Below: Oh, quit your crying ... It's a bag of popcorn!
Getting off on a bright note ... caught-and-released grouper. Black Saddle Coral Grouper
Tuesday, December 17, 2019: I’m about to embark on a couple weeks off work, though I’m the proverbial workaholic so I’ll keep busy by clamming, fishing, hiking (now that the white tail shotgun season has tailed off), digging artifacts (temps permitting), doing odd-ass artwork (I might put some pics of same in here), photographing anything odd and interesting and writing blogs, some of which are tempered enough to put in here.
(Photography-wise, coming across a new snowy owl is akin to getting a new dog or having a baby: You can't resist taking pics. In my case, I swore I wasn't going to bother with shooting any more snowies. Fat chance. I couldn't resist getting a few less common angles of this year's first snowy, a large male.)
For the start of 2020, I wouldn’t mind hearing about some subject matter yinz, the readers, might like me to research for columns and blogs.
Research has been my specialty going back to my science days in college. In fact, my main qualm with having grown significantly old is how amazingly fascinating researching is moving forward, via Google. I’d be fine with doing 50 years straight online … in a discovery capacity. I’m also fully intrigued by the photos and videos, which allow me to live life variously through WWW contributors. I’m big into contributing any images I capture.
Ponder point: Can you even imagine 50 years from now -- when we already use voice commands to get computers to do our work? “OK Google. What is the capital of Zimbabwe? … And tomorrow’s weather … And please wake me up at 7 a.m.”
I’m leaving upcoming LBI surfcasting reports up to … myself. I’ll stick with plugging, jigging and fishing bloodworms on pompano rigs. While the temps will occasionally break bad – barely out of the freezing zone during a couple days – there will also be times of modest mildness, i.e. near 50. I’ve gotten too thin-skinned to plug very long with teen windchills, I can still sit in my truck and allow my locally dug bloods to do their small striper magic … hoping for that one coaxed bass that has unadvisedly grown past 27.9 inches. Hey, it shouldn’t be hanging out with fish so much younger than itself.
Looks like bluefishing 2020 will see recreational boat and shore anglers limited to three fish of any size, per day. Understandably (to me), for-hire boats will have a five-fish bag. While this cutback is draconian for recreationalists, who will suddenly see 10 fish slip from our bag, such must be done to undo the damage wrought by very poor fish management policies. I already hear the gripes and curses when bluefish come through like gangbusters during the 2020 spring migration. The problem is that's the last of the biomass. That will be proven out next fall, when nothing shows ... again.
(I truly say negative stuff like that to be proven dead wrong. In fall of 2018, when only a small passing of autumnal blues reached our shores, I unadvisedly said "You watch, they'll be back next fall (2019)." Not one frickin' gator. I know it's hard to register that I have that much sway over the entire marine biosystem, but I'm not taking any chances: "Twon't be nary a bluefish next fall, mark my words."
I have seen awful stints of no blues ... followed by breakout years, arriving out of the blue. I (silently) can't discount that happening, especially knowing even a small amount of conservation can garner a rebound from a fast-growing species like Pomatomus saltatrix. However, the dearth of blues this year is on par with mid Twentieth Century utter absences that had them gone so long that their eventual return had some younger folks not knowing what they were. Honest injun. I clipped old news articles talking about some "odd fishes" (blues) being caught along the Jersey shore.
SHEER DREDGERY: Please read the story in Wednesday's SandPaper, entitled "Feds Seek Comment on Channel Dredges In Bay Areas Off LBI" by Gina Scala.
It will explain an eye-opening effort by the state to take care of all channel deepening business along Barnegat Bay, including many of the creeks and lagoon entrances that have been suffering from shoaling for decades.
Dredging is proposed for the Beach Haven State Channel Complex: Southwick Channel, Bay Harbor Channel, Eastern Channel, Shelter Harbor Channel, Beach Haven Condos Channel, Morrison’s Channel, Liberty Thorofare Channel, Buoy 77 Channel and Penna’s Channel, according to the public notice posted to the Army Corps’ Philadelphia District and Marine Design Center website Dec. 9.
I have to believe -- possibly wrongly -- that this grand dredging plan has something to do with the power move by the feds to dredge the entire, heavily shoaled ICW from here to Cape May. That came about with virtually no input from outside parties since it is being done under the unchallengeable auspices of national security. The USCG agrees fully with that security notion since it has long been unable to properly patrol that portion of the federal waterway. Bad guys surely know it's a vulnerable point of entry, so to speak.
So, with ICW bay dredging on a roll, what better time for the state to begin removing channel-bottom material that has been hampering mariners for so damn long? The big difference in the case of our NJDOT doing the project is the stumbling-block fact the public must be allowed to comment before suction begins. The people have until Jan. 8 to chime in. Article explains how.
Methinks both green and blue groups will be opposed to the NJDOT plans, in some way, shape or form. I'll even chime in that some assurance must be made that the bay bottom won't be damaged. Then, there will surely be questions about the Parker's Island disposal location. It might not sit overly well with those folks who find that sedge near and dear.
I will more on this as it develops. I don't know if there will be public hearings since the Jan. 8 end to comments is coming up fast.
Below is part of the angler survey taken by the state. I’m putting this out there for a re-read. It’s a big chunk of the survey …
Anglers generally thought Striped Bass regulation changes are necessary now.
Over both modes (private and for-hire), and by mode, respondents overwhelmingly supported a single set of regulations that would apply to all anglers. Regarding whether anglers support regulations that would prohibit harvest of Striped Bass over 40 inches (e.g., support a slot limit), respondents overwhelmingly supported this option.
Of those individuals that did not support prohibiting harvest of Striped Bass over 40 inches (e.g., did not support a slot limit with maximum size of 40-inches), which were a minority of respondents, 45% indicated that there was no maximum size limit they would support (i.e., would not support slot limit under any circumstances).
Anglers overwhelmingly supported a slot limit when given the choice between a slot limit and a large minimum size limit.
We also asked anglers what size Striped Bass they personally consider ‘trophy’ or ‘memorable’ size. The most common responses were 36- and 40-inches. Half of respondents selected a memorable or trophy size of less than approximately 40-inches.
We asked survey participants whether they were familiar with circle hooks and whether they supported their use when fishing for Striped Bass with bait. Anglers indicated they were overwhelmingly familiar with circle hooks. Over 60% of anglers supported the use of circle hooks when fishing for Striped Bass with bait.
Anglers generally supported the use of regulations that incorporate seasonal closures for Striped Bass; among the most avid anglers (13 or more directed Striped Bass trips in the past 12 months), while the majority (>50%) supported seasonal closures without condition, the fraction who responded that their answer depended on the details (i.e., how long, where) approached or exceed 40%.
This is via www.thefisherman.com ...
BLUEFISH MANAGEMENT CHANGES APPROVED
The MAFMC and ASMFC recommend recreational bluefish management measures for 2020.
By The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council |
Despite the Atlantic bluefish stock assessment determining that overfishing is not occurring, the Council and Commission have cut the bag limit on bluefish from 15 fish to 3 for private/shore anglers and 5 for anglers onboard for-hire boats. (Photo by Toby Lapinski)
Last week, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) approved new recreational fishing regulations for the 2020 Atlantic bluefish fishery from Florida to Maine. These measures, which include a 3-fish bag limit for private anglers and shore-based fishermen and a 5-fish bag limit for for-hire fishermen, represent a substantial reduction compared to the federal 15-fish bag limit that has been in place since 2000.
The Commission’s actions are final and apply to state waters (0-3 miles from shore), while the Council will forward its recommendation for federal waters (3 – 200 miles from shore) to the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Administrator for final approval.
The most recent operational assessment of the Atlantic bluefish stock concluded that the stock is overfished but not experiencing overfishing.
During their joint meeting in October, the Council and Commission adopted a recreational harvest limit (RHL) of 9.48 million pounds for 2020 and 2021, which is an 18% decrease compared to the 2019 RHL. Using the current regulations, the recreational sector is projected to land 13.27 million pounds, which will exceed the RHL by 28.56%. Therefore, the Council and Commission met last week to approve new recreational management measures to constrain harvest to the reduced RHL.
The Council and Commission considered several combinations of bag limits and minimum size limits, including options to set a single set of regulations for all fishing modes or different regulations for shore/private modes and the for-hire mode. Although the Council’s Bluefish Monitoring Committee recommended a coastwide 3-fish bag limit, the majority of comments from the public and Bluefish Advisory Panel (AP) members expressed opposition to this option, noting that it would have severe economic consequences for the for-hire sector, which was only responsible for 3.6% of coastwide landings from 2016 to 2018. Additionally, AP members and the public emphasized that these proposed reductions come at a challenging time for for-hire stakeholders as they are also facing new restrictions on striped bass, black sea bass, summer flounder, and scup.
After an extensive discussion and thorough consideration of public comments, the Council recommended and Commission approved a 3-fish bag limit for private and shore modes and a 5-fish bag limit for the for-hire mode. No restrictions were made to minimum fish size or seasons.
“For many years, bluefish has been one of our most abundant recreational fisheries,” said Council Chairman and ASMFC Board member Mike Luisi. “The Council and Commission are fully committed to the effective conservation and management of this stock, but we also recognize that a sudden change in regulations could have severe socioeconomic consequences for some stakeholders. After evaluating a wide range of options and considering numerous comments from the public, we feel that this approach is the most fair and effective way to achieve the necessary reduction in harvest next year.”
The Council and Commission are continuing to work on development of a rebuilding plan as part of the Bluefish Allocation and Rebuilding Amendment. Additional information and updates on this action are available at mafmc.org.
Jersey Shore Outdoors: LBI Area Fishing Report by Jim Hutchinson Sr.
December 17, 2019 at 1:51 PM
Credits: Captain Brett Taylor
LONG BEACH ISLAND REGION — The 2019 fishing season is drawing to a close. There are still a goodly number of small stripers in the surf for those hardy enough to get on the beach and wet a line.
In addition, I continue to get reports about the continued hot blackfish action on various inshore and further out structure. This is a great fishery right now. There are still various captains running trips. I know that Brett Taylor of Reel Reaction Sportfishing is still fishing as he keeps sending me pictures of happy and successful anglers holding big tog.
The results of the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic are in, and they show a dramatic drop in numbers of fish weighed in. Only 15 striped bass were entered, and not a single bluefish.
Mike Curtin took top prize with his bass that weighed 35.72-pounds. Mike caught the fish on November 7. Brandon Pomykacz took second with a fish weighing 25.12-pounds, and Chris McIntee took third with his fish weighing in at 17.18-pounds. Congratulations to the winners and all those anglers who participated. Here is hoping that next year we see a rebound.
We are coming down the home stretch for Christmas now. With time running short, I figure I had better try to get my shopping done at least a few days before the stores get really busy, and the shelves start to empty out.
When I am doing my Christmas shopping, I try to shop at the local level as much as possible. By local I mean the bait and tackle shops and other stores we often call “mom and pop” businesses. I know that big box stores and online shopping have their place, but we would be in sad shape if our local places closed.
A goodly number of these places stay open until Christmas to handle those of us looking for fishing related gifts. Some even have Christmas sales. This can be a good time to shop as the stores will have their new lines of merchandise in the spring and they would like to clear some of the shelves now to make room for the new items.
One of my favorite local stores is the Boat Shop in Manahawkin. Lynn and Dave Schuda provide a wide range of items for both casual and serious boaters and at good prices. They recently sent me a note that they have expanded their store and now sell an extended line of boating and fishing clothing.
Right now, the brands are Marshwear, AFTCO, Mojo and ExtraTuff Boots. The store will be adding a more clothing brands after the new year. I don’t want to be guilty of plugging one business over another, but I plan to stop by this week just to check out their new lines.
And now here is my Christmas gift to each of you who read this. It comes in the form of a tip. Why don’t you get a jump on the fishing year 2020? Take two minutes right now to renew your New Jersey fishing registration. It does not cost anything, and you will have it done for when you make that first trip next year. Don’t be one of those people who forgets about it until you are out on the water. Here is the link for the registration https://www.nj.gov/dep/saltwaterregistry/index.html. Be sure to have a blessed holiday season and see you next year.
Anyone with questions or fishing reports is welcome to contact me at email@example.com.
Capt. Brett Taylor ~ www.reelreactioncharters.com ~ Call or Text: 609-290-7709
Dates available: If the temperatures stay above freezing or don’t dip below 32F for multiple days, we are planning are running through the New Year. Currently, I have the following dates available: 12/21, 12/23, 12/26, 12/29, 1/4/2020 and 1/5/2020. All green and white crabs are included on Tog trips!!
I had the opportunity to run after school and hit one of my favorite pieces south and the ride took longer than the bite. Quick 5 fish limit to 7 pounds!
If interested in booking a charter, book through our site (reelreactioncharters.com) or call/text 609-290-7709. As always, we use the highest quality gear and everything is included: gear, bait, tackle, fish-cleaning, and ICE! It’s “no worries” fishing. Just come aboard and FISH.
Reel Fantasea Fishing Charters
That’s a wrap ! ( begrudgingly ) Another amazing , exciting and absolutely fun season fishing with both new and old friends this season. I cherish each and every time I throw the ropes to share in everything I’ve learned and developed over my 40 something years on the water ( am I really getting that old?) Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, but mostly a healthy and happy New year with your loved ones. Although the Reel Fantasea is on the hard and getting ready for her well deserved winter slumber she’ll be getting ready for the 2020 fishing season through out the offseason for more exciting memories and hopefully another trip around the sun.
Photo 1: This is nature ... looking amazing. Possibly a larval surgeonfish, which can get up to a foot long (Photo 2).
I had Village Harbor Fishing club return members (Ed Valitutto, Bill Dabney, Dave Spendiff, and Alan Goracy) out for an afternoon Tautog charter. We had very good sea conditions with a light swell and “on/off” drizzle, but the Tog/Blackfish were a little hesitant on the bite. We worked quite a few different pieces and the fish were barely hitting the offerings. This was probably due to the bottom being stirred from the weekends blow. The guys ended with close to 25 fish c...
Plate o' worms, dug this past weekend: Yet another little-seen member of the Holgate biosystem; bay mud division. Overall, these are among the most famed wigglers in the world, often thought of as exclusively New England deep-mud burrowers. They're also thought of as the most valuable worms in the world ... once loosed in the tackle shop realm. These were released but I'm hoping to hook up a slew of them to catch a Christmas dinner striper.
Will oil drilling contaminate this??????????????????
Underneath the salty waters of the North Atlantic ocean, geologists have discovered a giant aquifer of freshwater, hidden from view just off the US coast. In a new survey of the sub-seafloor off the U.S. Northeast coast, scientists have made a surprising discovery: a gigantic aquifer of relatively fresh water trapped in porous sediments lying below the salty ocean. It appears to be the largest such formation yet found in the world. The aquifer stretches from the shore at least from Massachusetts to New Jersey, extending more or less continuously out about 50 miles to the edge of the continental shelf. If found on the surface, it would create a lake covering some 15,000 square miles. The study suggests that such aquifers probably lie off many other coasts worldwide, and could provide desperately needed water for arid areas that are now in danger of running out. The researchers employed innovative measurements of electromagnetic waves to map the water, which remained invisible to other technologies. "We knew there was fresh water down there in isolated places, but we did not know the extent or geometry," said lead author Chloe Gustafson, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "It could turn out to be an important resource in other parts of the world." The study appears this week in the journal Scientific Reports. The first hints of the aquifer came in the 1970s, when companies drilled off the coastline for oil, but sometimes instead hit fresh water. Drill holes are just pinpricks in the seafloor, and scientists debated whether the water deposits were just isolated pockets or something bigger. Starting about 20 years ago, study coauthor Kerry Key, now a Lamont-Doherty geophysicist, helped oil companies develop techniques to use electromagnetic imaging of the sub-seafloor to look for oil. More recently, Key decided to see if some form of the technology could also be used also to find fresh-water deposits. In 2015, he and Rob L. Evans of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution spent 10 days on the Lamont-Doherty research vessel Marcus G. Langseth making measurements off southern New Jersey and the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, where scattered drill holes had hit fresh-water-rich sediments. They dropped receivers to the seafloor to measure electromagnetic fields below, and the degree to which natural disruptions such as solar winds and lightning strikes resonated through them. An apparatus towed behind the ship also emitted artificial electromagnetic pulses and recorded the same type of reactions from the subseafloor. Both methods work in a simple way: salt water is a better conductor of electromagnetic waves than fresh water, so the freshwater stood out as a band of low conductance. Analyses indicated that the deposits are not scattered; they are more or less continuous, starting at the shoreline and extending far out within the shallow continental shelf—in some cases, as far as 75 miles. For the most part, they begin at around 600 feet below the ocean floor, and bottom out at about 1,200 feet. The consistency of the data from both study areas allowed to the researchers to infer with a high degree of confidence that fresh water sediments continuously span not just New Jersey and much of Massachusetts, but the intervening coasts of Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. They estimate that the region holds at least 670 cubic miles of fresh water. If future research shows the aquifer extends further north and south, it would rival the great Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies vital groundwater to eight Great Plains states, from South Dakota to Texas.
|Scientists have mapped a huge aquifer off the US Northeast (hatched area). Solid yellow or white lines with triangles show ship tracks. Dotted white line near shore shows edge of the glacial ice sheet that melted about 15,000 years ago. Further out, dark blue, the continental shelf drops off into the Atlantic abyss. Credit: Gustafson et al., Scientific Reports
N.J.’s bear hunt is being extended -- again
Updated 12:09 PM;Today 11:40 AM
Bear hunt in New Jersey: Two sides defend their position
New Jersey’s annual bear hunt is starting up again Wednesday, for up to four days, after state officials determined that not enough were killed during the regular, 12-day season that concluded four days ago.
A total of 302 bears were killed during separate, 6-day hunts in October and December, a rally that included less than 15% of the 150 bears in the state that had been “tagged,” or documented, prior to it getting underway.
Under the state rules governing the hunt, it may be extended for up to four days if less than 20% of tagged bears are killed.
The hunt was similarly extended in 2017 and 2018. A total of 225 bears were killed one year ago, down from 409 two years ago.
This year’s hunt was approved by the N.J. Fish and Game Council as part of a 5-year bear management plan adopted in 2015.
It is being held in eight northern counties: Sussex, Morris, Warren, Passaic, Somerset, Hunterdon, Bergen and Mercer.
The bear hunt has prompted protests from animal rights activists, and occasional civil-disobedience arrests, since resuming in 2003 following a moratorium of more than three decades.
Supporters have said it is needed to protect people and property, but opponents have charged it is unnecessary and that problems stem from residents not securing their garbage and taking other precautions
Bear hunt protesters gathered last Saturday in Fredon, across the street from one of the state’s five check stations.
Protesters also gathered Nov. 30 in Middletown, the hometown of Gov. Phil Murphy, to voice their opposition to the hunt.
Murphy had pledged as a candidate to stop the hunt, which was held for all eight years under former Gov. Chris Christie, but relented upon taking office and contending that he lacked the legal authority to halt it altogether.
Instead, he issued an executive order barring the hunt from state land, a step that drew criticism from both sides.
A hunter in 2017 killed the 4,000th bear since the hunt resumed in 2003.
Rob Jennings may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
Randy of American Angler showing his colors on LBI
Gary Adair is with Kirsten Holloway.
The boss went to the seafood market while i was in the woods today. Nothing makes me more happy then seeing everything i showed her put to use. Thanks to David Moores
for giving her a ride. Team magictails
Wow!! What a fabulous idea! WTG Florida!
I'm not gonna say I havent caught bigger ones. I have caught thousands of rockfish, with hundreds over 40 pounds, and dozens over 50 pounds. In the 2000's, there were some fish in the ocean over the three mile line that we couldnt keep that were huge, but this one is the biggest that I ever caught inside the bay on a rod and reel that we could keep. Sixty plus pound rockfish like this dont exist today, and it isnt that they all got caught by fishermen.
These fish died as uncounted dead discards in menhaden nets. It's a shame that fishermen spent decades protecting these fish, growing these fish, following tight regulations, and practicing responsible fisheries management, only to have that fishery completely wiped out by the carelessness and greed of Omega protein. For a decade now, fishermen have seen striper numbers go down and average sizes getting smaller and smaller despite less participation in the striped bass fishery and tighter regulations. These fish arent dying from fish hooks. They are dying in menhaden nets. Thousands of Virginian fishermen- commercial fishermen, charter fishermen, and recreational fishermen lost this fishery, the entire city of Virginia Beach lost an entire winter economy, the state of Virginia lost over 1 billion dollars annually, to the menhaden fishery, when they killed our striper fishery.
Striper are the ultimate gamefish. They live close to the coast and have a wide range where they can be a target species from North Carolina to Newfoundland, they can become abundant, they are aggressive feeders, they fight hard, they get big, and they are good to eat. The chesapeake bay and the waters I fish near my home traditionally are the best place in the world to catch striped bass during the winter.
Fish like this grow for over 20 years, and in that 20 years, this fish is targeted by fishermen nearly every day of its life.These fish get this big by being smart. These huge trophy rockfish are only caught by the smartest most skilled fishermen on the one day in that over 20 years where that fish makes the mistake of eating the wrong thing. I spent years of my life learning everything about these fish so I could learn how to catch them. I'm really good at catching these fish and really enjoyed doing it.
It's a shame to me that this fishery was destroyed, not by me and everyone else who played by the rules for years, but by the menhaden fishery that has zero respect- not only for the striped bass they kill or the fishery they destroyed, but they have zero respect for the thousands of fishermen they took that fishery from. I'm glad I was able to see this fishery. I was lucky to catch hundreds of fish that many fishermen spend years chasing just one of them. But it makes me really sad to think that this is gone and my daughter will likely never get to experience this fishery like what I've seen.
This Pacific island has banned fishing to allow the marine ecosystem to recover
December 12, 2019 by
This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.
Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content
- Palau will ban fishing on 80% of its marine territory to allow coral reefs to recover and protect coastal areas against the impact of climate change.
- Fish stocks have already doubled in Palau’s protected areas.
- Almost 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.
People on the Pacific archipelago of Palau firmly believe in the old saying, “We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.”
For centuries, they have been managing their delicate marine ecosystem sustainably through the practice of “bul.” This involves making certain parts of the reef off-limits to fishing during spawning and feeding to allow its 1,300 species of fish to thrive.
Now, bul has become the philosophy on which the island nation has based its new protected marine reserve, which will ban fishing on 500,000 square kilometres of its maritime territory, an area roughly the size of France.Thinking about tomorrow
Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr is an advocate for bul.
President of Palau Tommy Remengesau Jr announced the reserve in 2015. It’s been phased in over five years, with 80% of its waters being closed to commercial fishing from 2020.
The remaining 20% will be reserved for Palau’s fishermen, as well as some fishing vessels from the Japanese island of Okinawa, which has fished the islands for centuries.
President Remengesau Jr says, “There’s a deeper meaning to bul. It’s prohibition in the sense that you’re doing this to benefit your children, because you have to think about tomorrow and the day after and the years coming.”
In Palauan tradition, families pass down through generations the idea of having a positive impact on the planet. “Always leave your island a better place for your children,” says the president.
Dwindling fish stocks
Sharks and other fish are returning to Palau’s reef.
Almost 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, according to the UN.
“Different factors have caused declines in reef fish populations,” says Vanessa Jaiteh, Palau’s Fisheries Scientist, Ministry of Natural Resources Environment and Tourism.
“In many places it was the mechanization or modernization of fishing gears that’s led to humans basically becoming far too efficient at catching fish.”
“The world is driven by economic considerations and giving nature time to recover is not necessarily what gives you the greatest economic return in the short-term.”
Palau’s bul policy is paying off.
Establishing marine protected areas is crucial for restoring ocean ecosystems and fisheries, as well as building resilience to climate change.
Palau’s coastal waters are home to 700 types of coral, and besides helping the ecosystem recover, protecting the coral reefs can make people less vulnerable to extreme weather.
“In Palau we’re seeing sea level rises, we’re seeing frequent storms and natural disasters, things that we’re not used to in our past but now have become the norm,” says President Remengesau Jr.
“So when things are happening and it’s affecting your livelihood; when people have to be relocated to higher ground; we’re no longer debating among ourselves whether there’s a real impact of global warming or climate change, we know it’s there.”
He says the focus then becomes this: “What can we do to lessen this impact? What can we do to at least prepare the next generation?”
Scientists call for a complete ban on GLITTER because the particles are polluting oceans and hurting marine life
- Glitter is made of a microplastic known as Mylar, which is hurting ocean life
- This plastic accounts for 92.4% of the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean
- Marine life is mistaking glitter for food, which is damaging their livers
- Every tiny sparkly bit takes thousands of years to break down
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In this two-part feature, The Fish Site and Mike Selden, CEO of the cell-based fish company Finless Foods, discuss the background of lab-grown fish and the origins of Finless Foods bluefin tuna.
Cell-based fish: background to the business
Currently, there are less than 10 cell-based seafood companies in the world. Companies like Finless Foods grow edible fish in a food certified facility from small biopsies of fish cells. Though it sounds like something out of science fiction, the companies have each raised millions of dollars from investors in their first round of funding.
There are multiple reasons why cell-based fish could be successful and sustainable: culturing the cells on land reduces the economic and environmental pressures on fisheries. It presents a new approach to species conservation. Cell-based seafood doesn’t harm the donor fish, so bioethicists and welfare activists from PETA are comfortable claiming that it’s cruelty-free. Since the fish is grown in lab-controlled conditions, the environmental pollutants associated with industrial fishing and traditional aquaculture aren’t present in the finished product.
Mike Selden and Brian Wyrwas at the Finless Foods facility in California
© Finless Foods
What was your motivation for creating Finless Foods?
I went to an agricultural school, studying biochemistry and molecular biology. I’ve always been interested in the food system and how it relates to social and economic justice and food justice. I’ve done a lot of political activism in my life, and we were seeing that the ocean is under greater strain and is on the brink of collapse. We just thought that we don’t have a lot of time left, and if we don’t reverse how the world eats and creates its power, we’re going to have irreversible climate collapse within the next 12 years.
A lot of it was sustainability as well. In 2014 I read an article called “The last days of the blue-blood harvest” in The Atlantic, how we harvest horseshoe crabs for their blood in order to use it in pharmaceuticals, and people realised that we were destroying horseshoe crab habitats, and we couldn’t catch them at a fast enough rate to sustain production. So scientists set out to make an equivalent. Something that could be made outside of a horseshoe crab but would serve the same function. And in reading this article, I thought that if we could do this with horseshoe crab blood, why can’t we do that with any meat at all? And going to school for agriculture, I saw how animal agriculture was a massive blight on the planet. And I started Googling around to see if someone had tried this, and it turned out that I was not totally crazy. I ended up moving to New York and working at New Harvest. It’s an organisation that takes donations and puts them towards PhD projects in this field. But in working there, I met a lot of other investors. I dropped the grant, and I took the investment money and did this instead.
It just feels like a better allocation of resources and is more in line with my skill set. I’ve always been on the side of science communication rather than doing lab work itself. I pulled in my friend Brian from college, and we started by designing a tech work flow, we applied to IndieBio, which is a life-science accelerator in San Francisco that had a lab that we wanted. From there we made our first prototype, which was the first cell-based seafood of its kind to be eaten by anybody, and the first cell-based meat or seafood that was eaten by journalists, and not just by a friend of the company. And so with that we were able to raise a whole bunch of money and hire some people so now we have our own lab and have 11 full-time people.
Nobody was working on this problem in the fish space... I felt like it was not only something I was attached to personally, but also something that needed work done
Of all the cellular agriculture possibilities, why fish?
Nobody was working on this problem in the fish space – people were already doing cellular agriculture for meat-based stuff, but nobody had yet tried fish. So I felt like it was not only something I was attached to personally, but also something that needed work done.
How did you land on bluefin tuna in particular?
So, with bluefin tuna, we’re taking [tissue engineering] technology and making it cheaper until it can hit food-grade prices. And so, halfway between those two prices is luxury goods. Bluefin tuna is one of the most expensive varieties of meat so it seemed like an easy thing for us to shoot for at first. For us, it’s the same cost to make tilapia as it is to make bluefin tuna, so we might as well start at the top and go down from there. On top of that, it’s a threatened species, and fishing it is really destroying the ocean. And we’re filling a market need. There currently aren’t any ways to scale up bluefin tuna aquaculture.
What were the unexpected challenges that you had to overcome?
There have been a bunch! So we knew that when we dove into this that we were doing something unexplored. There are a lot of companies on the meat-based side of things, whereas for seafood, there are four. And most of that is related to the fact that so little research has been done in seafood cell culture. We’re starting from scratch in a lot of ways. We felt that we anticipated that problem, but the magnitude of it was something that we didn’t feel correctly going into it. There’s been a lot of moving in low information environments. On the other hand we have found that fish cells are easier to work with in a lot of ways. It seems easier to make them spontaneously immortalise, or self-immortalise [a process where the cells continue to divide and proliferate when they normally wouldn’t], and also, we feel that the structure is a bit simpler. If you look at something like a steak from a cow, you have this complex swirling of marble and fat, whereas if you look at something like a salmon, you have layers of muscle-fat-muscle-fat, and that makes it easier for people to print that using current tissue engineering techniques. On top of that, the fact that the price point is higher means that we can pursue much more established technology, driving costs down. In California, in restaurants, the cheapest [bluefin tuna] you can get to the end consumer is about $150 per pound, which ends up being like $7 for a piece of sushi meat. So it makes things easier for us in a lot of ways, even though there are ways in which it’s difficult.
Finless Foods created bluefin tuna fish croquettes in September 2017
© Finless Foods
When do you expect to reach commercialisation?
Soon-ish. We are bringing it to market as fast as we can. We’ve been withdrawing timelines publicly because we’re just like, “it’s going to be ready when it’s ready.” We just want to make sure that when it first hits the market, it’s extremely delicious and is very presentable. Whatever you come out with first, people are going to remember, especially in terms of food. So we just want to make sure that it’s great before it gets there. But we also need to make sure that it’s safe. [We also will be] working with regulators to ensure safety. And that stuff is also hard to put a timeline on.
It seems like the biggest barrier to commercialisation is the cost of the growth medium. How have you tackled that issue?
There are a bunch of different levers that can be pushed in order to bring down price. The three main ones are the costs of the inputs – just like fish farming, we need to create a cheaper feed. There’s the efficiencies of the cells themselves, so this is: “How many cells can be grown per litre of media?” This is something that will be based on the ingredients in our media, but also based on breeding our cells together and selecting the cells that work more efficiently – in a similar way to how crops are bred. And then the third would be recycling of the growth media. So, really, all three are related to the costs of the inputs, but that’s how farming works in general.
Is your serum plant-based?
We don’t intend to take to market any sort of media that involves animal components. It defeats the point of the company to use [animal-based serum]. We got into this for environmental reasons, and we think that involving animal-based ingredients in the feed itself is a little defeating for us.
Have you had to overcome any regulatory hurdles?
To say that we have overcome them would be like saying that we’re further along than we are. [In the US] it seems like cell-based seafood is going to be regulated by the FDA. We’re going to have to go through pre-market approval… We think this is an important part of our process because we want to make sure people trust what we do. We think that the regulatory system is a really good way to gain public trust on that. One of the regulatory hurdles that we’ve been really pushing for is labelling. We had the US Cattlemen’s Association say that we’re not allowed to call cell-based beef “beef”; it has to be called something else. I made an argument in front of the FDA that we definitely need to call this what it is. If you’re allergic to seafood, you’re definitely going to be allergic to what we make. And so, to not call it what it is would create a public health hazard.
Do you think that you’ll ever reach price parity with conventional tuna?
I do. I don’t think that will come soon. I think at first this will be a luxury good; I think it will be something that’s fairly expensive. I think we can definitely hit bluefin tuna prices. For other varieties of tuna, that’s our hope. It’s technically feasible to produce food this way – in part, because we just don’t have as many inefficiencies in our system. Fish have to spend a lot of energy being a fish and keeping the body of the fish alive, whereas we’re trying to create this extraordinarily waste-less process, where all energy gets devoted into the creation of meat. I do believe that this process will be cheaper than everything, but it could take a bit of time.