It’s Good News Week: Score One for Atlantic Bluefin, Organic Milk Producers (and Consumers), and Red Snappers (yummmmm!)

Gives a whole new meaning to getting put out to pasture.

Gives a whole new meaning to getting put out to pasture.

Writing articles about food and sustainability is a hard job for a naturally chipper fellow. Happy endings are, sadly, few and far between. But in the last week or so, some very good news indeed has broken in relation to a couple of recent posts on this site. Let’s take a moment to celebrate.

1. Raise a glass of organic milk to this one. There were fears that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would bow to pressure from large, factory-scale “organic” dairy farms. They had been lobbying hard for the department, which sets organic standards, to water down rules that require cows producing organic milk to have access to pasture. In the past, some large operations circumvented the spirit of the regulation by passing access to barren paddocks strewn with hay off as pasture. Under the Bush administration, the USDA had dragged its heels in implementing the regulations.

  Last week, the USDA announced strict rules requiring that in order for their milk to carry the USDA organic seal, cows had to spend their days on what most of us would define as pasture and consume a meaningful amount of their diet by grazing on fresh grasses—in short, act like the ruminants they are.

2. The embattled Atlantic bluefin tuna, which faces extinction according to many scientists, gained some powerful allies earlier this month when Italy, France, and the European Union voiced support for having the species listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) next month when the countries that are party to the treaty meet.

An Appendix I listing would ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin, most of which is currently exported to Japan. Scientists see a CITES listing as the species’ last best chance for survival.

3. More aquatic good news comes from the Gulf of Mexico, where the once-vanishing red snapper population is finally on the rise, two years after commercial fishermen adopted what marine biologists call a “catch-shares” approach to management. Catch-shares (also called sectors) essentially give each fisherman a set quota that can be bought and sold like property, promoting a vested interest in maintaining healthy stocks.

Things are looking so good that regulators recently voted to increase the allowable amount of snapper that can be caught each year. “We’re finally on an upward trajectory,” Chris Dorsett of the Ocean Conservancy told reporter Chris Kirkham of the Times-Picaunne. Catch shares have shown themselves to be a solution to overfishing in more than 100 fisheries around the world. This spring, the entire northeastern United States will adopt such a plan. Let’s hope that’s a harbinger of more good news to come.

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  1. Deb says:


    Thanks for being such a big part of raising awareness on those three issues — and so many others!

  2. Kristie says:

    That’s AWESOME news! I’m especially jazzed about the milk. Thanks so much for letting us know (in a way) that our efforts are making a difference. Woot!

  3. leslie land says:

    Please put me in the “thrilled about the milk” column – and let me invite others to join in writing to say thanks. The people who work at these agencies don’t get much input from the public except demands and complaints, so why not deliver a pat or two when a pat is deserved? (Kind words may butter no parsnips and alas it’s not at all clear you get more flies with honey than vinegar; but at the end of the day these are human beings whose jobs are frequently not fun.)
    contact information is:

    Miles McEvoy
    Deputy Administrator
    Room 4008-South Building
    1400 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC 20250-0020

    Fax: (202) 205-7808

  4. Barry says:

    Here! Here!

  5. Jacqueline says:

    Barry, I have the report from the fisheries group in the gulf and I’m not certain things look as rosy as your sources say…? I admit that the report is dense and I’m decades past any real science class, but I would classify the red snapper as still “recovering” and only those caught in the commercial catch share system would make it to my plate as a possible choice. The catch shares allowed for “recreational” fishing seem to be continuing to do damage to the population. I applaud the approach of the commercial fishermen but I don’t read their report as saying we’re in the clear.

  6. Dorothy says:

    So glad to hear about the victory for the cows! Hopefully, the changes will actually go into effect, and not just glossed over again in a new and creative way. I’m all for happy cows and tasty milk!

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