A Future without fish?
Whole Foods, Disney aim to protect the seas.
Fortune's Marc Gunther navigates the choppy
Marc Gunther, Fortune senior writer
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Remember
The Marvellettes' song, "Too Many
Fish in the Sea?" Well, there aren't.
New England, a centuries-old tradition
of cod fishing is pretty much over. Blue
fin tuna are severely overfished, according
to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood
oil giant reaches out to its critics,
says Fortune's Marc Gunther.shares a new
- a study published last fall in the journal,
Science, warned of a "global collapse"
of all wild seafood by mid-century if
fishing continues at its current pace.
wonder I couldn't decide what to order
when pondering the menu at M&S Grill,
a seafood restaurant in downtown Washington,
my companions - Michael Boots and Stephanie
Faison of the Seafood Choices Alliance
- were available to provide guidance.
They work with companies including retailers
Foods Market (Charts),
theme park operator Walt
and distributor Sysco
as well as fishermen and fish farmers,
to promote seafood consumption in ways
that will protect catch for the future.
"We're trying to build a market for
a greener seafood industry," Boots
More about that in a moment, but first
"We don't know if that's domestic
U.S. shrimp or if it's being farmed somewhere
where it's harming the environment,"
said Faison. Farmed shrimp from Southeast
Asia can pollute the seas.
green is Wall Street?
salmon? "It's farmed because there's
no wild Atlantic salmon left," Boots
said. "And it's generally farmed
in open net pens, and there are a bunch
of issues with that."
Swordfish? Not if they're caught by unregulated
foreign fleets, and we won't even get
into the health issues raised by mercury
Boots: "Order the chicken, that's
what we do."
and tilapia are good choices, he said.
They're vegetarian fish, and they're farmed
in closed ponds that don't pollute the
ocean. Bay scallops, farmed or wild, are
said to be a sustainable resource. Wild
salmon from Alaska come from a well-managed
issue, obviously, is complicated. Some
people see fish farming as a solution;
others call it an environmental menace.
A British supermarket chain owned by Wal-Mart
just stopped selling monkfish because
of destructive catching methods, but it's
still on the menu in many restaurants.
a trade association that brings together
green groups and business, Seafood Choices
Alliance would like consumers to make
what they call "the ocean-plate connection"
- that is, to be aware that their choices
have environmental consequences. The group
also targets chefs and restaurants because,
according to Boots, more fish in the U.S.
is eaten in restaurants than prepared
business is grappling with the issue.
At a convention last week, Seafood Choices
gave an award to Peter Redmond, who is
coordinating Wal-Mart's effort to buy
and promote seafood caught from fisheries
certified as sustainable by the Marine
Stewardship Council, or MSC.
Unilever and the World Wildlife Federation
started the MSC to set a global standard
for well-managed fisheries. Less than
10 percent of the world's catch is currently
certified as sustainable.
Foods promotes MSC-certified fish in its
fresh fish department. Disney woke up
to the issue when its plans to serve shark
fin soup at a Hong Kong theme park set
off an environmental firestorm. It appeased
critics by taking the dish off its menus.
have good reason to worry about the oceans.
No one wants to be targeted by NGOs. A
small number of consumers have shown a
preference for fish that can be certified
as sustainable. And, in the long run,
retailers and restaurants want to assure
a plentiful and affordable supply of fish.
Wal-Mart's Redmond told me: "We have
very altruistic goals and we have some
very keen business goals as well."
commercial fisherman and ecologists fought
over fishing regulations, but they now
frequently cooperate. The Nature Conservancy,
best known for acquiring land to save
it from development, recently purchased
trawling permits from fisherman in central
California, to protect the habitat of
Moro Bay. Several years ago, McDonald's
brought in Conservation International,
a nonprofit committed to protecting biodiversity,
to assess fishing practices in its supply
for lunch, the scallops were tasty - and