Blog | Oceana USA

[editor's note, by Jason] Jon Warrenchuk is currently participating in NOAA's 2004 Gulf of Alaska Seamount Expedition.

JULY 30, 2004: I'm currently in a good-sized computer lab that wouldn't look out of place on a University campus. But Puget Sound is moving quickly past the portholes, and a gentle sway reminds me that I'm actually on a boat.

"Boat" is a misnomer for the 275 foot "Atlantis", a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute research vessel that's equipped to gather data from the bottom of the ocean and everything in between. We left port in Seattle 4 hours ago and we're en route to the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.

I've been lucky enough to be invited along on a project to explore a group of little-known seamounts, which are volcanic underwater mountains that rise up from the ocean floor. There's much more to tell, but I may be reaching the limit of my ship-to-shore e-mail... stay tuned!!

The arrival of Chilean salmon in thousands of fast food restaurants in USA could be a reality. The main producer of this resource in Chile, AquaChile, is interested in creating strategic alliances to gain access to this coveted market.

"A salmon hamburger.....why not?" says AquaChile President, Víctor Hugo Puchi. He remember the international conference AquaVisión 2004, which took place in Stavanger, Norway, last year, where potential salmon consumption  in US market, had been established.

Therefore, AquaChile is open to establishing alliances with others salmon companies and to sharing distribution channels in those markets. In fact, there have already been some conversations about it. US consumers' concern about obesity has forced fast food chains to extend their offerings of healthier products.

Puchi recognizes that, until today, there have not been initiatives from Chilean salmon companies to fill this place in the market.

"We have not taken this opportunity before, because we had not have enough size as an industry and nobody felt able to [fulfill the needs of] a big food chain like McDonald's", said the salmon businessman.

However, the industry today sells more than USD 1,300 million annually, bringing forward winds of change.

Puchi says that, today, some products like salmon steaks are being offered to US consumers, and that the following step would be to move to ready-to-serve meals.

The Australian Government closed a third of the GBR to fishing at the beginning of this month, giving it the highest level of protection seen on any reef system yet. This monumental move came after countless studies indicating massive declines in coral reefs in Australian waters and around the world. Banning fishing will relieve one of the pressures on reefs, allowing them to cope better with other major threats like climate change, pollution and storms.

The GBR and other coral reef ecosystems are well known for being home to an incredible array of marine species, full of vitality and color. The GBR itself is inhabited by 1,500 species of fish, 359 types of hard coral, 175 species of birds and more than 30 species of mammals, including dugongs and six of the world's seven threatened species of sea turtles.

Yet, contrary to what common sense might tell you, the waters in which the GBR makes its home are actually very poor quality. From a nutritional standpoint, they are like marine 'deserts'. So how do the reefs survive? Scientists have found that reefs and the myriad species that depend on them are all part of incredibly finely tuned ecosystems, in which nutrients are continually recycled. There is continual turnover of life as animals are born and die, but there is very little new input of nutrients. Thus they are not very 'productive' areas, in the way that the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are, with their once seemingly endless populations of cod and other fish. These waters, though now massively overfished, can cope with much higher levels of fishing than the poorly productive reef waters. Removal of any of these finely tuned elements could result in big changes in the reef ecosystem. For example, the crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks that have left enormous areas of the GBR dead might well be as a result of man's removal of their natural predators.

The GBR is a global treasure. In protecting it, the Australian government has done a service not only to Australians, but to the entire world.