The Blog Aquatic » salmon News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Seafood Seven? Senators Act to Delay FDA Ruling on GE Salmon Sat, 12 Jan 2013 19:15:00 +0000 George Leonard

Salmon jump. From Nagem R.’s Flickr Stream. Used under a Creative Commons License.

If you missed the Food and Drug Administration’s controversial ruling during the holidays – to recommend approval of an engineered variant of farmed Atlantic salmon as the first-ever, genetically engineered animal allowed for human consumption – you aren’t the only one.

It came as a surprise to conservationists, media and policymakers alike, and the ruling opened a surprisingly short public comment period that closes on February 25.

Thankfully, seven U.S. senators are standing up for the ocean and for healthy, sustainable seafood by sending a letter to FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg today requesting a 60-day extension to the public comment period. The senators rightly believe that the public deserves more time to adequately review and comment on the FDA’s lengthy, yet intentionally narrow, report that will have far-reaching implications for the future of fish and the health of the seafood on our plates and in our ocean.

Ocean Conservancy commends the strong stance taken by Senators Begich and Murkowski of Alaska, Senators Murray and Cantwell of Washington State, Senators Wyden and Merkley of Oregon, and Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

Even though FDA had previously received 400,000 comments in opposition to genetically-engineered salmon, their final recommendation based on the narrow environmental assessment  is that this “Frankenfish” – as many people refer to it – will result in “no significant impact” on the environment.

In their letter to the FDA this week, the senators state their concerns once again about genetically-engineered salmon, calling it a “controversial and unsustainable seafood product” that could potentially escape into U.S. waters. And they promise to introduce legislation in the new Congress calling for a more comprehensive environmental review and “labeling of any such products sold in the U.S. so consumers are aware of what is on their dinner plates.”

My last piece for National Geographic explains just how flawed the FDA’s recommendation is and what Congress should to do in the New Year to make sure these controversial fish do not make it to the ocean. At present, the U.S. simply does not have in place the regulatory structure needed to address the myriad of issues posed by genetically-engineered fish.

Until it does, Congress should work to pass Senator Begich’s PEGASUS Act or similar legislation that requires FDA to take the environmental risks seriously before approving GE fish.

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FDA Misses the Boat in Signaling Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon Fri, 28 Dec 2012 15:25:33 +0000 George Leonard

Just as I was getting ready to head out for my Christmas break last week, my email Inbox signals that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its recommendation to approve the first-ever, genetically engineered animal for human consumption. For those who track the FDA, they know this isn’t unusual – the agency often makes controversial rulings right before the holidays, when decision makers, media and the public are trying to have some well-deserved downtime with their families. It was a kind of an unwelcome, fishy Christmas surprise, nestled among the garland and mistletoe.

My latest piece for National Geographic explains just how dangerous this recommendation is and what Congress needs to do in the new year to make sure these controversial fish do not make it to the ocean. The U.S. is simply not equipped to deal with this scenario.

Read my blog post on National Geographic News Watch here.

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Fish Populations Making Comeback, NOAA Report Says Tue, 22 May 2012 13:30:34 +0000 Ellen Bolen

Coho salmon are one of six populations of fish that NOAA has officially declared rebuilt in 2011. Credit: Soggydan Flickr stream

With a lot of hard work, a new trend is beginning to emerge for America’s fisheries: Good news.

A new report from NOAA shows that six populations of fish have been officially declared rebuilt in 2011, bringing that total number to 27. Fifty-one others are in process of rebuilding, while six are having plans put together now.

Of the 258 marine fish populations managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, only 36 are currently subject to overfishing. Forty-five are overfished, but due to the precise (read: weird) nature of fishery science, a fish population can be considered overfished while recovering.

Gulf red snapper is the perfect example. Its numbers have rebounded greatly over the past 2+ years, and its allowable catch levels have increased in a benefit to everyone involved, but it is still designated as overfished.

That will change as soon as scientists determine the population has fully recovered from decades of overfishing and depletion — a timeline the fishery management plan estimates to be around 2032. Recovery is ongoing, but full population restoration takes more time.

That’s a lot of numbers but what does it all mean? In short, the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working. We have laws on how wild marine fish are to be harvested: specifically Magnuson-Stevens (MSA).

The goal is to catch the fish we need for food and recreational while still preserving enough to ensure future generations. MSA added real teeth to management, set specific dates when plans needed to be put in place by regulators for overfished stocks, and set 2012 as the year overfishing must end.

The news from NOAA shows that it worked and continues to work. And while nothing — least of all MSA — is perfect, to repeal and/or water it down now would be snapping defeat from the jaws of victory.

Magnuson is working. Let it work.

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The Benefits of Knowing Where Your Fish Comes From Thu, 26 Apr 2012 18:09:31 +0000 George Leonard

Director of Strategic Initiatives George Leonard prepares his famous honey-glazed wild salmon.

I can’t wait for summer. Not for the warm beaches and suntan, but because of the barbecue. I’m not much of a chef, but I’m real good over a charcoal fire.

One of my favorite meals is honey-glazed wild salmon. And for the first time in four years, we’ll have a commercial salmon season this summer here in California. This means I’ll be able to support our local fishermen by deliberately purchasing sustainably caught, wild California salmon at many local markets.

These fish will be clearly labeled as to where they come from and how they were caught so there’s little risk that I’ll be buying a fish I don’t want – but that may soon change. For the last 18 months, the FDA has debated whether to approve the first ever, genetically engineered animal for human consumption. That animal turns out to be a fish. And not just any fish. It would be a genetically-engineered version of farmed Atlantic salmon and it is likely to be sold alongside wild California salmon.

The FDA says it’s unlikely to require the fish be labeled as “genetically engineered”, meaning consumers would have little way to know if they are buying GE salmon.  From concerns over environmental impacts, product safety and healthfulness to ethical or religious concerns, or dietary restrictions, people should have the right to know what they are putting in their bodies.

At Ocean Conservancy, we believe consumers have a fundamental right to know how their food is produced. We’ve supported mandatory requirements to label GE fish since this fish fight hit the stage in September 2010. The potential approval of GE salmon has created a firestorm of controversy, from the halls of Congress to the fishing communities on the west coast.

Congress held a hearing last fall (view my testimony here) and federal and state legislation has been introduced to mandate labeling of GE fish. At the same time, a grassroots effort hatched to pressure FDA to label all foods that contain GE ingredients.  Want to learn more? Click here to see our Infographic.

I’m going to keep my eye out for clearly labeled, wild California salmon this summer.  Being able to enjoy this gift from the sea is just one of the benefits of knowing where your fish comes from.

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