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Saving the Oceans to Feed the World: What San Francisco Needs to Know

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When it comes to sustainable seafood, San Francisco gets it. As a progressive, seaside town, seafood is plentiful and the options for eating sustainably are constantly improving.

That's one of the reasons I was excited to be in town last week. That and, for the past few days in San Francisco it's been all about the oceans. With the TedX "BIG BLUE" event on Thursday night, the oceans were stealing the spotlight. San Francisco was an appropriate back drop for this event because the people of this city are intrinsically tied to the oceans. The bay, the piers, the seafood are all a part of the culture. And its citizens are more and more tuned in to eating sustainably because an increasing number of local outlets are making it possible. This city is on the right page.

But for those who still aren't hooked, stay with me. There's even more reasons why eating seafood caught responsibly is the healthy and socially responsible choice -- and that's why I'm really here, to share this with the TedX community.

The bottom line is that wild seafood has the potential to help feed our growing population -- specifically the 9 billion people who will be here in 2050. A fully productive ocean could provide the entire animal protein diet for a billion people, or 13 to 15 percent of the animal protein produced on the entire planet. But this is only possible if we put in place science-based fishery management around the world.

Food for thought: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that the world must produce 70 percent more food to meet the coming hunger needs in 2050. But the resources needed to create that additional food are increasingly scarce. Meanwhile, the poorest billion people on earth already depend upon fish as their primary source of animal protein. Unfortunately, the global fishing fleet doesn't, in general, fish sustainably and global fish catch has dropped since the late 1980s. The status quo isn't sustainable.

If we're going to allow wild seafood to help feed a growing population we need to responsibly manage the resource. We need to go country-by-country to help address this crisis by enforcing legislation to restore ocean productivity in the nations that catch the largest amount of fish.

So what can you do to promote sustainability? This city is off to a great start -- so there's no shortage of options. Local businesses like Siren SeaSA (a CSA for seafood) and "I Love Blue Sea" (a sustainable seafood supplier) are making it easier for Bay Area residents to eat responsibly caught seafood. It's reaching local eateries, too. Fish Restaurant in Sausalito, Tataki Sushi Bar, Fog Harbor Fish House and others have taken progressive steps to make sure that only the most sustainable species are served. As for what to eat -- pacific herring is a great example of a key forage fish (the ocean's small fish) found in San Francisco Bay that local seafood consumers should be choosing, rather than seeing it exported for pennies per pound to feed livestock or farmed fish. These are little thing that make a big difference.

In the end it isn't just an ocean problem anymore. It's a people problem. So take advantage of all the choices San Francisco has for eating sustainably and do your part (i.e. pick up a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide or download the app) or visit us at Oceana. And remember, if we save the oceans, we can feed the world.