My Talk with Kim McCoy
For over a month now I’ve been trying to get a handle on the production of seafood (wild caught or farm raised) and its environmental impact for our Cater to the Earth campaign. As a resource in my quest, I contacted the venerable Kim McCoy. Kim is just one of those people who never seems to tire. In her spare time she is a black belt in karate, a yoga instructor, mountain paraglider, and an avid scuba diver who loves to dive with large sharks. She is also a member of the National Disaster Animal Response Team and MENSA.
While the shark diving and paragliding made for some great conversation, I spoke with Kim mostly about her day job as International Executive Director for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Founded in 1977 and made famous by the controversial show Whale Wars, Sea Shepherd is an international marine wildlife conservation organization. Its mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. While many view them as eco-terrorists for their attacks on Japanese whaling vessels that include ramming them and boarding them in attempts to cause international incidents, they do enjoy the support of the Dalai Lama.
With seventy-six percent, according to a 2006 National Academy of Sciences study, of the world’s fisheries (a number higher then my grade in calculus)being utilized at or above their maximum levels, I was wondering just what people could do to alleviate the growing problem of overfishing. Bad news for fish lovers: according to Kim, other than an individual catching his or her own fish, there isn’t a truly sustainable way to manage our ocean’s fisheries. To highlight this point, she told me a story about her time working in a salmon processing plant in Alaska, one of the few places in the United States that is considered by many scientists as a sustainable fishery. Despite the sustainable fishing quotas that are established by government scientists, the factory was without fish for the first three weeks of the season simply because there wasn’t enough to go around.
This story makes the point that maybe there simply aren’t enough fish in the sea. As we reach our maximum output from the oceans, fish farming, will become an increasingly important part of our supply system. In fact, it already supplies almost fifty percent of the fish eaten globally today. In the United States aquaculture counts for about five percent of domestic production and is mostly centered on the catfish. This presents a problem as depending on how the fish is raised, farmed animals can be responsible for far more waste production than their wild relatives and can also introduce disease and inferior genetics (the farm ones are chosen for their ability to grow not to survive) to the wild gene pool. While Kim thinks that there may be no such thing as sustainable fishing there is a wide range of opinions on the issue. I would urge our readers to keep checking the newdream site for updates on our Cater to the Earth campaign. For which fish are most sustainable check out the Monterey Bay’s frequently updated Seafood Guides.