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GIVE SWORDFISH A BREAK

Give Swordfish a Break Campaign Applauds Wild Oats' Decision to Not Sell North Atlantic Swordfish Until Adequate Conservation Measures are Adopted

Wild Oats, a grocery chain with more than 75 stores nationwide, will no longer sell north Atlantic swordfish, marlin, orange roughy or Chilean sea bass because of plummeting populations due to overfishing and indiscriminate fishing tactics.

"Future fish dinners rely on well-managed fish populations. Wild Oats recognizes this and is taking proactive steps to apply market pressure in favor of conservation," said Paul Gingerich, Meat & Seafood Purchasing Director of Wild Oats.

Wild Oats joins more than 700 chefs and others who have decided not to offer north Atlantic swordfish in support of the Give Swordfish a Break Campaign, a nationwide consumer education effort that has asked chefs, grocers and consumers not to serve, carry or eat north Atlantic swordfish until a recovery plan that will restore these fish within ten years is adopted.

"Wild Oats should be commended for making this tough decision to not sell overfished species like north Atlantic swordfish. An important component of our campaign has been to help consumers understand the problems of overfishing, using north Atlantic swordfish as an example of what's happening to many other popular species" said Vikki Spruill, co-chair of the Give Swordfish a Break Campaign and Executive Director of Seaweb. "Well managed fisheries ultimately mean more fish for all of us to enjoy. We have a chance to get it right on north Atlantic swordfish and hopefully set a precedent for other fish."

The north Atlantic swordfish population is at the lowest level ever recorded. The average sized swordfish caught in the north Atlantic today is one-third the size caught 30 years ago. The amount and value of east and Gulf coast landings has declined by more than half since 1989, and the recreational fishery is virtually extinct.

Florida plays an extremely important role in the recovery of swordfish stocks. Florida accounts for roughly one-third of east coast (including Gulf) swordfish landings. 1.6 million pounds of swordfish valued at $4.2 million was landed in the state in 1998. The value of swordfish landings in the state has declined by more than two-thirds in the last ten years, from $13.6 million in 1989 to $4.2 million in 1998. In 1997, the government estimated that 121 commercial fishing vessels operating out of Florida took 1,348 fishing trips for north Atlantic swordfish. Additionally, Florida waters are home to some of the few swordfish nursery grounds in the U.S.

This year marks a key opportunity to restore swordfish. In November, swordfish fishing nations will meet to discuss new management measures for north Atlantic swordfish. The fate of swordfish depends on whether the U.S. government shows leadership and secures an international agreement that will restore swordfish within ten years.

"When a major chain like Wild Oats takes this kind of strong action, it sends a clear message to the government: you, too, must take strong action and secure a recovery plan that will make it possible for us to carry this fish into the future. We hope the U.S. Government and other swordfish fishing nations are up to the challenge," said Lisa Speer, co-chair of the Give Swordfish a Break Campaign and Senior Policy Analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In addition to not selling north Atlantic swordfish and other overfished species, Wild Oats will educate customers about why this step is necessary, with an in-store fact sheet titled "A Too True Fish Tale." This fact sheet will remind fish lovers that future fish dinners depend on well-managed fish populations. This means putting a stop to the ineffective management, lack of compliance, and the resulting overfishing that has put so many species in jeopardy.

 

Written by: SEAWEB


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