Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | April 17, 2015

From Bait to Plate

As the world becomes more aware of the challenges ahead of the ocean and the practices that are going on behind the scenes to get that fish to market….. Here is an article that brings to light some very interesting points. It even talks about Zombie Fishing Fleets. It is a re-post of an article that is a very good read Credits and links at bottom of page.


“Is this local?”

This question, posed by consumers in restaurants and food markets across the country, has become a ubiquitous catchphrase. It even served as the subject of the very first sketch on IFC’s uber-hipster comedy series “Portlandia.” The bit focused on a cloying couple so concerned with the premortem welfare of the chicken offered on a bistro’s menu that they ditched dinner to ride out to the farm and check the bird’s paperwork.

The local-food movement has gained steam in recent years, particularly in small, younger-skewing cities such as Portland, Oregon and my hometown of Portland, Maine. But it is spreading across the nation too. As the movement gains supporters, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Americans are more frequently asking about the source and quality of their food. This is a relatively simple question to answer when it comes to farm-raised protein sources such as beef, pork, and the pampered pullet of “Portlandia.” Seafood, however, is an entirely different animal.

Fortunately, as the first lady has taken her healthy eating message to the masses, her husband has been working to shore up the nation’s seafood tracking systems. During a March 15 appearance at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and the U.S. Department of State released an action plan outlining how the recommendations of the 19-agency Presidential Task Force on Combatting IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud will be implemented. In short, President Barack Obama is giving seafood lovers a much clearer picture of what eventually makes it onto their plates.

The actions initiated by this plan fall into two separate categories: addressing illegal, unregulated, and unreported, or IUU, fishing—which primarily happens among foreign fleets and in international waters—and increasing consumers’ ability to trace all aspects of their fish from bait to plate. This particularly applies to roughly 90 percent of the seafood imported from foreign vessels and processing facilities.

IUU fishing—sometimes referred to in more colorful terms as black market or pirate fishing—is truly a scourge. The pirate moniker evokes rogue vessels plundering the ocean of its bounty by fishing beyond sustainable limits, and indeed, this occurs on a grand scale: According to NOAA, IUU fishing costs honest fishermen anywhere from $10 billion to $23 billion annually. Such activities can also encompass even darker crimes, including human trafficking and slave labor.

Laudable work by the Environmental Justice Foundation and other organizations has unearthed harrowing stories of abducted workers sold into slave labor, primarily to Thai vessels. At sea, the captains target low-value ocean species that are only suitable to be ground into fishmeal and used as feed for southeast Asian shrimp farms that primarily serve the U.S. and European markets. The laborers are physically abused and, in some cases, worked literally to death aboard boats that fish perpetually without returning to port, using tenders to resupply and transport the fishmeal to market. This leaves the workers with no chance of escape, particularly since many of them had never seen the ocean before, let alone learned how to swim.

This shocking, subhuman treatment is a jarring and extreme example of the need for a greater understanding of where our fish comes from—hence, the traceability component of the Obama administration’s action plan. In addition to eschewing a side order of slave labor with our scampi, traceability also means ensuring that the fish Americans consume—whether farmed or wild caught—comes from safe, reputable sources with labels correctly asserting what it is.

Assuring the source and certainty of our seafood is more of a problem than most Americans realize. A 2011 investigation by The Boston Globe found that nearly half of the fish it tested from Boston restaurants was not what the menu actually advertised. And when the paper followed up with the same establishments a year later, more than two-thirds of the samples tested flunked again. On a grander scale, the environmental group Oceana released a report in 2013 estimating that one-third of all seafood sold in the United States is mislabeled, with a lower-value species usually substituted for a higher-value one. The report found that fish labeled as red snapper were actually a different species—usually tilapia, perch, rockfish, or sea bream—in an astounding 87 percent of its samples.

The statistics on inspection and tracking of fish before it reaches the U.S. market are even more troubling. According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, inspected just 0.1 percent of all aquaculture imports for illegal antibiotics and chemicals from 2006 to 2011. It inspected just 1.5 percent of Chinese aquaculture facilities during the same period. This occurred despite reports—including a 2007 Washington Post exposé—detailing Chinese fish farms’ widespread use of chemicals banned in the United States. These farms used some additives prohibited even in China, such as the carcinogenic organic compound known as malachite green.

Despite these ominous indications, the actions announced at Seafood Expo North America will immediately begin to turn the tide against shady operators and questionable imports, leveling the playing field for honest, hardworking U.S. fishermen. The 15 specific actions enumerated in the administration’s action plan include expanded local, state, and federal enforcement capacity; provisions to allow more robust information sharing among federal agencies to target criminal operators; and heightened consideration of fisheries and aquaculture issues in diplomatic negotiations and trade agreements. And while not as immediate a fix, perhaps the action most relevant to consumers is establishing a means of identifying the wild-caught and aquaculture species most at risk of fraud and illegal activity, requiring that electronically traceable data accompany each import shipment of these species by mid-2016.

In the interim, don’t let fear turn you away from one of the healthiest sources of protein. Oceana’s Beth Lowell has enumerated seven recommendations for consumers who want to ensure that they’re eating clean fish. Still, the simplest, most effective thing one can do to ensure purchased fish is healthy and sustainable—and not sourced from slave ships—is to buy American. All seafood must be labeled with its country of origin, so if it’s U.S. caught and processed, its label must read “Product of USA.”

By asking for and purchasing U.S.-caught or raised fish, Americans can support sustainable fishing practices; avoid the possibility of inadvertently supporting slavery; eliminate the risk of illegal additives; and help our fishermen recoup some of the revenue they would otherwise lose to illegal and unsustainable competitors abroad. American fisheries are among the best managed in the world. The actions laid out by the Obama administration earlier this month will help other countries—particularly, less-developed nations—rise to meet the standard that American consumers have come to expect.

Michael Conathan is the Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress.

Photo credit: AP/Rick Bowmer

Link to original posted article:

Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | April 15, 2015

A few pictures of my girl….

R/V Sea Watch – The SharkBoat

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captain chris wade sea watch shark boat

Research Vessel Sea Watch Shark Boat captain chris wade

IMG_5281 IMG_1844 IMG_1850

Here is the link to the petition. Please sign and share

Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | April 12, 2015

Repost of Monterey Herald on the Sardine Collapse

The following is a repost of an article in the Monterey Herald on the Sardine Collapse on the West Coast.

Geoffrey Shester: Urgent need to overhaul sardine fishery management

By Geoffrey Shester

Guest commentary

History repeats as the Pacific sardine population collapses and California’s iconic ocean wildlife feels the impacts. The Pacific sardine population has collapsed 90 percent since 2007 and the fishery has been overfishing during this decline. As a result, sea lions and seabirds are starving and one of California’s most lucrative fisheries must soon shut down.

The federal government’s latest assessment shows not only that the West Coast sardine population has crashed, but also that the catch has exceeded “maximum sustainable yield” fishing rates for the last three years. This meets the definition of overfishing under federal law. The sardine fishery has landed over 17,500 metric tons this season, while the new assessment shows the overfishing level to be less than 16,000 metric tons. Overfishing is happening right now. The cause: overly optimistic predictions and inadequate management safeguards. Sadly, in-the-water indications such as starving sea lions and pelicans did not change either management or fishing behavior.

Federal scientists warned of a collapsing Pacific sardine population in 2012 and the parallels between high fishing rates during the Cannery Row era of the 1930s and ‘40s and today. Last year, the same scientists pointed out that the U.S. is failing to account for catches in Mexico and Canada, leading to excessive coastwide fishing rates. Fishery managers ignored the warning signs and went on with business as usual.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have implicated a lack of sardines as a primary cause for the dramatic sea lion starvation. Over 70 percent of all pups are expected to die of starvation this year. Yet NOAA fails to connect the dots to fishing. We’ve heard everything from the sardines are hiding in the kelp, to the water being too warm, to they are too far offshore and too deep, to they are too shallow. The fact of the matter is that the sardine population has collapsed. Changing ocean conditions are a driver, but overfishing pushed the stock over the edge.

The solutions are simple. First, fishery managers must take emergency action to immediately close the sardine fishery. Every additional ton of sardines removed right now further worsens the collapse with long-term impacts. Second, fundamental changes to sardine management must be made to provide marine wildlife with adequate forage and to prevent future overfishing. This means suspending the sardine fishery sooner before the stock declines to such low levels and better accounting for international fishing of this population.

A new scientific study published Monday confirms that fishing exacerbates natural forage fish population crashes. While sardine abundance fluctuates with ocean conditions, fishing rates that are sustainable under favorable ocean conditions will devastate a population when conditions become less productive. Managers irresponsibly failed to pull in the reins on fishing despite less productive ocean conditions and a documented sardine collapse.

Overfishing could have devastating consequences to our ecosystem and fisheries for decades to come. After the Cannery Row collapse, sardines didn’t come back for over 20 years and they never returned to the abundance observed in the 1930s.

How many times will fishery managers make the same mistakes before fixing the underlying problem? Rather than fighting over who can catch the last sardines, we urge the industry and decision-makers to leave more forage fish in the water, and to only allow fishing when the sardine population is at higher, more productive levels. With a fluctuating sardine population, the industry needs to adapt. Whether those changes are prompted by fishery managers or because the fish are gone will ultimately make the difference between a healthy ocean ecosystem and one that we have permanently impaired.

Geoffrey Shester is California Campaign Director for Oceana in Monterey.

Here is the link to the Article:

Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | April 10, 2015

The treasure

as we get ready to jump on our next mission, I stopped to ponder the question – what is the treasure?


Not sure if I can answer today as we have items to prep to catch poachers  – but fore sure I treasure nature and travel. 

Sunset in Golfito Costa Rica pictured. 

Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | December 12, 2014

Research meets protection

A link to an interview I did with the folks of Planet

Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | November 3, 2014

Becoming an EcoPirate

It’s an odd job title.

It was not something that I applied for. Not even sure it was something that I wanted. More so, it was something that just happened.

When people ask what I do… my response often gets a strange look. Yet, it is totally true. I am an EcoPirate.

I had been working as a marine biologist in public aquariums. Big ones. It was my job to collect and transport the marine animals for display, maintain & operate the facilities research vessels, and to train divers and biologists to care for the animals as well as work safely in and underwater during the potentially dangerous activities. To help the facility teams to find, capture, and bring back these unique creatures safely and effectively.

It was a dream job for me and it gave me great pride to watch kids and adults light up when they visited my facility and area. When they saw something new or unique or discovered the amazing grace and beauty of a marine animal. When they made a connection or gained a better understanding. When the public that attended the facilities learned.

I have always loved aquariums and could stand in front of the windows that looked into the sea for hours on end. It brought me back to the days of watching JYC on tv with the family. His wise and soothing words rang in my ears and made me dream of seeing these animals in the real world. I often imagined the adventure to arrive at a destination and thought of splashing down and immersing myself in this alien world, donned with the heavy gear needed for me to visit it.

I recalled the days and earlier times exploring with my family and friends. It was different then. There was little understanding or even the belief of the ocean being a finite resource, even though the wise words had rang in my ears, it didn’t feel that it impacted me. The ocean was a place of adventure and bounty. A place where you had ability to bring back your food from hunting & catching fish and other critters while providing adventure and recreation.

When I became a professional aquatic collector for aquariums, it was like a dream come true. I was going to be paid to fish and these fish I caught would then teach people to love the ocean as I do. Win Win in my book. I took on the challenges and reaped the rewards, although my rewards were not so much monetary. It was very special to me

I began to learn more. I went from being the one that was a “tourist” on the ocean to one that was leading expeditions for employees to work. The pressure increased to become effective and fast in efforts to keep operational costs down. I had to really know the animals and locations. I had to understand exactly how to catch the specific animals that were sought for display as well as when and where they could be found. It’s a big ocean, so I began to watch much closer.

Instead of just saying “that was an amazing dive with many fish”. I began to use my knowledge. I began to look at actual numbers. Actual sizes. Specific species. How many of each kind? How big were they? I was spending more and more time out there. I was seeing more and more things.

As I began to see more, I started to notice the changes. What was once easy to find, was becoming not as easy to locate. I had to go further, to rougher places, to locations that were not as accessible. I began to wonder why?….. animals that were once of size and stature with large numbers, were now small and lower numbers, or not even there at all. It got me thinking. It got me wondering. It got me researching. It got me talking.

I began to notice other things happening. I saw so many fish being landed. So many boats working. In every location I went. The commercial fishing boats were there, they were always working.

Flagged from every nation and with men from every race. Built of many configurations and using many different methods of fishing. Some scrapped the bottom, some used nets, some used traps, some used lines with thousands of hooks. They were countless and endless. Not new and bristle – these ships are weathered and rusty. Like the men that work them, they were tough and rugged. They earned their living from the bounty of the sea.

I watched these boats offloading cargo holds full of fish. Cranes lifting, conveyor belts turning, odd machines pumping and sucking out, the bounty of the sea.

It did not take long to realize…. We humans were taking too much. Pieces of a puzzle greater than I fell into place.

I found myself in a quandary. How could I bring these facts to light? What could I do to help save the ocean and her inhabitants that I love so much?

Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | October 30, 2014

it all started when….

I guess I should start with my thanks from the beginning. Gotta give a huge shout out to Andy Brandy Casagrande IV & Andy Brandy Casagrande IV – It all started when he called me about running a shoot for Discovery Channel and Shark Week for the show later named as “Great White Triangle”. The Captain Jack (the boat I had been running for expeditions) was not suitable for the equipment and not liked by one of the talent involved in the shoot – We could not find a boat that was right for the job that was affordable. I wanted the shoot and the adventure – which selfishly pushed me to make the plunge and buying the Sea Watch – Shark Boat – although a very trying schedule, extremely challenging shoot and an overall humbling experience that I lost money on in the end – It started the motion and momentum that has the boat underway to fight pirates poachers and shark finners today, I very much appreciated the opportunity then and happy with where the path has lead me. Many great friends and more sharky adventures than I can count- feels like the boat and my pirate crew have done some pretty solid things to help sharks and the ocean already. So- Much Respect and many thanks amigo for picking up that phone and activating this “shark monkey” – that day changed my life in many many ways.

Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | October 9, 2014

When push comes to shove

It was a crazy idea… Not the first I have had. Probably not the last.

I wanted to do what I could. I didn’t have much, so figured it wasn’t much to lose. I wanted to save sharks and do real research that would help to protect our ecosystems. I had seen to much madness – everyone fighting for money and not really caring about impacts humans were having.

Always fought for research dollars- never got much of them. Funny to me that we know more about outer space than inner space. I guess that is why I started working on and with the ocean. How to take that into my own hands?

In comes the Sea Watch. She is a big girl that needed se love and care. She had been decommissioned from USC’s research fleet. They dropped funding and had left her setting at dock in Fish Harbor.

I had been approached to run a vessel for Discovery Channel for a Shark Week Production called Great White Triangle.

I bought her for a song. Friends volunteers and family helped to refit and fix her.

As things evolved – I began to realize our real mission. It wasn’t hard to see. We were motivating and inspiring while teaching many people. The stories of our adventures drew people in. They wanted to learn and become involved.

Fast Forward to present.

We have cast the lines and shoved off on our biggest adventure to date. We are heading south into the unprotected waters of the eastern tropical pacific to fight pirates, poachers and shark finners. We have truly become EcoPirate s – we are the Pirates of of the Pacific.

Short on funds, not everything repaired, not everything is ready- but we are out of time. Either give up or go…the point of not return had come…. Push had came to shove.

We are at sea aboard the Sea Watch. We call her the SharkBoat. Day 1 of our adventure sends us back to where it all began…. Fish Harbor

Follow our journey

Captain Chris WadeIMG_3785.JPG



Posted by: Shark Boat - R/V Sea Watch | September 17, 2014

Animal Care Angst

When I was a kid…. I went to Sea World with my family. I learned to love these amazing sea creatures, I became connected to them. I saw trainers and wanted to be them. I said the words out loud. I want to be a dolphin trainer when i grow up….
fast forward.
Here I stand today laying my life and I all have on the line to save and protect our oceans as well as the animals that call it home.
How many similar stories are in the world? This debate – it is not a cut and dry thing. Not everyone can go to the ocean. Some will never in their life see it. Some will never gain those connections or interest. Some will never build that passion. Some never would have. They will never have a chance to smell the scent, feel the salt on their face, see the animals in their natural environment.
For those that choose to cast stones – do you still go and eat a nice sushi lunch? Open a can of Tuna to make a sandwich? Buys the Shrimp Fajitas? Ahi poke with cocktails on friday night? Looks down to see the lobster at market price and wonder if you can afford it or deserve it that day decide on the Swordfish or Salmon instead?…..These things cause much greater death and destruction with zero educational return to anyone. The ironic nature of our world baffles me.
Cats and dogs have been domesticated and transformed. How many of you own pets? What is the difference there? These animals have been an evolved at human hands and will from a wild animal to a working animal – to now – simply a pet to please it’s human master and be a companion. Share with me the difference that makes one thing ok but not the other? Because that transformation happened before our time? Because owning a dog or cat is socially accepted? Is a dogs natural environment a plastic house in your back yard? Chained to something so that it will not run away while you are at work?
Talk the talk… Walk the walk. If the human race as a whole did this… We would not have the issues we do today.
I am no longer in the animal care or husbandry world. I am proud of what I did and the lives that I changed. The kids I inspired to do more than just play video games and sleep on the couch at moms house. The budding marine biologists I trained. The perceptions that I have changed. The learning that was achieved from my efforts – these things came at the expense of low wages, long hours, lost family time, lost relationships, along with lots of my own blood sweat and tears.
Sadly – the all mighty dollar and push to grow revenues while we each gain more material things is evolving the world as well. Not just in the corporate world but yours and mine. Don’t you want that raise – the nicer house – the better car? That tropical vacation? Don’t you think you deserve it? That you have earned it?
Not sure that captivity has ever been done right – I have extreme doubts & very skeptical that it will be or even could be.
That said – it is not as cut and dry as those with narrow vision may try to portray. I can personally say – I very much doubt I would be doing this if it were not for building those connections so long ago, that my dreams/passions would have developed another path and followed another direction. Maybe an doctor or attorney. Maybe I would manage a retail store. Maybe I would be a astronaut.
But I am not those things…. I am a Marine Biologist and Ocean Advocate. I am a protector of our oceans.
Captain Chris Wade
R/V Sea Watch – Shark Boat

The Earthist Chronicles

AC HortonNursing

Over the past month I’ve been digging into the lives of former SeaWorld Animal Care workers, and publishing their stories (here, here, and here). Many of their experiences seem shocking to people unfamiliar with animal care work, and how difficult it can be. And it is easy to see how the stories can fuel an anti-SeaWorld sentiment.

Jim Horton, one of the three former Animal Care workers I interviewed, was troubled by the vehemence and hardcore anti-SeaWorld nature of some of the comments he saw posted to social media in the aftermath of the stories (big mistake, to read comments, I explained). And also by the fact that many of the stories published in the Animal Care series focus on the negative aspects of the lives of the workers and the nature of managing animals in captivity.

Animal Care obviously includes a lot of positive experiences…

View original post 2,022 more words

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