Grow a garden of clams

It shouldn’t have surprised me to learn that there is evidence of clam gardening from Washington through British Columbia and up to Alaska. The Coast Salish tribes are  globally known for existing on a bounty of salmon, but the middens of herring bones and bivalve shells found along the coast here are strong evidence that these were a significant part of the diet as well.

A traditional method of salmon cooking -Indian Country Today

A familiar image of salmon cooking -Indian Country Today

Similar to rice terraces, where the steep slopes of a hill are graded and supported with rock walls, the clam garden is a form of aquaculture called mariculture- or “sea farming”. As demand for seafood continues to rise globally, the World Bank, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and many others are looking for ways to farm more seafoods more efficiently. I know many people who reject aquaculture as a solution to food production because they’d rather focus on reducing over harvesting, but I suspect that mostly they are thinking about how unsustainable farming carnivorous fish, like salmon, has been. This idealism I hear so often among ocean conservationists doesn’t take into account that no matter your personal opinion, aquaculture is the only growing food sector globally for a few years now. Further, the environmental footprint and energy costs of seafoods varies widely, where shellfish seems to have the lowest environmental cost and can even improve water quality. [After reading The Evolving Sphere of Food Security out of Stanford I am more familiar with these nuances of energy needs for food production and believe that we must look carefully at how aquaculture practices vary]

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Local clams, including native littlenecks and butters. -WDFW


Scientists from Simon Fraser University and University of Washington looked at modern clam gardens and planted multiple species to compare the growth of wild clams versus farmed clams. By digging and changing the shape and water circulation of the intertidal zone, you can essentially create more prime habitat for shellfish. This resulted in four times as many butter clams and twice as many littleneck clams, as well as faster growth rates. This is really incredible results for what is essentially organic, low impact farming of healthy proteins!


Clam gardens from B.C. -Groesbeck et al.

Now, if only we could convince Seattle Tilth to add some clam gardening projects into the home gardening movement that has gotten such a foothold in the community, I’d be- you guessed it- happy as a clam.

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Smoked salmon and oysters for the holidays- a healthy choice?

Around the holidays, smoked salmon and oysters are crowd pleasers in the Pacific Northwest. Well, to be honest, they are crowd pleasers all year round, but winter is a time for party platters of smoked salmon and oysters. Which got me to thinking- if some people choose to avoid barbecued meats in the summer months because of the risk of consuming carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), should they also be considering smoked salmon in the winter months? What about oysters? Does it matter if they are smoked or raw?

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Zero results. Not helpful.

Well, with a bit of research into the issue we can start to answer that question. I consider Nat Geo to have the best seafood consumer decision making guide that actually has information about human health risks and benefits, so I checked that out. Nope, smoked fish is not an option on the seafood finder, but we do know wild salmon has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than farmed salmon, so we can already label smoked farmed salmon as less heart healthy. But does the smoking process alter those omega-3s? A 2011 letter to the editor from Harvard Heart Letter has insight from Norweigan fish nutrition scientist Marit Espe, who found that the smoking process does not alter the amount of omega-3’s. While it does matter for heart health whether your salmon was raised in the ocean or in a farm, perhaps baked is as good as smoked. The carcinogens on barbecued meats are on the most blackened parts, so it is possible that smoked salmon is healthier than blackened salmon. That is, unless the amount of sodium in smoked fish counteracts the omegas. So many questions and so few answers!

Oyster nutritional profile- it's missing some important info!

Oyster nutritional profile- it’s missing some important info!

Oysters are a different story. They already have a rainbow of benefits: omega-3s, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-12, Iron, Magnesium, thiamine and niacin, and a bonus of zinc to aid your immune system in the sickly winter months. Now, would your oysters have carcinogenic PAHs? They could, if you had smoked oysters that were doused in liquid smoke, according to a 1993 study by Gomaa et al. So, the amount of PAHs in liquid smoke would deserve just as much consideration as real smoke. I’ll take my oysters raw, thank you.

That’s all I could find, folks. Some of these resources were a bit outdated, so please chime in or Tweet at me if you have anything to share.

*Disclaimer: This is a blog, not a way to replace your doctor.

For more information on cancer causing compounds from barbecuing meats, see the National Cancer Institute’s site.

Oyster nutrition facts from Granatta et al. The Seafood Industry: Species, products, processing, and safety. 2012. 2nd edition. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Are fisheries activists and researchers afraid of being seen as Feminists?


“Despite the denigration of feminism, in the popular media and in the jokes casually traded by men, feminism is the “radical notion that women are people”, and so, have equal rights.” Letter from Yemaya editor


In the July 2013 edition of Yemaya, the gender and fisheries newsletter of the International Collective in Support of Small-scale Fishworkers (ICSF), the Editor, Nilanjana Biswas, pointed out that women fisheries activists were frequently afraid of being branded “feminists” because of the pejorative connotations of the term. And yes, she wrote,  “feminism is the ‘radical notion that women are people’, and so, have equal rights“. [See also our glossary explanation of the origins and use of the term feminism –].

This observation about the resistance to being branded a feminist arose partly as an overall reaction to the challenges facing women in small-scale (and other) fisheries, but also directly from the Yemaya report, by Natalia Tavares de Azevedo and Naina Pierri, on the June 2013 International Congress on Women in Artisanal Fisheries. After this South and Central American event, Natalia and Naina wrote:

A striking point in the discussion was…

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1st anniversary of questioning misogyny in fisheries

Today is the 1st anniversary of the first post on womenandfish, and as it is June 8, it is also #worldoceansday .  Yesterday, I successfully made it through my thesis defense and presented my research to a room full of friends, family, and colleagues.  I answered a few great questions- one in particular I am still chewing on.

In response to my results (specifically those in the post Becoming butterflies) my buddy Raz asked, “Is the level of misogyny in Siquijor going to limit the ability of women to participate in fisheries management?”  The short answer is no, because while it may limit it today, it doesn’t have to limit it tomorrow.  Let’s continue with two examples.

1) In the field, I completed an interview with a female Bureau of Fisheries staff who thought it was incomprehensible that women could or should guard marine protected areas from poachers.  After I turned off the recorder, I told her about the women in Maite who approached violators on the beach day and night.  Her eyebrows raised, her eyes went big, and she said, “really?!” I think her opinion on what women can do changed in that moment, and a big window of opportunity flew open.

2) Also in the field, when I ended a presentation of my preliminary results, the group of 30+ was very quiet for a few moments.  And then a hand raised and a man asked, “So, do you think women make better project managers? Because that is also what I am beginning to observe in the mountains with land management.”  I explained that perhaps sometimes they do make better project managers, but I don’t mean to say that we should be excluding men from fisheries management.  Androgyny will not serve us any better than misogyny.  It is very likely that some of the fishermen in attendance were embarrassed by the quotes I had captured from them that were degrading to women.  Fishermen are half the story and I do not support pushing them aside.

These two examples illustrate that misogyny is not the end of the story, but only a moment in time.  Exposure to new things challenges and shapes our worldviews whether we are American or Filipino, highly educated or barely literate, woman or man.  As I have talked and written a lot about what the women in Maite had accomplished, it seemed that around the island, and even around the world, people are interested in the possibilities that women bring to the table of environmental management.  The exchange of information pokes holes in people’s perceptions of women.  I have seen that the consequences of sharing what I’ve learned is real, and it can have a positive impact not only on women’s well being but also on our planet ocean and our global village.  So let’s celebrate #worldoceansday by flinging open the windows of opportunity for women. Please share this story with a friend.


Enforcement of MPAs

In response to my cousin Benny’s questions…my last post could use a little more background information.  Here is how enforcement of the MPA works.

Most people guarding the sanctuary are normal community members; I would say that usually they do not carry weapons unless they are authorized to do so as a deputized Fish Warden and issued one.  If you are guarding and catch a violator, you have options.  As I saw a few times, the women pulled out whistles and yelled at violators who were walking the tide flat and searching for creatures to eat.  These are considered warnings and are often undocumented.

If you catch someone fishing in the MPA and you are not a deputized Fish Warden (Bantay dagat) then you can not arrest them.  You have to contact the police; they have to come directly to the site or get some bantay dagat together in a boat and cruise to the site.  The bantay dagat do not receive many benefits; one of the things that diver’s users fees can go towards is ensuring that a bantay dagat’s family will receive money if he/she dies while on duty.

These are their outfits; only Belyn on the left is a deputized fish warden, the other women are wearing their husband’s gear.

And here’s how it played out in one story Belyn told me:

She and her husband were on patrol one night, probably shining the flashing around the area like usual, when they caught an illegal fisherman.  When they approached him, he dropped his net and ran.  She ran the half mile or so to the police station, but by the time they came back, the man had returned to take his net and disappeared.  Even though she can identify the violator, she can not do anything about it other than write it down in the police logbook.

One of the big challenges is the intrusion of commercial fishing boats within what is legally declared the property of the local government (15 km from the coast).  The boats can come from anywhere in the Philippines, or even Malaysia or China, and what is the local government to do? They are no match against the guns and political power of commercial fishing fleets.


Fighting over fish

This is an excerpt from a group interview with the fishermen who guard their MPA in Caticugan, Siquijor.

Me: Has there been conflict about the sanctuary?

Fisher 1: Hard headed fishermen. That is the conflict.

Fisher 2: Mountain minded fishermen.

Fisher 1: Because some of the hard headed fishermen shot our president and …

Me: Sorry?

Fisher 2: They had a triple 7 gun.

Me: They shot at you?

Fisher 2: Yeah.

Me: Were you guarding or were you…?

Fisher 2: Roaming the road, (I was) walking the road and got shot by those boys.

 And then he describes how he was shot four times in the leg and shows me the scars.

Me: (Were they) fishermen from this community?

Fisher 1: Illegal fishers.

Me: What kind of illegal fishing do they do?

Fisher 1: (They use) triple nets and trammel nets.

Me: Is it dangerous to be a part of the sanctuary?

Fisher 1: Yeah. (It is) dangerous. I am scared but I still watch the marine sanctuary… I believe in God so there is no danger.

These men are husbands, fathers, and children.  They volunteer to guard the local coral reef for 24 hour shifts once a week.  They hope that there will be enough fish someday that their children will be able to earn more than $2 a day.  Hats off to you, guys.  I know few men so brave.

Coastal cleanup

One of the activities I observed during my time in the Philippines was a coastal cleanup.  Turns out that the Philippines had the 2nd highest attendance for International Coastal Cleanup last year, at over 100,000 volunteers! (Thanks for noticing that) That’s really incredible, considering the 3rd highest attendance (Canada) was at most 35,ooo volunteers. I think CCEF’s ( work might have something to do with that- coastal cleanups are one of the activities they really engage people in and encourage them to do frequently.

Just a few weeks ago, on a hot Sunday afternoon, most of the 60 individuals that help manage the marine sanctuary in Maite, Siquijor, were in attendance for their monthly meeting.  As I showed you previously, the recent storms had left a bunch of debris on the beach.  Most of it is from trees, and a little bit of it is plastic and fishing nets and glass bottles.  The group cleans the beach monthly during tourist season, but the president, Evelyn, decided that the beach was “too dirty” and called an impromptu cleanup.  Evelyn told me that they would bury the natural debris instead of burning it.  Though burning garbage (even compostable things) is a common practice here, she is concerned about the hole in the ozone layer and does not want to contribute to that.

First step: dig the hole with anything you can find

2nd: pick out the plastic and push the natural debris in the hole

3rd: cover the hole with sand

I also have to admit that the resourcefulness of the people has no limits! This woman has collected coconut husks from the debris piles on the beach and is chopping them into quarters- they can be sold for 2 pesos/kilo to a processor who turns them into charcoal.  Though it’s not a lot of money, at 11 cents a pound, the coconut husks are free and plentiful.

Debris into dollars

If fishermen can take the time to clean up their beaches, maybe we should too.


Here are the stats on International Coastal Cleanup Day: