Seafood changes afoot

The Lempert Report
February 01, 2013

By later this year, consumers could have a new choice besides farm-raised or wild-caught at the supermarket seafood counter.

By later this year, if all goes swimmingly for a supplier of genetically engineered Atlantic salmon, consumers could have a new choice besides farm-raised or wild-caught at the supermarket seafood counter. The supplier AquaBounty Technologies has sought approval for a decade and, as widely reported, the FDA concluded near Christmas that the GE salmon would have “no significant impact” on the environment or on endangered species, bringing approval a step closer. The fast-growing fish reaches market weight in 18 months instead of three years. The FDA determination remains open for public comment until late-February. The stresses on the world’s fisheries have spawned interest in both GE aquaculture and sustainability efforts: a 2010 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations notes 53% of international fisheries are fully exploited, and 32% are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. Whole Foods Market, became the first national grocer to stop selling red-rated wild-caught fish in its seafood departments last spring. A red rating means a species is overfished, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats. Since 2010, Whole Foods has displayed color-coded sustainability ratings on the wild-caught seafood it sells. Meanwhile, U.S. per capita consumption is down for three of the four most popular seafood species in the latest full year measured. According to the National Fisheries Institute, per capita consumption of shrimp rose to 4.2 pounds in 2011 from 4.0 pounds in 2010. However, the amount of canned tuna eaten by the average American dipped to 2.6 pounds from 2.7 pounds, the amount of salmon ticked down to 1.952 pounds from 1.999 pounds, and the amount of tilapia slid from 1.450 pounds to 1.287 pounds. A bit of good news: consumption of Alaska Pollock, considered a mild fish that is a common entry point for new seafood eaters, rose from 1.192 pounds to 1.312 pounds.