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Aquaculture Forum: New Dietary Guidlines spell opportunity

K. Dun Gifford
K. Dun Gifford
February 01, 2005

Eighty-five years ago during World War I, the government waged aggressive advertising campaigns to persuade Americans to change their eating habits in ways that aided the war effort. These campaigns played the music of patriotism, and they were very successful. One of them encouraged Americans to eat more fish and less meat, since meat was more easily shipped to the troops overseas than fish.

A typical poster for the eat-more-fish campaign pictured fresh-water bass swimming in a cypress swamp and bore this message: “Save the products of the land. Eat more fish — they feed themselves.”

It fascinates me that nearly a century ago, federal officials combined patriotic with environmental messages to urge eating more fish and less meat. Federal officials have just given fisheries another golden opportunity.

The 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines urge Americans with a history of coronary heart disease to eat two servings of fish a week (see Newsline, page 6). And surely others who are concerned about heart health will follow this advice as well.

Does anyone think this added demand can be met from declining wild catches? Can aquaculture, struggling against the false witness of critics, ramp up production?

Or, will the new Dietary Guidelines be a rallying cry for all members of the seafood industry to pull together in a cohesive organization balanced between wild-caught and farmed-raised interests that works to meet this challenge? We can’t just allow this opportunity pass by as others have, while industry-wide beef and chicken organizations marvel and chortle at the parochialism of “those water guys.”

Consumer demand for seafood is evident. Since the mid-1970s Boston chef Jasper White has dazzled diners and overwhelmed critics with his simple, elegant seafood presentations. He has won every chef, restaurant and cookbook award with cuisine that ranges from the most simple (say, fried scallops with tartar sauce and coleslaw) to the most elegant (say, lobster fra diavolo) to the most complex (say, a real Marseilles-style bouillabaisse).

Jasper’s current restaurants are named Summer Shack, and his premise is simple: buy the freshest wild and farmed seafood, cook it very well and keep prices affordable by serving it simply in informal settings.

Summer Shack sells truckloads of vividly-colored hats and t-shirts. Two of my favorites shout: “Save A Cow — Eat Fish,” and “Mad Cow — Happy Fish.” Jasper knows well that there are not enough fish in the sea to meet the needs of the world’s nearly 7 billion mouths and that expanding aquaculture is absolutely essential.

Drawing upon Jasper White’s optimism about seafood, the World War I propaganda campaigns and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, here’s my New Year’s fantasy for the wild-caught and farm-raised fisheries:

First, industry leaders — commercial fishermen, fish farmers and processors — sit down together with the specific, limited goal of accepting the challenge of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines.

Then this leadership quickly releases a report on what must be done to meet the challenge. Everyone agrees that this will require resuscitation of the commercial fisheries and vast expansion of farmed supplies.

This is not a very complex plan. And, sitting down together to make plans is exactly what the industry's successful critics and competitors have been doing for a decade.

February 2005 - SeaFood Business

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