authorities don’t see (or chose not to see), the correlation. They just seem to say “Oh well, another algal bloom. Better steer clear of mussels/oysters/lobsters/clams/abalone “….but what about the massive cost to not only the ecosystem but also the poor souls eking out a living from those affected species.
Why no interest in finding the cause and eliminating it?
It is widely accepted (globally) that toxic algal blooms occur because the seabed has been mechanically disturbed and organisms which normally reside in the seabed (benthic substrate) have been lifted up into the water column. The seabed normally acts as a self-sustaining septic tank, and when it’s disturbed it introduces these buried nasties into the local ecosystem, disturbing availability of light, changing growth environments and the result is that the toxic algal bloom is the most opportunistic organism and it flourishes to the disadvantage of other species….making it dangerous to consume the organisms which have been affected by it and/or consumed it. Combine this occurrence with over-fishing …which means that the organisms which normally eat the algal blooms simply aren’t there…and you have a recipe for disaster.
Dr Daniel Pauly has conducted a lot of work on trawler trails. Some links to his and other research here:
At the height of recent scallop-dredging activity, Marion Bay, when viewed from the air, was brown… one would think this phenomenon to be more than coincidental with the occurence of the recent algal bloom. I want Tasmanian and Australian fishery authorities to step up and start doing something to control algal blooms. They can start by eliminating the mechanical processes which lift the organisms up into the water column and ecosystem. Stop trawling and dredging! …of any kind.
Pre-empting the plethora of ill-informed, red-necked and self-interested reaction to these comments – there are extremely sustainable eco-friendly alternatives to both trawling and dredging…the ones that I have endeavored to have implemented for some 20 years now. For more comprehensive detail, please peruse my website.