Have you ever noticed that when you hear about something for the first time that you start to notice it everywhere? Or like, after you buy a new car you realize that there a lot of other cars just like yours on the road? I bought a new car last year and I was initially unsure of the color; it's this sort of brownish color. But for a few weeks after I bought the car I began to notice the color everywhere. It's not that it wasn't there before, it's just that I started to look for it more and therefore noticed it more. (By the way, now I kinda like the color. Not because tons of other people have it- but because it's not as weird as I first thought.)
This goes for traits or annoying habits in people, weird things on TV, popular colors, brands, and marketing techniques as well. If someone says something to you like, "Oh man, what's that spot on the TV?" Don't you get super pissed because you're like, "Dude! I didn't see it till you pointed it out." And then, of course, that's all you can see for the rest of the time you're watching TV. Damn that little spot. And your friend for pointing it out.
Abraham Lincoln said, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” I think this pertains particularly well to the fishing industry and fishermen. Organizations like Seafood Watch and Oceana set up guidelines specifically asking people to set out and look for the negativity in the fishing industry. (I'm really hating on those groups lately, aren't I? Meh.) I don't mean to get all hippie-dippy, but I am all about looking for the positive in a situation. Why would you want to go through life just hating on everything?
But, why can't an organization exist to point all of the good things that US fishermen are doing? Instead of penalizing the Maine lobster industry, as Seafood Watch does, by labeling them yellow or a "good choice" (as opposed to green, best choice)- why are they not rewarded for the constant changes and costly updates they are making to their gear in order to protect the damn right whales, for example?
Why do you damn the right whales, Monique? Let me tell you. I was speaking to a friend once who spent time on a vessel that was counting the right whales in the Gulf of Maine. They counted zero, and so the results of the scoping was inconclusive. I know there is more to it than that, and that much like all of the other species in the ocean- right whales come and go and move around the Gulf of Maine. My point is that fishermen in NE literally pay very high costs to protect right whales- even when they are sometimes not around.
Anyway, I'll cease with the snark.
My point is... there are a lot of really excellent efforts that US fishermen take in order to sustain their industry- be it lobster, shrimp, groundfish, alligator, or shark- and be it in Maine, Alaska, Florida, or Louisiana- and you don't really have to look that hard to find them. You just have to stop looking for the negative (I'm talking to you media, reporters, ill-informed consumers, Seafood Watch, Oceana, certain NGO's, etc...), and become more aware of the positive in the industry.
And to all the fishermen, another Abraham Lincoln quote for you to remember: “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
Thursday, February 6, 2014
This is a guest post from my friend and colleague Amanda LaBelle. Amanda and I met a few years ago through a mutual friend, and because we worked in the same industry. Common interests and being awesome has made us friends, and we've continued to work together now in a partnership via the Maybach Foundation. You'll be seeing more posts from her as we both continue to explore exactly what it means for fisheries to be a part of the food systems conversations; how do we learn from the agricultural world without reinventing the wheel or without trying to fit ourselves into an inappropriate mold for the industry.
Ok, so fishermen aren’t farmers, but, here in Maine, both are often sole-proprietors, self-insurers, nose-to-the grind, probably in no small amount of debt, Jack-of-all-trades, hands grubby, hard workin’, independent folks. And, believe it or not, seafood is food.
So what can we learn from each other?
(Cue long digression.)
A bit ago I was at a non-profit, working with fishermen in my day job and farming in my, err, other day job. I had been puzzling over how to bring more young fishermen into conversations about long-term marine issues like shared-use planning and climate change, and daydreaming of - I’m still nervous to say it now - farming full-time.
When I thought of farming, my mind swam (nearly drowned) contemplating debt and financing. I was overwhelmed by all I still needed to learn and land and a tractor I didn’t yet own. I envisioned the kind of community I wanted to build my life into and where I wanted my someday-far-down-the-road kids to learn and play. Fear of finances and failure; hopes for family and community; the hard, dirty, physical work that I loved. Sound familiar fishing families?
But there were all these resources available to me - nonprofits, financial institutions, learning opportunities, all with the success of young people like me tied tight to their mission, their funding, their raison d'être. And I listened to it all with a brain split in two, because it all sounded like it could be so damn useful to some of the fishermen I was working with.
Did you know there is a National Farm Viability Conference? That’s right. There are sufficient professionals dedicated to the viability of farm businesses, that such a thing is warranted; a whole organized slew of people paid to think about business metrics, marketing, transfer and secession planning, financing mechanisms, processing infrastructure, access - all pretty hot topics in the fisheries world last time I checked.
We cannot across the board lump fishing with farming and expect anything more than head shakes and a whole lot of embarrassing swinging and missing. The industries are just structured too differently and starting in such very different places relative to this whole food system thing. (As in most fishermen don’t know what the hell a “food system” is or what on earth it’s got to do with them.) But, many of the questions are the same and there is no sense in reinventing where we can simply retool.
Yes, there are plenty of fishermen that offload to a dealer or auction without thinking twice of where their product goes from there. In an industry that tends to manage being over-capitalized by leaning on landing product in volume, it’s hard to see a different scenario. But, there are others thinking about processing infrastructure (small cut houses for fish or drying coops for kelp), selling to institutions (I see your farm to school and raise you one boat to school), and more vertically integrated business models (oh hello, CalendarIslands Maine Lobster). As our well-staffed agricultural organizations endeavor to puzzle some of this out for farmers, we should be there with the caveats of a fisheries context in mind to do some of the learning together.
What’s more, some opportunities don’t draw a hard line between products from the land and those from the sea. Between eager consumers and private investors (oh hey there, SlowMoney Maine) keen on doing well by their environment and their communities, if fishing businesses don’t find a way to those tables, well, you know what they say about 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. –Albert Einstein
In my last post I shared a picture of a piece of pork belly that I was braising. Well, here I will share a few more pictures and share with you just how damn delicious that pork belly was. Amongst other things.
|$3.99/lbs at Bisson's in Topsham, ME|
|Dry rubbed in sweet and savory- mix can also be found at Bisson's.|
|Voila. A savory petit fours.|
|Crispy on the outside. Not too salty. Savory meat. Fat was like butter. So fucking good.|
So, the kids had a few bites and my husband and I split the rest. This was our first go-round with pork belly so it was a go-big-or-go-home-kinda-thing, so we ate all of it. Thank goodness I didn't get the meat sweats because those are just gross, but as I neared the end I definitely felt like I was getting short of breath. Pork belly is super fatty because it's cut from... the pig's freaking belly. (I just looked up the calories and I don't even want to talk about it. I'm ashamed.) Anyway, the hubs and I were saying that the next time we make pork belly we will definitely be serving it with something else, like fish. FYI: Pork belly should not be the star of dinner time at home.
But, pork belly is not the only food in the world that should be served in moderation. And I'm not talking about shitty junk food. That should be served in small amounts-to-never. I'm talking about foods like blue fin tuna, or caviar, or foie gras... ya know good foods that are... forbidden? Guilty pleasures? I don't know what to call them. My favorite foods?
The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man. – Euripede
|Ya know what's kinda funny? Can you see that this tuna steak is on the bed of a truck? Keepin' it classy.|
These just happen to be pictures of shark steaks (I think thresher.), and a tuna steak because I have access to very fresh fish during the Casco Bay Tuna Club fishing tournament every summer, as well as, because my husband fishes; I love fishing; and I live in a fishing community. But ya know what? If I went to a restaurant and they were serving a whole tuna steak or a whole shark steak... I wouldn't order it. I don't think this is the type of species or fish that should be served in bulk. It should be served in moderation so that it can be enjoyed and savored. They should be served in a trio with something else or a pesce crudo or sashimi- depending on restaurant.
I think that striking a balance in your life and your diet and in your world can be the most important thing; the easiest solution in a world full of questionable ideas and quick fixes. Herm and I will be featured on the Maine Office of Tourism website as their... fishing experts or insiders? I'm not sure what they decided to call us. Anyway, we had to decide what the "Maine thing," about living in Maine was, and we decided it was balance. We have the oceans and mountains and lakes. We have all of the seasons. We can enjoy skiing and surfing. You can enjoy fine dining or tasty diner food. We have a balance of all that a great state can offer.
I guess I mention all of that to say this: I do not understand moral absolutism. And I definitely do not understand that even people who seem reasonable tend to take on a moral absolutism when it comes to seafood and fishing. And base that absolutism on... myths, generalized seafood guides, misinformation, and assumptions.
Break. A few days later... (I wasn't sure how to sum all of that up so I paused for a couple of days and now I'm back.)
I just read this piece: A Few Simple Things You Can Do To Help The Oceans If You Don’t Have $53 Million Handy.
Sigh. OK. Here I go. I actually think it's fantastic that Oceana received a grant... "$53 million commitment over five years from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of its new Vibrant OCeans Initiative, meant to promote fishing reforms in Brazil, The Philippines and Chile, countries which host some of the world’s largest fisheries." Ya know why I think it's good? Because the fishing regulatory bodies in those countries (Sernapesca et. al.) suck and need help. They know they need help and have undergone a number of different trainings and reform to try and better their Area of IUU Fishing Control. What does IUU stand for, you might ask? Imported. Unreported. Unregulated. (I'm not even sure we have a need for that acronym in the US.) My problem is when articles such as this don't differentiate between the US fisheries and these others. Instead, the blogger goes on to recommend we eat tiny fish. Really? I get it. Eat further down on the food chain, small fish are oily and good for you, and yes, I think that they should be a part of your diet. But, a part. What about all the other wonderful fish that US fisheries have to offer?
A consumer that blindly follows Seafood Watch and other bullshit guides... (Actually, I want to pause and plug Fishwatch.gov here. If you really need a guide. This one is decent because it's specific to the US fisheries and based on science and ever-changing fishing regulations. Not hugs and hippies.) Anyway, a consumer reading this article would likely gather that fishing industries everywhere are the same, eat small fish, or eat nothing at all. Remember that last post I wrote? Eating Seafood Watch's suggested imported seafood only increases the problem with our world's fisheries. Ya know what does help- balance. (I totally knew where I was going with this all along.)
Seriously, we have an abundance of good fish caught right here in the US. Stay updated. And if you're worried about... oh say... Gulf of Maine cod, then don't eat ALL THE COD. Get one cod fillet and some pollock or hake or redfish. Despite what the news may say, by purchasing locally caught seafood, even seafood that they are telling you is doomed (DOOMED!), you are supporting good efforts to maintain the stocks. You're supporting the US fishermen who abide by the rules and don't IUU all over our ocean. (IUU all over the ocean is not an actual phrase but it should be.) It's about striking a balance in your life and on your plate.
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton