The faithful newshound has been snoozing by the stove these last several weeks while Estabrook was locked away in his office trying to get a book off to the publisher. The hound has now shaken himself awake. He’s hot on the trail again and has dragged home a few heartening stories. Let’s kick off 2011 with some good food news—a scarcity during the year that has just ended.
Hooray for Haddock!
Northeastern seafood lovers are finally off the hook. Henceforth, they will be able to dine on some of the region’s iconic fish species with clear consciences—more or less. This week, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (my go-to source for making environmentally sound seafood choices) moved Atlantic haddock, Atlantic pollock, summer flounder, and line-caught Gulf of Maine cod to its “Good Alternatives” Category—a promotion for some of the species from the “Avoid” list.
“We’re always pleased when we see fish stocks recovering through effective management measures,” said Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, director of the aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. “That’s good for the oceans, and for everyone who enjoys seafood or makes a living catching and selling it.”
Most exciting is news that Atlantic haddock, once seriously overfished, have staged a remarkable recovery. So much so that line-caught haddock is now rated in the “Best” category—proof that with proper management, wild fish populations can recover.
Giving Fish a Break
Not to be outdone, the West Coast also came through with some good fishery news. In a narrow, three-to-two vote, California wildlife regulators created marine protected areas along a 250-mile stretch from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara. Fishing in the areas will either be banned or restricted. Research has shown that protected areas help rebuild stocks and, because fish travel, improve catches in adjacent waters where fishing is allowed.
Further north, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has (belatedly, some might say) made a decisive move to protect the embattled salmon stocks of the Klamath River, which flows though parts of Oregon and California. Once the third most productive salmon river in the Lower Forty-Eight, the entire Klamath is now listed as impaired by the government, and instead of record catches is most known for a massive 2002 die-off of 33,000 salmon. The culprits have been silt, agricultural chemicals, and toxic algae, largely attributable to farming operations and hydroelectric dams in the watershed.
The EPA has ordered that levels of phosphorous in the river be lowered by 57 percent and nitrogen by 32 percent. “The salmon are an indicator species for the biologically important Klamath watershed, but they are really on a precarious path downward,” Jared Blumenfeld of the EPA told San Francisco Chronicle reporter Peter Fimrite. “We want to make sure that not only are we providing fresh clean ecosystems for the fish, but also for the people.”
Well, some of the people. Agricultural groups and electric companies are upset with the decision. Art Sasse, a spokesman for PacificCorp, the owner of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath, told Fimrite that his company is considering a lawsuit against the EPA.
Perhaps the current economic “recovery” is jobless, but it is not organic milk-less. Remember those dire predictions in 2009 about how the recession was going to spell the end for high-priced organic products? Well, they were wrong. According to an analysis by Sustainable Food News, sales of organic milk in the United States rebounded in 2010, while sales of conventional milk tumbled.
During the 12 months ending in October 2010, total milk sales (which include organic milk) fell by 1.5 percent in the United States. In the same period, organic milk sales were up by nearly 15 percent.
American consumers may be cash strapped, but it appears that they still know what’s good for them.
Matters of Antitrust
Given the abysmally low milk prices of the last few years, the nation’s beleaguered dairy farmers need every dollar they can get. Now, thanks to a December settlement with Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk products company, they might soon split 30 million dollars among themselves.
A group of northeastern dairy farmers had sued Dean in the U. S. District Court in Burlington, VT, accusing it of operating a monopoly. A judge has yet to formally bless the settlement, and spokespeople from Dean are declining interviews with the media.
But U. S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was not so reticent. “Vermont dairy farmers, like dairy farmers across the country, are struggling, and we cannot allow collusion among larger dairy conglomerates to continue at the expense of our locally owned and operated dairy farms,” Leahy said. “These companies should be put on notice that there is a price to pay for anti-competitive practices.”
I’ll raise a glass of the white stuff to that.