Marine wildlife is in a state of worldwide emergency. Ninety p.c of fish populations are at or beneath half their historic ranges, and extra fish species seem on the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature’s crimson listing of threatened species than another class of animals. Since 1970 alone, international shark and ray populations have declined by greater than 70 p.c. The vaquita porpoise will likely be extinct in a matter of years, with the Māui dolphin and North Atlantic proper whale probably following shut behind. The first driver of this aquatic extinction disaster will not be local weather change or plastic air pollution however fishing, and conservation biologists world wide have warned that addressing this disaster requires overhauling conventional notions of fisheries administration and implementing vital restrictions on catch limits.
Lately, nevertheless, calls have emerged not for much less fishing, however extra, underneath the banner of a brand new time period encompassing all seafood and aquaculture merchandise: “blue meals.” The Blue Meals Alliance, launched forward of the UN Meals Programs Summit, has introduced collectively teachers, policymakers, and company donors targeted on rising the consumption of sustainable seafood. The challenge was launched with a lot fanfare, together with a set of papers within the journal Nature Meals, an editorial in its guardian journal Nature, various well-placed op-eds by necessary teachers and members of trade, and even a promotional video. In response to the group’s report, titled “The Blue Meals Evaluation,” seafood and aquaculture usually have decrease environmental affect and supply higher dietary advantages than terrestrial meals whereas contributing to meals safety, making it economically and ecologically sustainable.
However this blue-food narrative depends on generalizations and omissions that obscure the details in regards to the impacts of seafood. Simply as dangerous industries resembling Large Oil and Large Livestock have promoted superficial manufacturing tweaks and embraced the language of sustainability, so too has the seafood trade. Whereas the Blue Meals Alliance boasts the membership of sustainability nonprofits like EAT, it additionally consists of seafood titans just like the Walton Household Basis. As numerous unsustainable industries declare to go inexperienced, public messaging on blue meals bears all of the hallmarks of a branding pivot—name it a “bluewash.”
It’s not that the message of this marketing campaign and others prefer it are predicated on dangerous science, it’s that they deploy scientific claims selectively. In doing so, “The Blue Meals Evaluation” omits most of the harms of fishing and fish farming, and makes it appear much more sustainable than it really is. Take the concept consuming seafood is usually extra environmentally pleasant than consuming land-based meat. To substantiate this, the authors use sustainability metrics from earlier research to attain the greenhouse gasoline, nitrogen, and phosphorus emissions, in addition to land and contemporary water use, of varied seafood and aquaculture merchandise. This results in the conclusion that these meals’ environmental impacts are decrease than these of many agricultural merchandise, significantly hen, the least environmentally impactful industrially raised meat. The issue is that that is an apples-to-oranges comparability—it applies standards designed for terrestrial agriculture to the oceans, whereas omitting environmental impacts particular to marine life. Consuming wild fish could use just about no land or freshwater, but it surely additionally depletes marine life populations, disrupts meals webs, dredges up reefs and algal beds, and litters the ocean with ghost nets. The report is equally selective in its dialogue of the well being advantages of seafood. Fish could also be wealthy in numerous nutritional vitamins and dietary minerals, but it surely can be laden with microplastics and bioaccumulative toxins resembling PCBs, PBDEs, and mercury. Whereas these numerous shortcomings are acknowledged in a few of the blue meals manuscripts, they’re all however absent from promotional supplies, overstating the advantages of blue meals whereas underplaying its shortcomings.
Particular claims apart, the nomenclature on this marketing campaign can be regarding. Whereas lumping all marine meals into the brand new class of “blue meals” does little to facilitate comparability to different meals teams, it does fairly a bit to conflate species- and region-specific affect assessments. For instance, whereas advocates boast that “the BFA evaluation emphasizes the big range of blue meals,” the information are literally fairly obscure, with large margins of error and broad categorizations like “miscellaneous marine fishes.” Much more problematically, this tactic additionally obscures the completely different producers and manufacturing processes inside the seafood trade. For one factor, though it doesn’t explicitly advocate increasing industrial fishing, it’s effusive about rising industrialized types of fish manufacturing like aquaculture. However aquaculture doesn’t take strain off wild fisheries as a lot because it enhances them, usually requiring a whole bunch of wild-caught bait fish to feed a single farmed salmon or tuna. It additionally brings with it a spread of dangers and harms, together with effluent air pollution, mangrove deforestation, and viral proliferation each inside aquaculture farms and spreading to wild fish. But “The Blue Meals Evaluation” recommends enlargement of aquaculture regardless of these dangers.