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Care about sustainable seafood? Have an iPhone? Well, if so, you can now download a new mobile app that tells you which fish to eat and which to toss back at the touch of your fingers.

Created by our friends at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, Project FishMap is an interactive, easy to use application that also gives you the low-down on health and environmental issues associated with each fish. In short, it’s like having one of those handy Seafood Watch wallet cards in digital form, plus quite a few cool features to boot.

You can add your favorite sustainable seafood markets and restaurants to a map, which, in turn, gives you up-to-the-minute information on where to catch some eco-friendly sea fare, no matter where you are.

The app is free for downloading. So plug in and download away. Which are some of your favorite seafood markets or restaurants? Care to share any new finds with us? What features could added? We can’t guarantee you’ll get them, but it doesn’t hurt to make your voice heard.

The work and success of FCEC is made possible by the hard work of our great partners.

Why? Because they know their communities better than we do and can help to make our outreach most effective. BPSOS (formerly Boast People SOS), a community based organization serving the Vietnamese community, is just that kind of organization.
Founded in 1980, BPSOS initially formed as voluntary rescue-at-sea missions, saving over 3,000 people from rough waters as they attempted to boat across the Pacific Ocean from Vietnam to the United States. BPSOS’s mission has since evolved to adapt to changing needs of the community. One area it has been instrumental in is educating the Vietnamese American community about the risks of consuming contaminated fish in Southern California. But its work reaches far beyond California.

Our mission is quite similar to that of FCEC in that we are both seeking to serve an underserved community, says Tiffany Nguyen of BPSOS. Certainly educating the local Vietnamese population about fish contamination is an important and life-changing endeavor. Whether it be our economic or social programs like the work we do with FCEC, individual and cultural enrichment is central to our goals.

In fact, BPSOS claims to have touched the lives of one in every 10 Vietnamese Americans, or 10,000 Vietnamese in the United States annually since its inception. What began as a one staff operation has blossomed into a nationwide network of 18 offices with four locations in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, with more than 140 staffers.

Today, BPSOS spearheads local services for Vietnamese communities that include computer and vocational training, English as a Second Language courses, citizen preparation classes and self-help groups. BPSOS has also played a key role in chronicling an oral history of Vietnamese torture victims.

Together FCEC and BPSOS have coordinated numerous outreach efforts in predominately Vietnamese communities around Southern California, from staffing local events to hosting health fairs. BPSOS’s insight and cultural understanding has been crucial in tailoring FCEC’s environmental message to the Vietnamese American population around which fish to avoid, such as the white croaker.

We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with BPSOS, as the very success of our work depends on it.

2010 was a remarkable year for the Fish Consumption Education Collaborative, known as FCEC. We saw a large increase in our outreach efforts. We engaged our community at local piers, clubs and community organizations more than in any previous year. We attended numerous events where we spoke directly to community members about fish contamination in the area.

We also saw a few significant changes these past twelve months. Sharon Lin, who led the FCEC program for several years, moved on to other endeavors within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. FCEC benefited from her vision and leadership. Sharon was instrumental in creating the foundation for the work we will continue to expand upon.

In case you were wondering, I’m her replacement. I joined the EPA in 1997, working in the Community Involvement Office. It is my hope that my experience there and my various other roles will aid FCEC in its educational and community outreach. Additionally, I’m familiar with the issues around the Palos Verdes Shelf since I’ve been working on the Shelf’s cleanup plans since 2004.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you! We recently asked you what you thought of our newsletters and blog posts. Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts.

Here are a few things we learned from the survey. Almost half of the respondents visit our blog monthly. Our newsletter readers also prefer informative videos and posts and like reading about fish consumption information. As a result, you can expect more of what you like! So why not start with our current newsletter that serves up exactly that?

First, check out an interview with Dave Anderson who works with our partner, Seafood For the Future – who talks about the relationship between what we eat and ocean sustainability. We also have a video on what chef and author Barton Seaver dubs “Restorative Seafood” and how to eat with sustainability in mind.

Lastly, we have a short video clip with fish enthusiasts from the Cerritos Rod & Gun Club, where they discuss what they learned about fish contamination at one of their club meetings.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!

Sincerely,

Carmen White

Our dinner choices matter, according to Dave Anderson, a marine biologist at Seafood for the Future, a program at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. Learn how you can make a difference by being conscientious of what fish you order at your favorite restaurant, among other things. Check out a video showing delicious ways of preparing sustainable seafood.

FCEC: So Dave, tell us a little about Seafood for the Future. What is it exactly? What’s the organization’s mission?

Dave Anderson: Seafood for the Future is a non-profit program of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. We promote sustainable seafood practices among restaurants, wholesalers and distributors. Our goal is to connect the public with healthy, sustainable seafood options. The seafood we choose, if sold at a local restaurant, is marked with our logo of approval so that better choices can be more easily recognized. When a consumer chooses this item, not only will they be ordering the best eco-friendly seafood, they’ll also receive a free ticket to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

FCEC: How many restaurants are you currently working with?

Dave Anderson: Currently we work with 75 restaurants and 12 distributors from Santa Barbara all the way down to San Diego. But those numbers are ever-growing.

FCEC: Why should people care about whether or not they are eating “sustainable” fish?

Dave Anderson: In terms of environmental sustainability, eating the fish we pick helps to better manage our natural resources, which in some cases are in rapid decline. In addition to this, fish resources that are properly managed are often healthier for people to eat. So when we engage chefs directly we are helping to improve their practices: from purchases to preparation, and ultimately the quality of their menus improves.

From right to left, Andrew Gruel and Dave Anderson.

FCEC: How can one’s individual food choices make a positive impact?

Dave Anderson: One’s food choices, especially in the case of seafood, can have an immediate and direct impact, not only for sustainability, but for the entire market place. When sustainable seafood is in high demand, chefs are more likely to make sure to carry such products.

About 80% of our seafood is imported, much of this seafood comes from areas in the world that do not have the same environmental safeguards as the United States. So if their production and harvesting practices are harmful, we aren’t likely to know about it. But when we eat sustainable seafood we ensure that the fishing practices meet our requirements.
FCEC: What are some of the fish that people should look to purchase?

Dave Anderson: Seafood from Alaska, wild Pacific salmon is an easy one to remember. Their stocks are quite healthy up there. Some other easy ones are sardines and mackerel – both of which reproduce fast, making them more environmentally sustainable.

FCEC: What are a few things that are having the greatest impact on threatened fish populations?

Dave Anderson: Two things: fishing pressure and habitat decline. The latter happens with overdevelopment and immediate pressures on the eco-system, such as oil spills.

FCEC: How can people further educate themselves about these issues?

Dave Anderson: First and foremost, people need to pay attention to what it is they are eating. Awareness on every level will help. Once people are aware of where their food comes from, what it is exactly, then they are more likely to make better, healthier food choices. This is where Seafood for the Future and FCEC overlap and seek to achieve the same goal: helping people make better, healthier fish consumption choices.

White croaker. It’s plentiful. It’s easy to catch, and if you are fishing around the Palos Verdes Shelf in Southern California, it’s also highly contaminated with toxins; hence the reason why you should never eat the white croaker.

Below is a short introductory video that explains the history behind this contamination, as well as easy tips on how to identify the white croaker.

If you’d like to watch the video in Chinese, Spanish or Vietnamese, please visit our YouTube channel. Also, let us know what you think about our white croaker video in the comment section below!

Fishing enthusiasts at the Cerritos Rod & Gun Club in November learned about which fish caught off the Palos Verdes Shelf they should avoid.

“I was definitely surprised at all the other species of fish in addition to the white croaker that we shouldn’t be eating,” said Cerritos Rod & Gun Club President Charles Sharp.

Check out the video below where two members of the club talk about the impact of our presentation. If you’re interested in having FCEC talk with your fishing group, let us know by leaving a comment below or emailing info@pvsfish.org.

On Sunday, November 21st, FCEC materials will be available at the annual St. Columban Health Fair, which will take place in downtown L.A. from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

The event is being sponsored by St. Vincent Medical Center and several community booths will address health issues, such as proper nutrition and exercise. The FCEC materials will provide attendees information on fish contamination off the Palos Verdes Shelf and kids will have the chance to play with the cool  “Catch and Release” fish game!

The day will prove not only to be educational, but a it will be a fun event for the entire family! So bring out the whole gang and come on down.

As some of you know, I will be going on a six month detail in the EPA Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9) environmental justice office. I am excited about the new career opportunity. My passion in environmental justice and social justice has grown in the past 8 years during my work on the Palos Verdes Shelf (PV Shelf) superfund project. Naturally, my passion has led me to this new opportunity.

In 2002, when I first became the project manager for the PV Shelf project, we were grappling with a real risk exposure and public health problem facing our communities. After my first meeting with the project stakeholders, James Alamillo with Heal the Bay approached me and told me this is an environmental justice (EJ) project. He asked me “what is this administration’s plan to protect the EJ community?” I didn’t have an answer for him.

When I got back to my office, I started reading up on environmental justice and took a fundamentals of EJ training offered at EPA. As an immigrant who came to this country at the age of 18 and someone who is always interested in the history of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., I got it immediately. The EJ communities are not faceless people to me; instead, they are people like me. This enlightenment put a new resolution in my commitment to my work.

Many of you know this project has been so innovative in linking scientific risk reduction measures with community outreach work.  This project is built on the solid foundation of “meaningful involvement” and “equal and fair treatment” of all people. We were the first EPA Superfund project that introduced the strategic planning tool with a neutral facilitator and have been consistently using this tool to guide our program implementation over the past six years.  We were the first and only Superfund project that has brought environmental justice training to the community, local and state agency partners.   We’ve made decisions together. We worked to get our local and state governmental agencies involved in this mission of protecting people who are the most vulnerable, most in need of our help and are often voiceless.  This project is not just a Superfund site or a job to me, I found my calling in this work.

James Alamillo and I talked again recently.  He asked me how I felt about leaving this project, “Sharon’s baby” in his words.  I think of this change as a short break.  I am taking the knowledge and experience of what I have learned from all of you and applying it to a broader program.  I encourage you to continue sharing with your constituencies this incredible project that we have built collectively. I will keep in touch and update you on my new job.  See you in 2011.

We talk about fishing and fish contamination here at FCEC quite a bit. We address complex issues, environmental impacts and sustainability. But at the heart of all of this is health, human health to be exact.

When our environment is healthy, we are also more likely to be healthy. That’s why we work hard to educate the public about best practices when it comes to the types of fish people consume.

This weekend join in FCEC’s efforts by supporting our partners at Herald Christian Health Center in San Gabriel between 9 and 11:30 am, where the Center will be hosting a community health fair.

Be on the lookout for FCEC materials which will educate attendees about the risks of consuming contaminated fish. It’s sure to be a healthy and fun event – and we promise you’ll be leaving with plenty of cool (and educational) items to take home with you!

For more information, please visit the FCEC monthly calendar.

*Photo courtesy of SunSentinel.com