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Fish Factor

1,000th seafood item earns eco-distinction, Go Argo!,
and Maggot mix makes fish meal

By Laine Welch


November 27, 2007
Tuesday AM

Green Hot Alaska Pollock Roe by Trident Seafoods is the latest product to merit an eco-label by the international Marine Stewardship Council. The roe item, set to hit supermarket shelves throughout Japan, also marks an amazing milestone - it is the 1,000th seafood item to earn that eco-distinction.

Ten years ago the London-based MSC created its program to certify fisheries that meet strict management and environmental guidelines. Seafood products bearing the blue MSC brand provide a competitive edge for wild seafood in many world markets.

Demand for eco-seafood items has been explosive in recent years, fuelled by pledges from huge buyers like Wal-Mart and Disney to only purchase seafoods that come from well managed fisheries. One hundred seafood products merited the MSC label in 2004. By February of 2007 the number reached 500, then quickly doubled, said Brad Ack, MSC Regional Director for the Americas.

"It took 7 years to get to the 500th product. Then nine months later it went to 1,000," Ack said. "It just shows that this is a concept that is really taking off."

The MSC program responds to people's concerns over food safety, Ack said, combined with increasing awareness of their impact on the natural world and a desire to take better care of our planet,

"So all of these consumers are putting more pressure on companies to be as environmentally responsible as possible. The MSC brand and fishery certifications are tools companies can use to respond to consumers. That's a big part of what's driving this. And I think there will be continued demands for a very high standard on how food gets to their table."

Purchasing eco-labeled seafood products has become the business standard for entry into European supermarkets and restaurants. Ack said the first MSC labeled item - an Alaska salmon and egg sandwich ­ has debuted on the menus of 150 upscale eateries. A taste of sustainable seafood is also being served for lunch at 1,500 schools throughout Britain as part of the MSC's 'Fish and Kids' program.

So far just 24 of the world's fisheries have obtained the MSC label. Thirty four 34 are undergoing assessment and about 30 others are preparing to enter the certification process.

"We're just at the tip of the ice berg," Ack said.

Alaska provides the bulk of the world's eco-fisheries - salmon, pollock, halibut, sablefish and cod caught by the Bering Sea longline fleet all bear the MSC label, and more cod and flounder fisheries are in the pipeline. Learn more about the MSC at .

Go Argo!

A global network of 3,000 underwater robots is now measuring how oceans influence fisheries productivity and the world's climate. According to the Asia Pulse, the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO) announced completion of the so called 'Argo' program last week in Tasmania. Australian scientists deployed 144 of the world's first Argos between Australia and Indonesia in 1999. The robots will be able to probe oceans that have never been measured before due to their remoteness and stormy conditions.

The four foot tall Argo deep sea divers measure temperature and salinity in the upper mile and a half of oceans around the globe, and surface every 10 days to upload the data to a satellite. The information is then analyzed by climate data canters in France and California.

The information has already helped researchers track how fast and where the ocean is warming due to greenhouse gases, and aided in ocean-forecasting. Scientists said the Argo project will allow them to solve some of the big climate questions, as well as provide insight into how the ever-changing ocean weather affects marine ecosystems.

The $905 million project is funded by 26 countries. The report said the U.S. has committed to maintaining half of the robots for the next four years, withother contributing countries covering the remainder.

Maggot mix makes fish meal

Take mounds of manure, add flies and fish guts ­ and you end up with a maggot based meal that's snapped up by farmed fish. It sounds gross, but the Associated Press reports that scientists from Idaho universities have developed a new maggot-based fish feed that also removes manure and fish wastes.

Idaho is America's largest producer of farmed rainbow trout, valued at more than $35 million annually. And with a half million cows, it's the nation's fourth-biggest dairy state. But along with all those cows come nearly 30 billion pounds of poop. With fish meal prices skyrocketing to $1,400 a ton and mountains of manure piling up, Idaho researchers aimed to create something cheaper that also eats up tons of dung and fish guts in the process.

To the rescue -- black soldier flies, used widely in Asia to eat restaurant wastes. In tests by animal waste management engineers, the flies quickly reduced 700 buckets of cow manure by half, and seeded it with their eggs. Two months later, fish guts from local farms were added to the brew to enrich the maggots with omega fatty acids. Then they were cleaned, frozen, ground up and fed to rainbow trout in test stations along the Snake River.

The fish gobbled up the feed, which made sense to the scientists since flies are a more natural food than corn and soybean meals. Commercial fish feed producers said they were intrigued by the maggot/ omega enhanced fish meal. Waste engineers believe it could become an important niche industry for Idaho's dairy farmers, who can count on their cows to produce 30 billion pounds of manure each year.


Kodiak-based Laine Welch has been reporting news of Alaska's seafood industry for print and radio for 20 years. Fish Factor appears in 15 newspapers and websites. Laine's Fish Radio programs air daily on more than 25 stations across Alaska.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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