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Friday Fishy News - May 11


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Fish rulers to be tested for shrinkage


New Zealand

May 8

The Ministry of Fisheries is testing its stick-on rulers, following some cases where the stickers appear to have shrunk.

The rulers help fishermen to measure their catch and make sure they comply with recreational size limits. But in a few cases the rulers have been wrong, leading to fish being kept which should have been thrown back.

Ministry of Fisheries spokesman Neville Buckley says under normal conditions the rulers are perfectly fine and it is only under severe and abnormal conditions there is any risk of the ruler shrinking.

"We are running tests under a range of conditions to determine how this might happen, but current indications are that this may apply to a small portion of very rare situations."

Buckley says they will not be issuing any more rulers until the test have been completed.

Fish fraud: The menus said snapper, but it wasn't!

By Janet Rausa Fuller

The Chicago Sun Times

May 10


Above: A red snapper (bottom) and a red sea bream — which is sometimes sold as red snapper.

The sushi menus said red snapper, a fish prized for its flavor -- and priced accordingly.

But a Sun-Times investigation found good reason to question whether diners are getting what's promised.

The newspaper had DNA tests done on sushi described as red snapper or "Japanese red snapper" bought from 14 restaurants in the city and suburbs. Not a single one was really red snapper.

In most cases, the red-tinged flesh draped across the small mound of rice was tilapia -- a cheap substitute. Nine of the 14 samples were tilapia. Four were red sea bream -- nearly as pricey but still not red snapper.

"It's misbranding, and it's fraud," said Spring Randolph of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees labeling of seafood.

And there's ample reason to believe diners around the country similarly are being taken in, the Sun-Times found:

• Some restaurant owners said that when they order red snapper, their suppliers send what the owners acknowledged, after checking, is actually tilapia. And most sushi fish in the United States comes from just a handful of suppliers.

• There's little government oversight. Generally, that's left to the FDA. Though the agency tries to investigate complaints, "We are not directly going out looking for species substitution," Randolph said.

• Another FDA official said: "From the reports that we have received, there has been an increase in species substitution. It is a problem."

Popularity leads to overfishing

Three years ago, prompted in part by concerns over mislabeled tilapia, the Japanese government called on retailers to accurately label fish.

In the United States, the Congressional Research Service -- Congress' research arm -- issued a report last month citing a government survey that found 37 percent of fish examined by the National Marine Fisheries Service were mislabeled. A separate survey by the Fisheries Service found a whopping 80 percent of red snapper was mislabeled.

With red snapper, there's incentive to cheat. It brings a good price. And the fish -- found largely in the western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico -- has become so popular that it's overfished, making it harder to find. As a result, it's among the most commonly "substituted" fish, according to the FDA.

There are roughly 250 snapper species worldwide. Under federal law, just one can be sold as red snapper -- the one known to scientists as Lutjanus campechanus.

Whole red snapper sells for $9 a pound, or more, retail. Tilapia sells for half that. But restaurant owners said they're not trying to mislead customers.

At Chi Tung, 9560 S. Kedzie, owner Jinny Zhao reacted to being told the sushi she sells as red snapper is really tilapia by insisting that couldn't be.

"Of course, it's red snapper," Zhao said. "If we order red snapper, we have to get red snapper."

Hur San, owner of Sushi Mura, 3647 N. Southport, also seemed surprised.

"We just order [from] the fish company, and they deliver red snapper," said San.

Then, at a reporter's request, he examined the box. He saw these words: "Izumidai. Tilapia. From Taiwan."

Izumidai is the Japanese term for tilapia.

At Bluefin Sushi Bar in Bucktown, Andrew Kim, the restaurant's general manager, was surprised to find the same labeling.

"It's tilapia," Kim said. "I just saw that. I never thought to look at the description."

At Todai, inside Schaumburg's Woodfield mall, what was labeled on the buffet line as red snapper shouldn't have been, a company spokesman said.

"This is an isolated incident," said Paul Lee, a vice president of the California chain.

At Sushi Bento, 1512 N. Naper Blvd. in Naperville, manager Jamie Park said she was sure her restaurant served real red snapper. Told that the DNA testing showed it was tilapia, Park said, "Tilapia and red snapper look alike. They're really close. They taste almost the same."

At Tatsu, 1062 W. Taylor in the Little Italy neighborhood, the menu lists "tai, red snapper." Tai actually refers to another fish -- red sea bream.

But it really was tilapia, the tests showed. Told that, manager Ten Smith said he'd noticed that the label read tilapia but didn't think much of it. He said, "The vendor recommends this [tilapia] fillet."

Japanese Food Corporation, a major supplier with an office in Hanover Park, provides sushi fish to at least three restaurants in the Sun-Times survey. A spokeswoman said she couldn't say whether the restaurants ask for red snapper, only that the company sells -- and properly labels -- tilapia as izumidai. "We don't call it red snapper," she said.

$2,000 fine

True World Foods, another major supplier, provides sushi fish to at least four of the restaurants surveyed. No one from the company, which has headquarters in New Jersey and an office in Elk Grove Village, returned calls for comment.

Zhao, the owner of Chi Tung, said her restaurant buys fish from True World. She said she called the company about the test results: "They said they gave us red snapper."

At Renga Tei in Lincolnwood, the red snapper sushi turned out to be red sea bream. Chef and owner Hisao Yamada said he pays $11.50 to $11.95 a pound for sea bream. It's a highly regarded fish. So why not call it sea bream? "Most American customers don't know the name sea bream," Yamada said.

Sushi Wabi, 842 W. Randolph, also offers red snapper that's really red sea bream. Told that, owner Angela Hepler checked an invoice, which, confusingly, was marked "Tai (New Zealand Snapper/Bream)."

A day later, Hepler dropped the item, saying, "I don't believe in overfishing and killing out a species or being sold something that I thought was something other than it really is."

"It's a concern that no restaurant seems to be offering the right fish," said Bill McCaffrey, spokesman for Chicago's Department of Consumer Services. "It suggests that this is an accepted industry practice."

In Chicago, mislabeling fish is punishable by fines of up to $2,000. McCaffrey said he didn't know of any restaurants being cited for fish fraud.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, the seafood industry's main trade group, said substituting fish is like buying a cheap knockoff of a designer product.

"It's fraud, and it should be stopped," said Connelly. "If a person has a certain experience with a lower-end fish and they think it's a higher-end fish, then their view of the higher-end fish may not be as positive."

Robotic submersibles take on fish-like sensing abilities

By Darren Murph


May 5


Controlling your fish remotely is one thing, but utilizing fish sense to dictate the actions of an uncrewed submersible is an entirely different animal. Malcolm MacIver and colleagues at Northwestern University have created an "artificial electric-field sensing system that could ultimately give robotic subs the same additional sensory capabilities" as found in weakly electric fish. These particular sea-dwellers have an uncanny ability to sense electric fields, and can also generate their own to "help navigate, identify objects, and even communicate with other fish." The newfangled "electro-location" system could allow underwater bots big and small to more accurately maneuver and collect data, particularly in situations where precise movements and recognition of surroundings is important. Even the creators admit that it'll be quite some time before man made sensors can come close to mimicking those found in nature, but judging by the videos seen in the read link, they're certainly riding the right wave.

20 Nations Aim To Save Marine Life In High Seas

By Megan Shannon

All Headline News

May 5

New Zealand fishermen rely on the sale of orange roughy, a fish caught by dragging large fishing nets along the bottom of the ocean, or bottom trawling. Fish sales are about $10 million annually.

But bottom trawling on the high seas is also destroying marine life, vital to the underwater ecosystem, environmental groups say. The nets catch many fish but also wipe out coral systems and stir up sediment that smothers marine life.

The groups celebrated a great victory when 20 nations agreed to discourage unregulated and destructive bottom trawling on the South Pacific high seas on Friday.

Last year a U.N. report found that bottom trawling is dangerous to unique and unexplored ecological systems. It suggested that about half of the underwater mountains and coral ecosystems remained unprotected.

Joshua Reichert, director of the private Pew Charitable Trusts' environment division, said, "This area contains thousands of these underwater sea mountains, or seamounts, which are considered to be some of the most ecologically rich habitats in the world. For all of us, this really represents a major step forward for marine conservation."

The agreement will go into effect on Sept. 30 and aims to protect about a quarter of the world's high seas in areas near the Equator, Australia, New Zealand and the west coast of South America.

Fish oil helps protect muscle mass


May 10

Washington, May 10 : A new study by researchers at Universiti Laval's Institute of Nutraceutics and Functional Foods, Canada, shows that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil have a positive effect on the metabolism of muscle proteins.

This finding, the researchers state, could have significant implications in the fields of animal farming as well as human health.

In mammals, the ability to use nutrients from food and convert them into muscle proteins decreases with age.

Since omega-3 fatty acids are known to improve glucose metabolism in people and animals showing insulin resistance, the researchers decided to test whether omega-3's could also influence protein metabolism.

To do so, they added supplements containing either omega-3's from fish oil or a mixture of cottonseed and olive oils without omega-3's to the regular diet of steers.

After five weeks, animals with the marine omega-3 diet showed increased sensitivity to insulin which, in turn, improved protein metabolism: twice the amount of amino acids was used by their bodies to synthesize proteins, especially in muscles. So it appears that omega-3 fatty acids added to the steers' diet replaced other fatty acids in muscle cells and improved their functioning.

This finding could have significant implications in the field of animal farming, as it could prevent muscle decline by restoring insulin sensitivity in aging animals, says lead author Carole Thivierge

"Adding fish oil to their diet could prevent this decline by restoring insulin sensitivity in aging animals," she said.

"In addition, it could contribute to reducing the amount of by-product emissions in the environment, since animals that are given omega-3's spontaneously eat 10% less food to achieve the same weight gain," she added.

The researchers also believe that restoring insulin sensitivity through the use of marine omega-3 fatty acids could also prevent the loss of muscle mass in older people and, by the same token, prevent the various health problems associated with it.

She also suggests that omega-3's could help athletes trying to increase their muscle mass.

"However, it should not be seen as a miracle product. For increased muscle protein metabolism to take place in people younger than 50, physical training is still required," she concludes.

The findings are published in a recent edition of the Journal of Physiology.


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