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Ocean friendly choices for the consumer

Guest post by Mark Southerland, PhD

edible 6 packWe are all familiar with the pervasive effect of electronic devices on communication worldwide. Nearly everyone uses texts, emails, digital documents, e-books, and social media as their primary means for conducting business and personal affairs. This has allowed communication to grow exponentially without a concomitant increase in paper production. It is now common knowledge that everyone can make specific consumer choices to save paper, and the forests that produce it, such as by receiving financial statements and medical records electronically.  There are, however, many other inventions that provide consumers an environmentally friendly choice. Here are two recent inventions where the consumer can choose to reduce their impact on our marine ecosystems.

  1. Reduced, recycled, compostable, and edible packaging – six-pack rings that fish can eat

The change to more environmentally friendly packaging for consumer products has been a more gradual evolution, often associated with advent of environmental brands of products and stores. The most recent innovation in packaging is the creation of an edible six-pack ring from barley waste produced in beer brewing .This product addresses the tragic effect that six-pack rings have on sea life through entanglement and ingestion, resulting in thousands of deaths of fish, birds, and sea turtles each year.

  1. Guilt-free seafood — removing invasive species by eating them

Lion fishRecognition of the declines in fish populations and other seafood species spawned the sustainable seafood movement in the 1990s, producing lists of sustainable seafood that has been caught or farmed in ways that protect the long-term vitality of harvested species. While many consumers make their seafood choice based on these lists of sustainable alternatives, such as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, there is now the opportunity to seek out invasive species for your dinner plate. Wegmans in Columbia (and at other stores throughout the country) has recently added lionfish to their shelves. The red lionfish of the Indo-Pacific, whose populations have exploded in the subtropical waters of the southeastern U.S. and Caribbean, is devastating local coral reef ecosystems. Let’s work together and help remove these fish by eating them.

Take-a-way: These are two easy steps that you can take to make a difference and to encourage more innovation like this.

Floating Through Coral

parrotfishWhile on a recent snorkeling trip I lost myself in the submarine habitats that skirted a small island in the Caribbean. I floated by forests of pink reindeer coral followed by a distinctly different area of brownish orange staghorn corral and then a multihued collection of fans waving as I passed. The fish population was ever-present and diverse, ranging from large, colorful parrot fish and jacks to Sergeant Majors and grunts. I loved watching Trunkfish blow away the sand in search of food and to see pencil-like Trumpetfish hovering near fans. An octopus skittered around on its tentacles right (more…)

Fish Farming in the Maritimes

maritimes - Fundy salmonThis summer, Kathy and I traveled to Downeast Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. I had not been to the Maritimes since the 1970s when I worked for a summer on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It is a beautiful part of the world.

Not much has changed, there are still many beautiful places to visit and explore. On this trip, however, I was struck by the depressed nature of homes and towns along many of the beautiful shorelines that we passed. The area had always been poor and dependent on the fishing industry, but on this trip it looked like every other house was up for sale. The traditional fishing industry is in shambles with the overfishing and consequent depletion of cod and haddock – the staples of the past. (more…)

Signs You Can Use To Restore Your Special Places

when you fertilize your lawnMost signs are ignored. Their messages are obvious or they are not of interest to us. However, recently I was walking along the docks in Portland, Maine and my attention was captured by a series of signs about human’s everyday impact on the water quality in Casco Bay. The signs were attractive and provocative. They captured my interest, and more importantly they captured my wife’s interest. We stopped and read them all the way through!!

We wondered why we did not see more signs like this around the lakes where we lived. They could have the very same (more…)