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Sea Around Us project newsletter, issue 63, January/February 2011 Bailey, Megan; Sea Around Us Project Jan 31, 2011

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Sea Around UsThe Sea Around Us Project NewsletterIssue 63 – January/February 2011The sustainable special:Can restaurants encouragesustainable seafoodconsumptionby Leah BieryWhen you dine out, how do youdecide what to order? Do youhead to the restaurant with aclear idea of what you want to eat, or areyou influenced by the daily specials andsuggestions from your server? While livingin Southwest Florida, where the tourism-based economy revolves largely aroundseafood restaurants, I became interested inhow vacationers decide which seafooditems to consume. I frequently overheardpeople announce that they were goingout for grouper (or oysters or snapper…),apparently already certain of what theywould order before even sitting down at atable.  Others seemed less sure about whatthey would eat, but knew that after a longday at the beach, they were in the moodfor some kind of seafood. Around the timeI made these observations, I was workingon a local sustainable seafood initiative, soI wondered if and how those who satdown in a restaurant without a specificdish in mind could be influenced tochoose a sustainable option.After considering the many factors thatinfluence customer choices in a restaurant,I decided to look at server suggestions anddaily specials, two elements of the diningexperience that often influence my ownmenu decisions. I recruited two highschool students associated with theorganization I was working for to help medesign and distribute a survey for touristson Sanibel Island. What follows is asummary of what we learned.Of the tourists surveyed, 52% usually oralways order seafood when they dine outon Sanibel Island. An additional 33%sometimes order seafood. This indicatesthat the local demand for seafood is high,so even a small increase in the proportionof people who make sustainable choicescould contribute to the recovery ofpopular, rapidly declining species likegrouper and queen conch (in 2008, queenconch and five grouper species were listedas overfished or subject to overfishing inthe Southeast region of the U.S.1).We found that 43% of tourists surveyedrarely or never knew which seafood theywere going to order before dining at arestaurant. These consumers have notmade a decision before sitting down, sosome of them would likely be receptive toseafood recommendations fromrestaurant staff.  On this note, 45% oftourists surveyed responded that theywere sometimes or usually influenced byserver suggestions. Furthermore, 45.5%responded that they were sometimesinfluenced by the seafood specials. Anadditional 14% were usually or alwaysinfluenced by the seafood specials.Eating seafood near the ocean isundoubtedly an essential part of thebeach vacation experience, but for manypeople, the specific type of seafood maynot really matter. Our results indicate thatserver suggestions and daily specialscould potentially be used as effective toolsContinued on page 2 - Sustainable seafoodPage 2Sea Around Us – January/February 2011The Sea Around UsProject newsletter ispublished by theFisheries Centre atthe University ofBritish Columbia.Six issues of thisnewsletter arepublished annually.Subscriptions are freeof charge.Our mailing address is: UBC FisheriesCentre, Aquatic Ecosystems ResearchLaboratory, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver,British Columbia, Canada, V6T 1Z4. Our faxnumber is (604) 822-8934, and our emailaddress is SeaNotes@fisheries.ubc.ca. Allqueries, subscription requests, and electronicaddress changes should be addressed toMegan Bailey, Sea Around Us NewsletterEditor.The Sea Around Us website may be foundat www.seaaroundus.org and contains up-to-date information on the Project.TThe Sea Around Us Project is a scientific collaborationbetween the University of British Columbia and the PewEnvironment Group that began in July 1999. The PewEnvironment Group works around the world to establishpragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, wildlands and climate. Pew also sponsors scientific research thatsheds new light on the dimensions of and solutions to theproblems facing the global marine environment.Sanibel island survey results suggest that seafood restaurants have the power to influenceconsumer choices.... diningestablishmentsshould takemoreresponsibility forprotecting thefuture of oceanresources.for influencing diners to makesustainable choices. As a means ofboosting sustainable seafood salesand reducing the demand for red listspecies, sustainability initiativescould educate local restaurantmanagement about sustainableseafood and encourage them toadvertise only sustainable options asdaily specials. Additionally, serverscould be trained to routinely suggestsustainable options to customers.This would only work with sufficientinterest andparticipation from diningestablishments. Although our findings arespecific to Sanibel Island, a similar approachmight be effective in other locations as well.While working to promote sustainable seafood ina tourist town, it became apparent to me thatmost vacationers want to relax and not obsessover sustainability. First and foremost, consumerswant their meals to be tasty, so I am not implyingthat restaurants should recommend certain itemssolely on the basis that they are sustainable.Restaurants interested in operating sustainablycould take a backstage approach by purposelyselecting and buying sustainable items forspecialrecommendation,but presentingthem tocustomers asthey wouldany suggestion– delicious.Sustainabilityshould bementioned asan additionalperk, but notforced uponpatrons as theonly reason tochoose the special. If a proportion of diners willorder the special whether it is sustainable or not,it makes sense that restaurants concerned aboutthe future of fish should always offer asuggestion or special that is.These ideas are just small steps on the path torecovery for depleted fish stocks, but it isapparent that seafood restaurants holdimportant influential power when it comes towhich menu items they recommend to patrons.Especially in areas frequented by tourists who areoften on vacation from the stress of thinkingabout sustainability, dining establishmentsshould take more responsibility for protectingthe future of ocean resources. Restaurants withgood foresight should be willing to use theirpower to reduce pressure on overfished speciesso that eating seafood can remain an essentialpart of beach vacations for generations to come.Thank you to Sanibel Sea School and Lena andNatalia Horvath for their help with survey designand data collection.Endnotes1 NMFS, 2009, Annual Report to Congress on theStatus of U.S. Fisheries-2008, U.S. Department ofCommerce, NOAA, Natl., Mar. Fish. Serv.,Silver Spring, MD, 23 pp.Sustainable seafood - Continued from page 1Page 3 Sea Around Us – January/February 2011In theBahamas, theformation ofnovelpartnershipshas given riseto a wave ofcreativity andcollaborationin the smallnation...Lionfish invasion:An opportunity for collaboration,creativity and growth inmarine conservationby Nicola S. Smith1People from diverse sectors ofsociety have lamented theinvasion of lionfish in the WesternAtlantic, and for good reasons.  Theeffects of the establishment and spreadof the species (Pterois volitans and P.miles) on the ecology, economy andhuman health in the region are uncertain,but are likely to be negative. The ongoingrange expansion, which includes the USsoutheast seaboard, most of theCaribbean, and parts of the Gulf ofMexico, Central and South America, is animportant emerging global conservationissue.Native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, lionfish arevenomous coral reef fishes that feed on a varietyof smaller fishes and crustaceans. Firstdocumented in the Atlantic off the coast ofsouthern Florida in the 1980s, lionfish were likelyintroduced via aquaria releases.  Some concernssurrounding the invasion include: 1. The direct, negative impact of lionfish onnative reef species via predation.  Lionfish areefficient carnivores that use a novel predationstrategy in the Atlantic by herding and corneringprey with its enlarged, fan-like pectoral fins.  Astudy by Albins and Hixon (2008) found that asingle lionfish reduced recruitment of native fishesto experimental reefs in the Bahamas by roughly80% in five weeks.2. The potential threat of lionfish to humanhealth and its subsequent, negative effect onpublic perception of the safety of beaches andother marine areas.  Lionfish have venomousdorsal, anal and pelvic spines that inflict a painfulsting to humans. The most common symptomsand signs of envenomation are pain and swellingat the puncture site, but rare systemic effects likerespiratory distress, vomiting and convulsions canalso occur.  This spells bad business for therecreational diving and tourism industries inhighly invaded regions like the Bahamas, wherecurrent lionfish densities are nearly five timeshigher than reports in its native range (Green andCôté 2009),  and where the misconception that alionfish sting can be fatal is still common.3. The challenge of implementing an effectivelionfish control strategy in a marine environmentoccupied primarily by developing nations.  The vastspatial extent and connectivity of the ocean tovarious ecosystems (e.g. mangrove systems) andpolitical regions make attempts at populationcontrol difficult.  Lionfish eggs and larvae aredispersed by ocean currents, while juveniles andadults are habitat generalists that have beenreported in a smorgasbord of Atlantic habitatsincluding mangrove systems, coral reefs, rockybottoms, seagrass meadows, and artificial structures.Additionally, because of its venomous nature,lionfish have few predators. The task of slowing theinvasion is therefore daunting, particularly for themany small island developing countries of theCaribbean, where lionfish densities are high but theavailability of scientific expertise and financialresources is low.Despite these concerns, responses to the invasion inat least one region of the Atlantic have beenoptimistic.  In the Bahamas, the formation of novelpartnerships has given rise to a wave of creativityand collaboration in the small nation of more than700 islands and cays’ approach to marineconservation. In one attempt to raise awareness andreduce local lionfish populations, fisherfolk, local andinternational environmental NGOs, the coral reefFigure 1.  Invasive Pacific lionfish on a Bahamian coral head.  Photo by Lad Akins, REEF.Continued on page 4 - LionfishPage 4Sea Around Us – January/February 2011fisheries industry, andacademic institutionshave teamed up withthe Department ofMarine Resources toorganize a series oflionfish derbies.  Since2009, a total of ninederbies on four islandgroups throughoutthe Bahamianarchipelago haveoccurred, resulting inthe culling ofthousands of lionfish.In the Pacific, lionfish aremarketed as a food fish since only the spines, andnot the flesh, contain venom.  Likewise,Bahamians are attempting to develop a lionfishcommercial fishery as another means of invadercontrol.  Lionfish cooking and handlingdemonstrations are frequently held while severallocal restaurants now offer lionfish on theirmenus.  Aiming to protect highly sought-after,native Nassau grouper stocks and at the sametime reduce invasive species populations, onelocal environmental NGO launched a clevercampaign encouraging consumers to eat lionfishas an alternative during times when the grouperfishery is closed.Perhaps the greatest irony of the lionfish invasionis that this potential ecological disaster hasaccomplished what years of traditional marineconservation advocacy in the Bahamas could not.It has attracted sufficient attention and concern,both locally and internationally, to mobilizeresources that can be used to directly confrontthe invasion and at the same time, aid in buildingnational capacity to address other environmentalissues.  Funded primarily by the GlobalEnvironment Facility (GEF) with the UnitedNations Environment Programme (UNEP) as thelead executing agency, the Bahamas launched alionfish control pilot project in 2009. The projectinvolves several local and international partnersfrom governmental, non-governmental andacademic institutions. It focuses on (1) lionfishecological research, (2) invasive species policyand legislation development, and (3) publicoutreach and education. The project is part of alarger, regional effort involving five Caribbeancountries, titled “Mitigating the Threat of InvasiveAlien Species in the Insular Caribbean” (MTIASIC).Because of the experimental branch of MTIASIC,Bahamians have received comprehensivetraining in areas such as native fish identificationand marine survey methodologies andtechniques. Lionfish and native speciesmonitoring in selected coral reefs, mangrovesystems and a variety of other near shore habitatsnow occurs on a quarterly basis in three islandgroups throughout the archipelago. Monthlyproficiency dives are also conducted in order toreinforce recently acquired skills.  Given theseaccomplishments, the lionfish invasion appearsto have a silver lining: it has provided anopportunity for collaboration, creativity andgrowth in marine conservation in the Bahamas.However, it remains to be seen whether suchmomentum can be sustained over the long-term,especially once the generous funding andinterest of the international community havedried-up.ReferencesAlbins, M.A. & Hixon, M.A.  (2008)  Invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans reducerecruitment of Atlantic coral-reef fishes.Marine Ecology Progress Series, 367, 233-238.Green, S.J. & Côté, I.M.  (2009)  Record densities ofIndo-Pacific lionfish on Bahamian coralreefs.  Coral Reefs, 28, 1071Ms Smith recently completed her Masters atUBC, for which Dr Daniel Pauly was a committeemember. She is now the experiment coordinatorof the Bahamas Lionfish Control Pilot Project,part of the GEF program.Lionfish - Continued from page 3Figure 2.  Some local and international participants of the experimental branch of the Bahamas’lionfish control pilot project. (L-R): Nicola Smith, Lad Akins, Krista Sherman, Frederick Arnette, LindyKnowles, Jared Dillet, Trueranda Cox, David Bethel, LaKeshia Anderson, Christopher Dunkley,Ancilleno Davis; Kneeling: Stephanie Green.Bahamianshavereceivedcomprehensivetraining inareas such asnative fishidentificationand marinesurveymethodologiesandtechniques.

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