October is National Seafood Month—a great time to think about the sustainability of our seafood and how our personal choices can help keep our oceans healthy! According to NOAA Fisheries, the average American eats 14 to 16 pounds of seafood a year; with a U.S. population of 319 million people (U.S. Census), that’s 4,466 to 5,104 million pounds per year!
How can our oceans possibly sustain such a booming seafood market? NOAA Fisheries provides one simple answer: habitat protection. Over the summer, NOAA Fisheries released a video titled, “Healthy Habitat: The Foundation of America’s Seafood and Fisheries,” to address the importance of ocean habitat protection, not only for marine organisms, but for us as well!
When it comes to sustainable fisheries New England, unfortunately, has a pretty poor track record. The region is known for historic overfishing, disappointing fisheries management, and sadly, the recent collapse of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery—the iconic fish of our region.
New England fisheries are far from perfect—very, very far. But, in the spirit of National Seafood Month you can educate yourself about sustainably-sourced fish and make smarter, more informed consumer choices. The New England Aquarium has its own list of “ocean friendly seafood species,” as well as delicious recipes that you can try.
Also, it is important now more than ever to take NOAA’s message to heart and protect precious marine habitat. Cashes Ledge—located in the center of our own Gulf of Maine— is one such habitat that we can help protect.
Cashes Ledge is an underwater mountain range whose unique environmental conditions produce a biodiversity hotspot for marine life. On Cashes Ledge, nutrient- and oxygen-rich water at the ledge’s peak give rise to the largest kelp forest on the Atlantic seaboard and a rich diversity of species ranging from bottom-dwelling sea stars, sea anemones, and purple sponges to highly endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Closed to destructive fishing practices for over a decade, Cashes Ledge and surrounding areas are in danger of being reopened to commercial bottom-trawling—a proposal that would ultimately destroy the habitat and further decimate the remaining cod population. National Seafood Month is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of sustainable fishing practices and its associated benefits associated. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is asking NOAA Fisheries to permanently protect Cashes Ledge and maintain it as an ecologically important area and healthy habitat for marine life.
You can help CLF to protect New England ocean habitat by signing our protection for Cashes Ledge petition here.
Photo credit: Ray Troll and Terry Pyles poster, NOAA Fisheries