A Sea of Waste

10 May 2013

Of every 100 kilograms of wild catch, just 20 kilograms arrive in the market; the rest ends up back in the sea – dead or dying. “A Sea of Waste,” a Water Workshop at the Slow Fish event happening now until Sunday in Genoa, confronted the widespread but still little known problem of fish waste due to discards – that is, fishers sorting their catch onboard and throwing back any species that don’t meet commercial targets, even though the majority is perfectly edible.

“I am the son of fishers and know the sea well,” said Ángel León, the innovative Spanish chef from Cadiz who has adopted an anti-waste policy in his Michelin-starred restaurant. “Around 15 years ago I began researching the unexplored marine bounty of my native port, and now I serve 17 types of plankton.” Ángel has taken seafood cuisine to the extreme, and his restaurant menu includes 26 dishes, representing the whole food chain. “With fish, we don’t stop with the species that are in fashion. I am convinced that chefs and gastronomy have a fundamental role in the education of taste.”

While Ángel provided an inspiring example of how we can use a wide range of ‘neglected’ edible species, relieving the pressure on the most popular fish, Marino Vacchi from the University of Genoa provided some data on the issue. “In Italy, the biggest problem is that governments have stopped the research, and so we have to refer to data from the year 2000.” At that time FAO recorded an annual waste of 27 million tons of fish per year. The consequences are severe: “The resulting depletion of fish populations and loss of biodiversity has caused real havoc for marine ecosystems and a drastic change in the food chain. This in turn sees the rise of those species that are able to easily adapt their diet, as in the case of cod in U.S. Grand Banks.”

Many solutions were proposed during the workshop. “To reduce discards, we must increase fishing that uses selective gear,” said Adnan Ayaz Onseikiz from Canakkale Onseikiz Mart University in Turkey. “My advice is simple: Never take fish from the ocean that aren’t going to be eaten. We have predicted that if the necessary steps aren’t taken, stocks will collapse by 2050. We must establish catch quotas and the use of nets and gear that enable selective catch.”

One positive example given was that of the Camogli fishing cooperative, located just south of Genoa. Marine biologist Nadia Repetto told the story of the fishermen who have maintained the ancient tonnarella method of fishing and formed a Slow Food Presidium. “The Camogli tonnarella [net] is lowered into the sea for about six months, from April to September and used especially to catch oily and pelagic fish – the migrating species. If some of the caught fish are not desirable, the cages are opened to release them back to the sea.”

Find out more about Slow Fish, Slow Food’s campaign for good, clean and fair sustainable fish, at www.slowfood.com/slowfish

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