Sunday, July 11, 2010

Things Are Getting Fishy Around Here!

July 10, 2010

  We wrapped up our training on aquatic invertebrates last week.  We visited a coral hatchery, performed core samples on marine sediment, and used seines to collect shrimp and horseshoe crabs.  Admittedly, many of the terminologies, anatomies, and concepts are new to me.  I've learned a lot about the complexity of aquatic ecosystems, but I don't think a career on the sea is in my future.  We also visited a landfill and wastewater treatment facility.  This kind of stuff is more in my niche, as human waste production has a direct impact on environmental health and, in turn, public health.  We also collected water samples from two different sites and tested for pH, salinity, and dissolved oxgen.  I was excited to dust off my environmental health cap and use these skills again!

Sifting through core samples of benthic sediment in Taylor Creek, HBOI

  This week we transitioned to vertebrates, mainly fishes.  Yes, more than one species of fish is appropriately referred to as "fishes."  We got our water shoes wet and did a fish collection lab this morning.  We used bag seines and recovered hundreds of animals ranging from bait fish to blue crabs and even a sting ray!   
  We placed the desirable animals in aerated tubs and brought them back to the laboratory for gill/fin biopsies, skin scrapes, and physical exams. 

Venipuncture technique on a sedated fish

  In the afternoon we toured an aquaculture facility on the grounds of Florida Atlantic Universiy.  Because they are a research facility, this facility does not sell fish for the food market; rather, they are studying how to raise new fish species (i.e. the Florida Pompano) in a more cost-effective and sustainable manner. 

Aquaculture facility at FAU

  After our tour we got into a really good discussion about aquaculture (fish farming) versus marine capture (wild).  As far as sustainability, farm-raised seafood is the best choice.  Oceans, in general, are overharvested, leaving scarce populations of popular fish such as tuna, Atlantic salmon, and Chilean seabass.  However, the public is recognizing the health benefits of wild-caught seafood (such as Wild Alaskan salmon) due to its rich Omega-3 fatty acid content.  Wild, ocean fish are high in fatty acids because of their diets.  They are carnivorous, meaning they eat other small fishes such as herring.  While this is desirable for human health, these carnivorous fish are resource hogs!  It is difficult to farm carnivorous fish because it is not cost-effective.  Their diet alone will account for up to 70% of expenses.  Not to mention, it is difficult and expensive to maintain saltwater production tanks.  Farm-raised fish are often fed alternative protein sources, reducing their Omega-3 content. 
  Seafood is a bit of a conundrum in the "healthy living" schematic.  Generally, what is good for the environment is good for the body.  For example, organic food with its basis in pesticide-free production is beneficial not only for human health but also for environmental health.  So what do we do in the case of fish?  If farm-raising fish is a more sustainable practice, do we sacrifice the health benefit of wild-caught seafood?  Well, the answer is simple - educated consumerism!  Buy and eat fish from well-managed marine and freshwater environments.  Eat seafood that is abundant in the wild such as catfish, mackerel, cobia, crab (Dungeness, stone, Alaska snow), and mussels.  Consume farm-raised seafood such as tilapia, a herbivorous, freshwater fish that is nutritious, delicious, cost-efficient to raise, and sustainable.
  Being a conscious consumer is difficult, even for a group of conservationists, veterinarians, and ecologists.  Consider your footprint - the future depends on all of us...

Taking a break from "saving the world" to have some fun with a tree swing into the water

1 comment:

  1. I want more blogs...I want more blogs.....

    I love you,