Return to

Illegal Fishers Worst Nightmare: A Machine Learning AI That Just Got Stronger

The Global Fishing Watch just got stronger.

global fishing watch aiWith the help of Peru and Indonesia, the sophisticated, futuristic “machine learning” AI that powers the entire program just got access to one hell of a lot more raw data. On June 7th, Indonesia published its proprietary data to the Global Fishing Watch, with Peru simultaneously committing to publishing their vessel tracking data to the GFB. These developments put formerly proprietary secret data in the hands of the masses. If you haven’t heard about crowdsourced fighting of illegal fishing, you need to check our our complete profile of the program.

Why would countries publish their data for free?

According to the UN, Indonesia gains 3 percent of its national GDP from fisheries, and Peru gains 0.5% of its GDP from fisheries. This can be compared Canada, with a rate of 1.84%, and the United States of America at 0.3%. While these numbers may seem low, they do not tell the entire story. Many coastal communities rely heavily on fisheries for employment and food sources.

95% of Indonesian fisheries are artisanal fishing, meaning that they are small scale, generally traditional or subsistence fishing. This style of fishing has a much lower environmental impact than large scale commercial fishing. Small scale fisheries and individual fishers can come under pressure from larger scale illegal fishing operations. In short, they are exactly the type of fisheries that can most be helped by programs such as the Global Fishing Watch. From the same source, Peru has roughly a 10% artisanal fisheries industry by raw tonnage. While the two countries have very different economies, they both stand together against illegal fishing. By partnering with the Global Fishing Watch, countries can take important steps towards protecting their sovereignty and their full marine resources.

Our interview with the Global Fishing Watch

We wanted to learn more about this incredible program. We arranged three questions for one of GFW founding partners, Oceana, that we are excited to share with our readers.

1. The Global Fishing Watch is a partnership between governments and citizens. In your press release, we see how governments are stepping up. But what part have citizens played?

Global Fishing Watch has an array of different types of users. Citizens comprise a large and important user group that continue to contribute to the success of the tool: reporting suspicious behaviors to enforcement agencies, publishing insights on social media, sharing the tool with others and offering suggestions for new technology features.

2. The public commitments by Peru and Indonesia to share their data is a huge step forward. Do you expect more countries to make similar commitments in the
future?

Yes, we expect and hope more countries will follow suit. There are numerous benefits for governments to publish their vessel tracking data in Global Fishing Watch, including providing them a more complete picture of fishing activities in their territory. With more data comes more knowledge and with more knowledge comes better decisions. Our oceans deserve that. By combining their data with Global Fishing Watch, governments and their citizens can make the most informed decisions to protect the oceans, better tackle illegal activities at sea and protect their marine resources.

3. What are the biggest successes that Global Fishing Watch has achieved to date?

The success of Global Fishing Watch is best measured by the impacts it creates.
Impacts like assisting in getting a vessel fined for fishing illegally in a protected area, or convincing a local community to protect its fishing areas from encroaching fleets, or identifying the magnitude and scope of transshipping – all of which Global Fishing Watch is already doing. We may never know the full extent of the impacts as the tool is freely available for everyone to use, but we do encourage users to tell us stories about how it helped them

Would you link to learn more about the recent data publications of Peru and Indonesia to the Global Fishing Watch? Read the official press release.

New seafood calculator lets you know if you’re eating too much seafood

Think you’re eating too much seafood? Try this new calculator.

We all know that there are some species of seafood that we should consume in moderation. If you wonder if you are eating too much tuna, or eating too much fish, this new tool produced by the EU helps you plan your eating habits.

how much is 100 grams of salmon

The tool is very simple to use, with visual representations to make it easy to select your diet – or the diet you want to start. Although the presentation is not going to make anyone eat more sardines…

The calculator shows a list of pollutants in fish

While the calculator is not the most detailed in terms of nutrients, it excels in terms of identifying pollutants and harmful substances in seafood. Here’s an example of what someone who eats 200g of salmon, 100g tuna, and 180g of mussels would see.

pollutants in fish

On another page, each of the pollutants is defined and explained. You might be surprised to find out what is in your seafood! Check out the calculator yourself and see what you find.

One note: while we personally eat tuna in moderation, the calculator suggests that even those who pick the smallest amount possible of tuna (100g) switch to mackerel.

Who is this calculator funded by?

You always want to know the source of science. Are there any underlying motives behind the information presented? We took a look to find the source of this useful tool.

The calculator is funded by a grant from the EU as part of the ECsafeSEAFOOD under program FP7. It is a consortium of 18 partners from 10 countries with 10 goals centering around contaminants in seafood. The project is very interesting, and more research can be done on their official page.

The calculator does not show calories in sushi

The calculator is very sparse in details in terms of the planning a diet out for weight loss. If you’re looking for something much more specific in terms of calories, protein, fat, carbs and more, we have a great free resource on our calories in sushi page.

Gold plated sushi? Are you serious?

Gold plated sushi is the newest ridiculous sushi trend

gold plated sushi

If there was an Olympics for over the top sushi, this roll would take gold. This roll has 12 different ingredients from all over Japan, squished together in a cacophony of sound and taste. Available at Shinjuku Isetan in Japan, this is one spectacular creation.

So what do just under a 100 bucks get you?

• Tuna from Oma, Aomori
• Japanese puffer fish from Hyogo
• Red sea bream from Nagasaki
• Longtooth Grouper from Nagasaki
• Oval squid from Nagasaki
• Kuruma prawn from Ehime
• Steamed abalone from Miyazaki
• Boiled conger eel from Miyazaki
• Boiled horsehair crab from Hokkaido
• Salted herring roe from Hokkaido
• Salmon roe pickled in soy sauce from Hokkaido
• Raw sea urchin from Hokkaido

Oh, and we can’t forget, it’s all rolled up in gold leaf. Pure conjecture, but we’re guessing after the 9th ingredient they realized that the nori wasn’t going to cut it and went to reinforce with metal!

The Guiness Book of Records most expensive sushi

You might think a hundred bucks is a lot for a sushi roll. Try 20 times that. Here’s the incredible Chef Angelito Araneta Jr. with a roll that costs $1,978! Pink salmon, foie gras… 20-carat diamonds… Palawan pearls… wait a second, this doesn’t sound like sushi!

's most expensive sushi

Sushi gets pricy. Whether it’s the most expensive tuna, or 200 bucks a pop puffer fish, you can start to rack up a pretty hefty bill.

Shocking Seafood Fraud – Half of sushi in L.A. restaurants mislabelled

seafood fraud sushi

Our readers care about their own health, protecting our oceans, and getting what they pay for. These are three things that seafood fraud threatens. A recent study published by UCLA and Loyola Marymount University shows that the situation is more dire than we ever could have thought. While our tastebuds and eyes may be fooled, DNA analysis is much harder to trick. Roughly half of the sushi tested was mislabeled.

Halibut and red snapper are the two most fraudulently mislabeled fish. The researchers say that seafood fraud is not only constrained to restaurants, and that even purchasing fish from the grocery store can result in going home with a different species. When you look at the high prices that halibut commands, you can see how those engaging in fraudulent behavior are profiting immensely. Flounder is often replaced.

In the study, interestingly enough salmon and tuna were less often mislabeled. There are a few possible reasons for this. Is it more difficult to pass off other fish for salmon and tuna, because of the distinct flavors and colors? Or are these species more highly regulated? The Pacific fishing industry, for instance, is a highly regulated industry which is part of the Catch Certification Program.

It is a sad state of affairs when “almost always” getting what you pay for is in the upper echelon of reliability, but that is exactly where tuna is. While bluefin tuna was always exactly as ordered, yellowfin tuna was occasionally swapped for the at-risk bigeye tuna. Those of us who research ethical seafood choices before eating sushi are losing our autonomy of choice, swindled into dining on at-risk species. This shows an even darker side to sushi mislabeling. Where in some cases it is simply a matter of tricking customers to get a bigger profit, mislabeling at risk species is a way to get around environmental regulations.

One thing is clear. The program that we recently reported on, Seafood Import Monitoring Program is needed more now than ever before. People deserve to know what they are paying for. People deserve to be able to make ethical buying choices.

What is the solution to this problem? One solution would be to rely on both corporate responsibility which would allow consumers to respond with their wallets. While in most situations it is naive to rely on the well- being of corporations, the restaurant industry is one where consumers are very picky. A voluntary program where DNA testing is done on shipments, which in return would allow the restaurant to be certified as trustworthy, could sway the tide. Another option would be for more stringent government regulation, and increased programs like the Seafood Import Monitoring Program.

What do you think can be done about Seafood Mislabeling? We would love to hear your opinion in the comments below. Do you think you’ve ever been served mislabeled fish?

Newly announced Seafood Import Monitoring Program to hit IUU fishing where it hurts

The newly announced Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) will offer increased protections to consumers and the environment by cracking down on unverifiable seafood products imported into the US. Seafood imports into the US have been growing yearly, and with higher levels of import come more opportunities for seafood fraud and illegally caught seafood to enter the country.

fight sushi mislabelling

The goal of SIMP is to hit illegal fishing where it hurts – in the pocketbook. By increasing identification standards, it will be more difficult for illegally fished and misidentified seafood to hit the US market. The new program is possible because of the Executive Order in 2014–Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America’s Businesses by President Obama. This program came into being partially to stop instances of seafood fraud by mislabeling which have been widely reported.

As the project is still in its early stages, it is uncertain how exactly it will work when compared to other international programs such as the Catch Certification Program which is used by both the EU and Canada.

SIMP will start with high value fish such as tuna and swordfish, later expanding to other species.

Keto Sushi – Sushi Without Rice

Keto Sushi – Sushi Without Rice

In the New Year, many people have chosen goals of becoming healthier. Sushi is healthy and delicious, with the added health benefit of being high in Omega-3 fatty acids. But can you eat sushi when you are on the keto diet?

The problem for keto dieters is the rice, which is high in carbs. What sort of options are there for sushi without rice?

Try asking your sushi chef if they can create sushi rolls without rice

If you are lucky and you have a friendly itamae (who is particularly creative), you can try asking for sushi rolls without rice. Quick tip: restaurants are more likely to be accommodating to requests during slower nights, not when the restaurant is jam packed.

Because rice is inexpensive, you may be charged more for rolls that substitute rice for other ingredients, such as extra avocado. Make sure to ask if there are any additional charges. As well, you need to be quite wary when eating these rolls from a mess standpoint. Often, the sushi chef will have less experience creating rolls without rice. Combined with the fact that rice is an essential part of keeping the roll together, you need to take care when eating this style of sushi so that it does not end up on your shirt.

Naruto rolls are a good option for sushi on a keto diet

What is a “Naturo Roll?” Ordering a “Naruto Style” roll means that instead of rice, your roll is wrapped in very thinly sliced cucumber. Check the menu for this style of roll, and if you cannot find it, try asking your waiter if it is a possibility.

Keto Sushi using cauliflower rice

Some adventurous sushi chefs have experimented with substitutes for carbohydrate rich rice in sushi. One of the closest options in terms of texture is cauliflower rice. You probably will not find cauliflower rice in a restaurant. This is solely for those who are deciding to make their own sushi!

To make cauliflower rice, you need to coarsely chop a head of cauliflower and blend it into a food processor. Careful – over blending will create more of a paste than anything resembling rice!

Once the cauliflower resembles the consistency of rice, you can put it into a microwave for around 3 minutes on high with a little bit of olive oil to cook it. Make sure it is tightly wrapped in microwave safe cling wrap. Season with a bit of salt before using it to make your keto sushi rolls. To help make the rice sticky, add a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar.

Cauliflower rice is not going be nearly as good as authentic sushi rice for creating rolls, and will be more difficult to create something that stays together. However, if you truly cannot eat carbs, necessity is the mother of invention!

Sashimi is the best sushi option for keto diets

Sashimi is highly nutritious and delicious. You can read full nutritional information on sashimi, and reading through the chart shows that many sashimi options have between 0-1 gram of carbs per portion. Be careful of ordering imitation crab, as it is one of the highest in carbs. If you are going for sashimi, you need to go for the real deal.

Which brings us to the one con of sashimi. It is generally more expensive than other sushi options. If you want to eat sashimi cheaper than going out to a restaurant, you need to make it at home. This can be difficult for those who do not live by the ocean. Luckily, Catalina OP offers sushi grade sashimi online.

Be careful of “hidden carbs” in sushi

When you are ordering sushi with a keto diet in mind, you might not realize some unexpected sources of carbs. One of these is unagi sauce. Just an ounce can have 14 grams of carbs.

Fish personality test identifies aggressive fish in sole farming

Sole farming has a mix of aggressive and passive fish

In farming, including sole farming, different traits are more valuable. In a dairy farm, the cows that produce the most milk will be bred and encouraged. What may surprise you is that in sole farming, aggressive, pro-active fish grow faster and have higher reproductive success.

So how do you test if a fish is pro-active or not?

Tests in the past have relied on studying the body language of fish and trying to determine their personality. So what did these new researchers do?

1. Held the fish in a net in water for 90s and then in the air for 90s and marked the number of escape attempt.

2. Placed the fish into a new, smaller tank and measured how quickly they explore.

3. Flipped the fish over and recorded how long it takes to get right side up.

4. Sedated the fish and tested their plasma levels for markers of their coping styles.

5. Placed a new object in the sole’s environment (a square frame) and recorded how it takes the fish to pass through it.

6. Provided a safe, dark area and a unknown, lit area and tested how long it took fish to go from one to the other.

It seems as though passive fish are more apt to fare well in an environment that has predators. Their cautiousness and ability to adapt well to new environments makes them more suited to the wild. The aggressive, fearless fish fares well in a safe, farmed location where their natural lack of survival instincts is not a drawback.

How do these tests help sole farmers?

The aim of these tests was to provide an easily replicated way for fish farmers around the world to test the personality traits of their animals. In the past, tests required expert knowledge and more resources and had difficulty providing meaningful results.

Citation: : Ibarra-Zatarain Z, Fatsini E,Rey S, Chereguini O, Martin I, Rasines I, AlcarazC, Duncan N. 2016 Characterization of stresscoping style in Senegalese sole (Soleasenegalensis) juveniles and breeders foraquaculture. R. Soc. open sci. 3: 160495.http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160495

Pope Francis urges action in the fishing industry

Pope Francis recently called for an international effort to fight trafficking and human rights issues in the fishing industry. Why does the fishing industry have so many problems with forced labor, slavery, and human rights abuse?

seafood-slavery

Fishing is dangerous work with few protections

Working in the fishery industry is naturally more dangerous than working in a comfortable office. But while we all know this, we do not understand the true dangers that affect workers in the industry globally. The fishing industry takes people out of their towns, cities and villages and requires them to work remotely, away from oversight and regulation. And the seasonal nature of many species means that companies need to squeeze out as much productivity as possible in a fishing season. This leads to a huge amount of work in a short period of time, and when so much money is on the line companies push their workers past the limit. This can mean continuing fishing operations in storms and harsh weather, leaving fishers exposed to the elements.

In the open ocean, fishers have less power. There are informal working practices that can lead to abuse by the companies that employ fishers. The work has little guarantees and is flexible in terms of time, giving the employers all of the power.

In a global industry, there is a race to the bottom in terms of prices. It is hard to imagine an industry more global than the fishing industry. In order to cut costs and increase profits, some vessels have deplorable living conditions for fishers. When you combine this with an informal work agreement, you can have fishers living in unsafe conditions for much longer than they agreed to initially.

And that is not the worst of it. Slavery, human trafficking, and forced child labor all plague the fishing industry.

The UN even states that there is instances of required drug use in workers, as they are given amphetamines to keep up with the inhumane level of work.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin calls the human rights abuse within the global fishing industry a “chain of exploitation.” So how are international governments reacting?

The ILO Convention will be essential to spearheading change in the future. The convention, written in 2007, has just now received the 10th ratification required to go into force a year from now as Lithuania signed onto the agreement.

The ILO Convention is designed to improve working conditions on small and large fishing vessels. These vessels will have to meet higher standards for living conditions for longer term trips.

International response is complex and slow

This also showcases the sluggish speed that international reactions work at. In a ten year span, most democratic nations will undergo political shifts. Priorities change for governments, and conventions can become outdated before they are even put into effect.

It will be over a decade between the time the Convention was first proposed and when it finally comes into force.

It is not just small vessels that have problems with forced labor. Cardinal Parolin had the following to say on the subject of massive fishing vessels that have the capability to stay out at sea for years at a time that use forced labor.

“For the crews it means living in degrading conditions and in confined spaces, in circumstances that are tantamount to detention, with their documents confiscated and, in only a few cases, returned after long periods of forced and underpaid labour.”

With the global nature of the fishing industry, international agreements and treaties are required to protect fishers. But is there any way for these agreements to work in a reasonable time frame? And what is happening to vulnerable people in the industry in the ten years it can take for a Convention to come into force?

Do you enjoy octopus sushi? We’ve got some bad news…

Those new to the delicious world of sushi usually start with California rolls or Alaska rolls. Some people will be even too hesitant to try anything with raw fish, and can be tempted into the world of sushi with tempura yam or futomaki rolls. But once you get a taste of the freshness of sushi, it usually does not take long for newcomers to want to taste sashimi. The most adventurous cannot help but to try something new like eel or delicious octopus. That’s been my experience with how people are introduced to sushi, but yours may vary. We’d love to hear if you were adventurous to try a more “exotic dish” your first time!

octopus-sushi-sashimi-price

If you enjoy octopus sushi, you know that it takes time and skill to prepare octopus for sushi. Octopus sashimi is a dish that takes expert level skill to cut the meat thin enough to be a pleasant experience to eat. Octopus sashimi is generally roughly around the same price as Sockeye Salmon or Toro sashimi (at least in Vancouver BC). But that might be changing soon.

Shortages of octopus are starting to hit hard

You can expect prices to start going up. Why? Supply and demand. More people are enjoying octopus sushi and sashimi, and there is less of it in the world. I’ve been keeping an eye on sushi grade octopus prices. So far, there has not been an increase. It’s very possible that the price could go up in the near future if the shortage continues. When you hear reports that some restaurants are having their orders cancelled, you get worried. This is not the first time that octopus demand has outstripped the supply. In 2011, poor catch in Africa lead to a shortage. Shortages seem to be cyclical for tako, as octopus procreate in such large amounts – as long as temperatures are warm and there is plenty of prey.

Japan is getting the worst of the price increase

Japan is known to have the best seafood and fresh sushi in the entire world. The huge demand for octopus in Japan combined with the falling value of the yen is hurting Japanese sushi lovers the most.

Have you seen octopus prices rising, or it being taken off the menu at your favorite sushi restaurant? Please let us know in a comment below.

Black Market Seafood – how do you trust a restaurant?

Are you eating black market seafood?

Black market seafood makes you wonder which restaurants you can really trust. With the recent bust in New Zealand, we are all reminded that unsafe practices do happen in the seafood industry. When it comes to sushi and raw fish, you need to be especially vigilant.

black-market-seafood

A recent case in New Zealand is just the latest instance of black market seafood sold in a restaurant. We will not release the name of the restaurateur who just admitted to three charges relating to black market crayfish. But what comes as a shock is that the perpetrator has been in the restaurant business for years. It isn’t just up a coming restaurant owners that resort to selling black market seafood. It can be owners who have worked in the industry for decades cementing a solid reputation with their clientele.

The recent case is not the only one from New Zealand this year. In September of 2016, two men were caught in an undercover sting and fined $20,000 in New Zealand for buying black market fish. This is not one isolated incident but a potentially worrisome trend.

Think black market fish is only a problem in NZ? Think again

2010 was a record year for the states, when a $7 million dollar bust uncovered massive striped bass black market. Black market fish are all over the world, and it is not hard to see why. Whenever money is involved, people are going to cheat, steal, and work around the edges.

Why do restaurants serve black market fish?

It comes down to one consideration. Price. When you buy fish from recreational fishers rather than a licenced source, you can get it for a third of the price. In the cutthroat restaurant industry where profit margins are slim, this can be irresistible.

But we have regulations for a reason. When you go to a restaurant, you want to know you are protected by your government’s food and safety regulations. With black market fish, you are trusting the restaurant owner’s judgement on where the fish originates from and if it is safe. Is that a risk you want to be taking with sushi? Not me.

Black market seafood showcases the need for trust

For sushi lovers, black market seafood is a matter of safety. Eating raw fish carries an extra level of risk when you compare it to eating cooked fish. The existence of black market seafood in the restaurant industry is very troubling for sushi lovers. It showcases the need to trust the sushi restaurants that you go to. So how do you decide where to eat? We have a guide to choosing a sushi restaurant for exactly this question.