Seafood with ‘Bluewashing’ will not make the world greener

It is marine wildlife in a global state of emergency. Ninety percent of fish populations are at or below half their historical levels and more fish species appear in the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of endangered species than any other class of animals. Since 1970 alone, global shark and ray populations have declined by more than 70 percent. IN little cow the guinea pig will disappear in a few years, with the Maui dolphin and the North Atlantic right whale likely to follow. The main driver of this crisis of extinction of the aquatic environment is not climate change or plastic pollution, but fishingas well as conservation biologists around the world warned that dealing with this crisis calls for a revision of traditional notions of fisheries management and the application of significant limits on catch limits.

Recently, however, there have been calls not for less fishing, but More ▼, under the banner of a new term covering all seafood and aquaculture products: ‘blue food’. The Blue Food Alliance, launched before the UN Food Systems Summit, brought together scientists, politicians and corporate donors focused on increase the consumption of sustainable seafood. The project was presented with a lot of noise, including a set of articles in the magazine Natural food, an editorial in his parental diary nature, a number of well placed op-eds by important scientists and industry representatives, and even a advertising video. According to the group’s report entitled “The Blue Food Assessment”, seafood and aquaculture often have a lower impact on the environment and provide greater nutritional benefits than terrestrial foods, while contributing to food security, making them economically and environmentally friendly. sustainable.

But this blue food story relies on summaries and omissions that obscure the facts about the effects of seafood. Just as harmful industries such as Large oil and Big cattle have promoted superficial production settings and embraced the language of sustainability as well as the seafood industry. While the Blue Food Alliance boasts membership in non-profit sustainability organizations such as the EAT, it also includes titans from seafood as the foundation of the Walton family. As countless unsustainable industries claim to be green, public announcements of blue foods bear all the hallmarks of branding, call it “bluewash.”

Is not that The message of this campaign and the like is based on bad science that they unfold scientific claims selectively. In this way, the Blue Food Assessment misses out a lot of the damage from fishing and fish farming and makes it look much more sustainable than it actually is. Take the idea that eating seafood is generally more environmentally friendly than eating terrestrial meat. To justify this, the authors use sustainability indicators from previous studies for estimating greenhouse gas, nitrogen and phosphorus emissions, as well as land and fresh water use, of various seafood and aquaculture products. This leads to the conclusion that these foods have an impact on the environment are lower than those of many agricultural products, especially chicken, which is the least environmentally harmful meat. The problem is that this is a comparison between apples and oranges – it applies criteria for terrestrial agriculture to the oceans, while omitting the environmental impacts specific to marine life. Eating wild fish may use almost no land or fresh water, but so can you exhausts marine populations, violates food webs, dear up reefs and algae, and puppies the ocean with ghostly nets. The report is just as selective in discussing the health benefits of seafood. Fish can be rich in various vitamins and dietary minerals, but it can also be loaded with microplastics and bioaccumulative toxins such as e.g. PCBs,, PBDEs, and mercury. While these various shortcomings are recognized in some of the blue foods manuscripts, they are almost absent promotional materials, exaggerating the advantages of blue food, underestimating its disadvantages.

Leaving aside specific allegations, the nomenclature in this campaign is also worrying. Although the aggregation of all seafood in the new ‘blue food’ category does not facilitate comparisons with other food groups, this does much to consolidate species- and region-specific impact assessments. For example, while overlapping brag that the ‘BFA ​​assessment highlights the huge variety of blue foods’, the data are in fact rather vague, with wide margins of error and broad categorizations as ‘different marine fish’. Even more problematic is that this tactic also overshadows the various producers and production processes in the seafood industry. On the one hand, although it does not explicitly advocate the expansion of industrial fishing, it is enthusiastic about the growth of industrialized forms of fish production such as aquaculture. But aquaculture is not reducing the pressure on wild fishing complements for them, often requiring hundreds of wild-caught bait fish to feed a farmed salmon or tuna. It also carries a range of risks and harms, including wastewater pollution,, deforestation of mangrove forests, and the spread of viruses both within aquaculture farms and the spread of wild fish. However, the Blue Food Assessment recommends expanding aquaculture despite these risks.


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