WBEZ | Fish http://www.wbez.org/tags/fish Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fish and risks: Eating Lake Michigan catch http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has an addendum that addresses a follow-up question we received via a comment. The current article addresses chemicals that are of concern to environmental agencies and that affect issuance of fish consumption advisories. The <a href="#addendum">addendum </a>addresses additional chemicals of concern.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Steve Ediger says he&rsquo;s not an avid fisherman, but he has cast a few lines. When he was growing up, his grandfather would take him fishing in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.</p><p>About six years ago, he moved to Chicago&rsquo;s northernmost neighborhood of Rogers Park, where he sees people<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/fishing"> fishing</a> off Farwell Pier. It got him wondering about the fish those anglers catch, so he asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;What would it take for Lake Michigan fish to be safe to eat?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Ediger suspects Lake Michigan fish aren&rsquo;t entirely safe to eat, and he&rsquo;s not alone. With major cities and industrial centers like Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay along its shores &mdash; as well as the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">refineries of Northwestern Indiana</a> &mdash; Lake Michigan is no stranger to pollution. To find out just how much of the stuff ends up in the fish we pluck out of the lake, I asked a few people with different angles on the situation. Turns out a lot of work goes into monitoring and disseminating information about contaminants in Lake Michigan fish. We find out which are most worrisome to fishermen and toxicologists, but also why you shouldn&rsquo;t let that scare you off eating fish entirely.</p><p><strong>A pro&rsquo;s perspective</strong></p><p>I put the question to someone who handles Lake Michigan fish every day: Joel Reiser, captain of the Chicago charter boat company<a href="http://www.bnrcharters.com/"> Brush And Roll</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Pretty much everything is edible in Lake Michigan with moderation,&rdquo; he says. Reiser brings up to six people on chartered fishing trips in Lake Michigan, leaving from<a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-unveils-new-south-side-boat-harbor-99912"> 31st Street Harbor</a>. They catch chinook salmon, coho salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout. His crew cleans and bags up to five fish per customer (only two lake trout), which they can take home to eat.</p><p>He&rsquo;s been eating fish from Lake Michigan and elsewhere since he was a child. That might worry some people who have heard unsettling things about Lake Michigan fish. One fish market I called looking for Lake Michigan fish told me to &ldquo;try to the cancer ward.&rdquo;</p><p>With <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/news/ct-met-great-lakes-plastic-pollution-20130807_1_lorena-rios-mendoza-lake-michigan-toxic-chemicals">stories of polluted waters</a> swirling, Reiser watches out for government-issued fish advisories and eats seafood in moderation. But he says fish from any waters can contain contaminants.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve never heard of anyone growing a third eye, you know, some of the jokes that are out there,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So I believe that it&rsquo;s safer. I believe the government does put higher standards on it, just as a safety precaution just to cover &mdash; no pun intended &mdash; their own tail.&rdquo;</p><p>It turns out, Reiser&rsquo;s basically right. In casting about for an answer to Ediger&#39;s question, we found out Lake Michigan&rsquo;s pollution problems aren&rsquo;t the whole story. The horror stories are overblown, but they&rsquo;re rooted in truth.</p><p><strong>(Fish) food for thought</strong><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/210637870/Lake-Michigan-fish-How-many-should-you-eat" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big fish graphic 2.png" style="float: right; height: 882px; width: 320px;" title="Click to download a printable version. (Graphic by Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></a></p><p>Tom Hornshaw, a toxicologist with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/surface-water/fish-contaminant-mon.html">fish contaminant monitoring program</a>,&rdquo; helps gather data that goes into those government advisories. Since 1974, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and IEPA have nabbed fish (mainly bass, channel catfish and carp)<a href="http://mercnet.briloon.org/projects/IL_EPA_-_llinois_Fish_Contaminant_Monitoring_Program/144/"> from 500 locations</a> in Illinois for contaminant testing. I asked Hornshaw point-blank: Is it safe to eat fish from Lake Michigan?</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;as long as you follow the various advisories that have been issued for Lake Michigan fish.&rdquo;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re wondering what Captain Reiser meant by &ldquo;moderation,&rdquo; you might start with the<a href="http://www.ifishillinois.org/regulations/consumption.html"> general fish consumption advisory</a> from the Illinois Department of Public Health.</p><p>State agencies keep<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/index.htm"> a running list of current fish advisories statewide</a>, which vary by species and body of water. They also change over time. On a <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/lakemichigan.htm">page that&#39;s specific to Lake Michigan catch</a>, the agency provides warnings for&nbsp;10 fish species. The DNR doesn&rsquo;t recommend you eat any of them more than once a week, and some come with the unequivocal advice: &ldquo;<strong>Do Not Eat.</strong>&rdquo; This applies to lake-caught carp and channel catfish.</p><p>The advisories vary based on the fish&rsquo;s size, in some cases. Take the yellow perch,<em> Perca flavescens</em>. Fish less than 11 inches long, the Illinois DNR says, should be eaten at most once per week. But you should only eat perch larger than 11 inches once per month. Likewise lake trout, a popular sport fish can that grow up to three feet long, carries three tiers of advisories: less than 25 inches? One meal per month; 25-29 inches? Six meals per year; larger than 29 inches? Do not eat.</p><p>If you fish in Wisconsin, use that state&rsquo;s<a href="http://dnr.wi.gov/FCSExternalAdvQry/FishAdvisorySrch.aspx"> online query tool</a> to check on the water you&rsquo;ll be fishing. Indiana, too,<a href="http://www.in.gov/isdh/23650.htm"> updates its fish consumption advisories online</a>.</p><p><strong>PCBs: What&rsquo;s all the fuss about?</strong></p><p>One of the major culprits are a group of chemicals known as PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyls<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> are a group of man-made chemicals useful in a variety of industrial processes</a>, including the insulation and cooling of electrical equipment. EPA banned their use in 1979, after it was widely recognized PCB pollution had caused skin conditions and immune system disorders. Studies have also linked the chemicals to cancer. We produced more than one billion pounds of the stuff in the U.S., about half of which made its way into the environment.</p><p>They take a long time to break down, so PCBs are still prevalent in the environment.<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/waukegannorthharbor.htm"> There is a specific advisory for Waukegan North Harbor</a>, where Outboard Marine Corp.<a href="http://newssun.suntimes.com/news/14980816-418/waukegan-harbor-pcb-mess-finally-getting-scrubbed.html"> dumped PCBs</a> as a byproduct of their manufacturing process. That cleanup is ongoing.<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-07/news/ct-met-waukegan-harbor-cleanup-20120907_1_susie-schreiber-cleanup-sites-epa-remedial-project-manager"> EPA is dredging the harbor</a>, a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/" target="_blank">Superfund site</a> once called the &ldquo;world&rsquo;s worst PCB mess.&rdquo;</p><p>But PCB pollution continues long after its source is cut off. PCBs still find their way into the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> through a process called<a href="http://www.epa.gov/glindicators/air/airb.html"> atmospheric deposition</a>. They travel around the world through the atmosphere, falling out of the sky at high latitudes. That&rsquo;s why scientists have found high levels of the stuff in the Arctic, thousands of miles from the factories that pumped out PCBs in the 1970s.</p><p>At this point Hornshaw, the EPA toxicologist, says atmospheric deposition is probably the primary source of PCBs in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a>. He says there&rsquo;s a simple, one-word answer for what it will take for Lake Michigan fish to become safer for consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Time,&rdquo; he says. Not 10 years, but less than 100. These chemicals take a long time to break down, but they&rsquo;re not invincible. Beth Murphy, who manages EPA&rsquo;s Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance program, passed along this graphic showing PCB declines against a 1994-95 baseline (the red line):</p><p><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/trout%20chart.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="" /></p><p>The graph suggests that by 2035, assuming progress continues, you should be able to eat all the Great Lakes lake trout filets that you want without fear of PCBs.</p><p>Lake and river sediments are especially good at holding onto PCBs, so bottom-dwelling fish tend to have higher levels (hence the &ldquo;Do Not Eat&rdquo; advisory on carp and channel catfish in Lake Michigan). PCBs also accumulate in fatty tissues, so it&rsquo;s important to filet wild-caught fish properly before eating them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20cutting.gif" style="float: left;" title="" /></p><p>PCBs aren&rsquo;t very soluble in water, so swimming isn&rsquo;t going to result in dangerous exposure.</p><p><strong>Getting the good stuff</strong></p><p>It turns out Captain Reiser&rsquo;s suspicion that government agencies were covering &ldquo;their own tail&rdquo; is correct.</p><p>&ldquo;The advisories may be overprotective for women beyond childbearing age and for adult men,&rdquo; reads<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> an FAQ from the Illinois Department of Public Health</a>. That&rsquo;s especially true for<a href="http://www.epa.gov/hg/exposure.htm"> mercury &mdash; a potent pollutant found in fish from Lake Michigan and around the world</a>.</p><p>Fetuses, nursing babies and young children are especially vulnerable, so the advisories are drafted with a low tolerance for risk. Mercury can severely hinder development of the fetal nervous system. EPA found<a href="http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/fishadvisories/technical.cfm#tabs-4"> mercury levels in women of childbearing age dropped 34 percent from a survey conducted in 1999-2000</a>, but it&rsquo;s still a concern.</p><p>But eating fish has a lot of health benefits, too, so long as you don&rsquo;t exceed the advisories. Eight Great Lakes states are two years into a study funded by the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> Restoration Initiative, weighing the benefits of eating fish against the risks. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to come up with ways of incorporating the benefits of eating fish along with the deleterious effects,&rdquo; Hornshaw says, &ldquo;so we can have a more focused advisory.&rdquo;</p><p>Pat McCann, a fish advisory specialist with Minnesota&rsquo;s Department of Public Health says it&rsquo;s important to keep in mind the big picture.</p><p>&ldquo;The benefits do outweigh the risks if you eat fish that are low in contaminants,&rdquo; McCann says. &ldquo;So the challenge is to get people information about which fish are low in contaminants, and get it to them in a way that&rsquo;s understandable and that they can adopt in their normal life.&rdquo;</p><p>A lot of people swear off fish altogether, but McCann says that&rsquo;s actually counterproductive. Take the group of people most sensitive to mercury contamination: pregnant women. Mercury impairs neurological development in fetuses. But the McCann says that doesn&rsquo;t mean women should avoid all fish entirely.</p><p>&ldquo;Women of childbearing age and pregnant women need to eat fish, because fish have Omega-3 fatty acids, and other good nutrients, and it&rsquo;s a good source of protein,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And so those things are good for the baby. So if they stop eating fish that&rsquo;s a negative thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Concentrations of mercury and PCBs are above guidelines for walleye and lake trout in all of the Great Lakes. Mercury levels were getting worse in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie when <a href="http://binational.net/solec/sogl2011/sogl-2011-technical-report-en.pdf">EPA and Environment Canada released their 2011 &quot;State of the Great Lakes&quot; report</a>.</p><p><strong>Reeling it in</strong></p><p>One place you&rsquo;ll find Great Lakes fish on sale in Chicago is Market Fisheries at 7129 S. State St., in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/greater-grand-crossing"> Greater Grand Crossing</a> neighborhood. They&rsquo;ve been owned and operated by the Brody Family since 1957.</p><p>Curtis Alexander, the market&rsquo;s manager, shows me around. The market&rsquo;s busy. People pull numbers and step up to order catfish or perch, while an employee behind the counter scales and hacks up fish.</p><p>Alexander says their suppliers are mostly based in Canada, so they don&rsquo;t sell Lake Michigan fish. But they&rsquo;ll gladly clean your catch.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of time I clean fish that people go and catch from Lake Michigan,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You got the yellow lake perch over there, you got the little bluegills, walleye pike, you know bigmouth bass &mdash; there&rsquo;s a lot of fish that they catch from Lake Michigan. People go fishing, they bring them in here, sometimes we clean it up for them.&rdquo;</p><p>No one brings in fresh-caught fish from Lake Michigan while I&rsquo;m there. But trout fishing season in Illinois starts April 5, and Alexander may have new customers soon. IDNR added four new areas for rainbow trout fishing this year, including Chicago&rsquo;s Wolf Lake&mdash;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-can-you-hunt-chicago-108954">one of two hunter-friendly oases in the city proper</a>.</p><p>Our question-asker, Steve Ediger, knows a few people who might take advantage of that new fishery. In an informal survey of his fishing friends, Ediger found that concerns over PCBs and mercury aren&rsquo;t deal-breakers for avid anglers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll tell you the one thing everybody says,&rdquo; Ediger says. &ldquo;They were less suspect of the fish they catch than the fish they get in the supermarket.&rdquo;</p><p>Mercury and PCB pollution are problems for fisheries all over the world &mdash; not just Lake Michigan. Clean-up efforts here have come a long way, but new pollutants could set us back. A BP refinery in Northwest Indiana <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">came under fire last year</a> when it missed a federal deadline to put in place new pollution controls for mercury (state regulators gave them an exemption).</p><p>And if <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/asian-carp">the threat of invasive species like Asian carp</a> proves as devastating as some studies predict, Great Lakes fisheries could collapse whether or not we continue to clean up the water.</p><p>So, a corollary to Tom Hornshaw&rsquo;s one-word answer to our question: What will it take to make Lake Michigan fish safe to eat? Time, and our attention.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a name="addendum"></a>Addendum: other chemicals</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Mercury and PCBs are the major chemicals that Illinois&rsquo; state EPA tests for and regulates, but <a href="http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/monitoring/fish/">there are other contaminants worth considering</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Many other chemicals meet the two main criteria for raising fish contaminant concerns: <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-54783_54784_54785_54800-256866--,00.html">they&#39;re bioaccumulative and persistent</a>. That means they build up in the tissues of aquatic organisms, and they stick around. They can broadly be categorized by the term the EPA uses, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/international/toxics/pop.html">persistent organic pollutants</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Besides mercury and PCBs, a few other common contaminants fit the bill: pesticides such as DDT, chlordane, and dieldrin; and dioxins, a carcinogenic group of chemicals created in the course of many industrial processes. (Dioxins are chemically similar to PCBs, which could themselves be counted under that blanket term.)</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, Great Lakes environmental agencies <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">have tracked the dilution of another potentially harmful contaminant</a>. A group of flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) were phased out starting in 2004. Measurements by Environment Canada <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">show</a> declines in PBDE concentrations across the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, but Illinois EPA doesn&rsquo;t track PBDEs in fish. As toxicologist Tom Hornshaw explains, the reason isn&rsquo;t lack of concern &mdash; it&rsquo;s lack of funding.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Currently PBDEs are not addressed in our fish advisory program&mdash;our lab is not set up to do PBDEs and it would require purchase of an expensive piece of equipment to analyze for them,&rdquo; Hornshaw writes in an email.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s important to note in this addendum that the chemicals we&rsquo;re phasing out now don&rsquo;t disappear immediately. That&rsquo;s why they call them persistent pollutants. PCBs, DDT and other chemicals in the Great Lakes are contaminants largely inherited from a time roughly 50 years ago. We have to wonder what legacy today&rsquo;s garbage will have on future Great Lakes residents.</p><p dir="ltr">Already <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/31/us-usa-pollution-greatlakes-idUSBRE96U03120130731">tiny plastic beads pose a threat</a> to fish health and environmental quality in the region.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City, and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 Chicago students help get fish spy camera underwater in Antarctica http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-students-help-get-fish-spy-camera-underwater-antarctica-107280 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Fish Spy 1_130520_LW.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The swimming pool at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in West Englewood is not exactly an arctic environment. But a group of Chicago students last week tested the warm waters with a fish spy camera vehicle designed to study Antarctic icefish. The goofy-looking icefish are some of the many species at the poles who could be at risk quickly-changing temperatures due to climate change.</p><p>The spy cam vehicle is basically a metal cage that will attach to a ship with a rope and chains and drag through deep waters. Science teacher Paula Dell will take the contraption south later this month to meet up with researchers through a national program called PolarTrec that links up science teachers with field researchers.</p><p>The four students got involved with the fish spy cam because they were part of ROV (remote-operated vehicle) club, and they all like making things and using power tools. But when the spy cam vehicle dropped quietly into the pool Thursday, they weren&rsquo;t happy with the result. It spun slowly through water; after some discussion, they decided it will need a rudder and started discussing materials.</p><h2><strong>Why spy on icefish?</strong></h2><p>Antarctic icefish have adapted in remarkable ways to living in some of the coldest water on earth. They have cute faces, huge eyes and smooth bodies, and they&rsquo;re all-white. They have white blood and oversized hearts and veins because of a genetic mutation that several million years ago caused the fish not to have any hemoglobin. That means they can&rsquo;t store much oxygen and have to be very efficient at using the oxygen available. They&rsquo;re fascinating examples of adaptation in a situation of both very harsh climate and perhaps unlucky genetics.</p><p>Life for the various species of icefish on thin ice, so to speak. The fish are particularly sensitive to warmth, and they&rsquo;ll need to adapt to rising global temperatures or potentially face extinction. Researchers Kristin O&rsquo;Brien and Elizabeth Crockett, who are already in Antarctica, are <a href="http://www.polartrec.com/expeditions/biology-of-antarctic-fishes-2013" target="_blank">exploring their capabilities for adaptation</a>. They&rsquo;re the ones who asked Dell to get her students involved in the spy cam.&nbsp;</p><p>The Lindblom students aren&rsquo;t the only ones in the Chicago area with Antarctic connections.</p><p>&ldquo;In the 25 years or so that I&rsquo;ve been going to Antarctica personally, I&rsquo;ve seen changes that have not been seen in previous generations,&rdquo; said Reed Scherer, a geologist at Northern Illinois University who studies Antarctica. He and a group from NIU were in Antarctica over the winter studying ice sheets and boring holes into an Antarctic lake far below the ice to take rare samples of the water. They&rsquo;re also working on a high-tech ROV to be used in Antarctic waters.</p><p>Scherer&rsquo;s research uses geological records to get a sense of earth&rsquo;s long term climate history, which in turn helps scientists understand the significance of shorter-term climate developments -- like, for example, a rise of over four degrees Fahrenheit in Antarctic temperatures since 1958.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to go back in some cases 3 million years to get to conditions that we&rsquo;re already starting to see again in the Antarctic in certain places,&rdquo; said Scherer. He says the sensitive Antarctic environment is a canary in the coal mine for global climate change. &ldquo;Changes that are taking place there, pretty much by definition are of global significance. Whereas a change that might take place around Chicago may be part of a cycle that&rsquo;s gonna change back and forth.&rdquo;</p><p>Back at Lindblom, 7th-grader Miguel Limon says he worries about the big picture, too.</p><p>&ldquo;Basically I think climate change is affecting everything,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Even the smallest temperature changes can affect the whole ecosystem.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants" target="_blank">@lewispants</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 20 May 2013 16:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-students-help-get-fish-spy-camera-underwater-antarctica-107280 Chicago seafood shoppers duped by mislabeled fish http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-seafood-shoppers-duped-mislabeled-fish-105671 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80271781&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Seafood fans in Chicago have a high chance of being cheated when they buy fish in restaurants and grocery stores. A <a href="http://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/National_Seafood_Fraud_Testing_Results_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">new study</a> by Oceana, a national conservation group, found 32 percent of samples tested in Chicago were mislabeled as another fish entirely.</p><p>But Chicago fishmonger Dirk Fucik says the false fish sales are probably not entirely the fault of retailers or fishermen.</p><p>&ldquo;The fisherman who catches the actual fish is not really the one playing games, I don&rsquo;t think,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If he catches a red snapper, he goes to shore and sells it as such. But then once it gets to a processor, or to a broker, somewhere in that range I think things get mismarked.&rdquo;</p><p>By the time a restaurant or grocery store gets the packaged and filleted fish, it&rsquo;s undergone a covert change of identity somewhere up the chain. Fucik gave the example of a Vietnamese catfish called basa or swai that&rsquo;s imported in large amounts into the U.S. every year.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;ve never seen that on a menu, I&rsquo;ll betcha,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So that&rsquo;s getting used for something, somewhere. Mixed in with fish sandwiches or fish sticks, or whatever.&rdquo;</p><p>The study was neither random nor comprehensive. Volunteers sought out retailers that advertised fish species considered likely to be fakes based on previous cases or regional popularity, and the sample pools focused heavily on those types.</p><p>The two-year project analyzed the DNA of the purchased samples and found that a full 33 percent of the specimens were sold under a false name. Snapper was a scam in 87 percent of the samples, and 59 percent of tuna was actually another fish.&nbsp;</p><p>Fucik thinks high-end markets like his are less likely to fall into a counterfeit fish situation, because they tend to know more about their fish and it doesn&rsquo;t usually come tightly packaged.</p><p>&ldquo;I like to buy everything whole, because then you know exactly the species of fish you&rsquo;re buying,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>If anything is suspicious, he sends it back.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7044_043-scr.JPG" style="height: 518px; width: 690px;" title="If something sold as a red snapper actually looks like this tilefish, Dirk Fucik says, be suspicious. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>&ldquo;If you know what you&rsquo;re doing, hopefully you don&rsquo;t get duped,&rdquo; Fucik said.</p><p>Chicago was noted in the study for its &ldquo;unusual seafood substitutions.&rdquo; In one case, a fish sold as Alaskan cod turned out to be the charmingly-named threadfin slickhead, a fish not even known to be sold in the U.S. And while most red snapper scams substitute rockfish and tilapia, two Chicago grocery stores were peddling the far less common goldbanded jobfish and slender pinjalo as red snapper.<br /><br />Sushi venues had the highest incidence of mislabeling at a whopping 74 percent, although the total number of sushi sellers surveyed was far less than restaurants or retailers. But in the 118 sushi outlets tested, 92 percent of the fish sold as snapper and 71 percent of the so-called tuna were mislabeled specimens of other fish.</p><p>Mislabeling can mean feeling ripped off, but it can also be dangerous for those with allergies and mislead shoppers trying to pick out sustainably harvested or low-mercury fish products. Oceana, the study&rsquo;s publisher, says seafood should be traceable, and argues that current laws for seafood inspection should be more stringently enforced.</p><p>For now, the implications for the consumer are cloudy. Fucik says the best way for the fish purchaser to get to know their product is to ask questions - but if you ask whether your sashimi is actually make with snapper, you&rsquo;ll almost definitely get a yes.</p><p>And taste tests are mostly a dead end, too. Even he can have trouble telling one filet from another in many cases of substitution, and he&rsquo;s been in the business for forty years.</p><p>People who want to stay on top of their fish-shopping game can do themselves a favor by favoring fresh fish markets that sell whole fish. And if you&rsquo;re trying to go upscale with your purchases, check out average prices and ask questions if a fish product seems to be cheaper than what it should be.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7043_036-scr.JPG" style="height: 518px; width: 690px;" title="Red snapper is red. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>Finally, Fucik strongly recommended looking out for &ldquo;tuna&rdquo; that&rsquo;s white in color when it&rsquo;s raw; there&rsquo;s no such thing, he said, as actual &ldquo;white tuna&rdquo;.</p><p>The canned stuff has been cooked, but it used to be pink. If it&rsquo;s white and it&rsquo;s raw it could be escolar, also known as oilfish.</p><p>Escolar has a special effect on digestion that Fucik compares to the cleansing effects of <a href="http://ex-lax.com/" target="_blank">Ex-Lax</a>, and it&rsquo;s already banned in Japan and Italy for the gastrointestinal problems it can cause.</p><p>Next up in fish troubles: Frankenfish. (That&rsquo;s the derisive name for <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/genetically-modified-frankenfish-nears-fda-approval-debate-heats/story?id=18078157" target="_blank">genetically modified salmon</a> that&rsquo;s swimming closer to FDA approval as we speak.)</p><p>And in case you haven&rsquo;t had enough seafood malaise for the day, WBEZ&rsquo;s food blogger Louisa Chu will be with us soon to reflect on what her <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-08/waste-not-nose-tail-fin-101973" target="_blank">fishing trip in Alaska</a> taught her about the fish supply chain - and all the ways it can go wrong.</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter.</a></p></p> Thu, 21 Feb 2013 16:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-seafood-shoppers-duped-mislabeled-fish-105671 Tuna’s marketing masterpiece http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/tuna%E2%80%99s-marketing-masterpiece-104395 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tuna%20flickr%20Genista_0.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Tuna: The what of the what? (Flickr/Genista)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F71268301" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Americans eat a lot of tuna.</p><p>In 2011 we ate 2.6 pounds of tuna per person, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. That&rsquo;s not much when compared to the amount of chicken we ate last year &ndash; 84.2 lbs. per capita according to the National Chicken Council &ndash; but it&rsquo;s more than clams, cod, crab and catfish combined, and more than any other fish except for shrimp. &nbsp;</p><p>Still, not only do we eat less tuna than say, chicken, we eat a lot less tuna than we used to; in 2000 Americans ate almost a pound more per capita. And according to author Andy Smith, &ldquo;There is no evidence that Americans consumed tuna prior to the 20th century.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;That shocked me,&rdquo; said Smith, a noted food writer whose books include histories of the hamburger, the potato and popcorn. &ldquo;And I wanted to know why.&rdquo;</p><p>Smith&rsquo;s curiosity led to another book, <em>American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Fish</em>. In it he traces tuna&rsquo;s U.S. origins to California canneries in 1903. Then, tuna was a niche product. You might have tasted it if you were an Italian immigrant with a more rarified palate, Smith said. But the oily fish tasted funny and was otherwise unfamiliar to most Americans.</p><p>So how is it that within five years tuna went from an unknown player to, as Smith put it, &ldquo;one of America&rsquo;s most important sea foods?&rdquo;</p><p>Smith said that World War I played a big part. Beef was scarce, so civilians turned to canned foods, and the U.S. government bought tuna to feed the troops. It made its way to our allies in Britain and France via ships passing through the Panama Canal.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not all: According to Smith, the tuna industry in America launched a PR campaign so brilliant and so ubiquitous, you may not even know it was once a catchy advertising slogan. (No, I don&rsquo;t mean last year&rsquo;s limpid <a href="http://www.seafoodsource.com/newsarticledetail.aspx?id=9799">&ldquo;Tuna the Wonderfish!&rdquo; campaign</a>.) &nbsp;</p><p>Hear Smith describe the brilliant marketing move that made tuna a routine part of our casseroles in the audio above.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a></em>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Andy Smith spoke at an event presented by Culinary Historians of Chicago in November. Click</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/american-tuna%E2%80%A6-and-drinking-doubleheader-104008">here</a></em>&nbsp;<em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 15 Dec 2012 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/tuna%E2%80%99s-marketing-masterpiece-104395 Meet the most venomous fish (and some other cool critters) http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-09-21/meet-most-venomous-fish-and-some-other-cool-critters-92301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-21/WEB fish head.png" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="The Reef Stonefish has a face for radio (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-21/WEB%20fish%20head.png" title="The Reef Stonefish has a face for radio (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" height="393" width="500"></p><p>In last week’s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-09-13/clever-apes-18-biological-weapons-91950">episode</a>, we talked to <font color="#0000ff"><a href="http://homepage.mac.com/wmleosmith/">Leo Smith</a></font> about his work with venomous fish and the promise they may hold for medical science. It turns out that there are more venomous fish than any other kind of animal, far more than snakes and scorpions combined. One particularly nasty one is the <font color="#0000ff"><a href="http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=5825&amp;genusname=Synanceia&amp;speciesname=verrucosa&amp;AT=synanceia+verrucosa%E3%80%88=English">Reef Stonefish</a></font>. He is an ugly and supposedly delicious species that holds the distinction of being the world’s most venomous fish.</p><p>Smith introduced us to the Stonefish during our visit to the “wet lab” at the Field Museum. Listen below:</p><p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483727-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/reeffish.mp3">&nbsp;</audio><p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">To see what a Reef Stonefish looks like alive, check out these <a href="http://australianmuseum.net.au/image/Reef-Stonefish-at-Baldwins-Bommie/">photos</a> and <a href="http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/videos.php?speccode=5825">videos</a>.</p><p style="margin-bottom: 0in; text-align: center;"><img alt="The Reef Stonefish's venomous spine (Courtesy of Leo Smith)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-21/WEB%20fish%20spine%20closeup.png" title="The Reef Stonefish's venomous spine (Courtesy of Leo Smith)" height="375" width="500"></p><p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">Smith has led a comprehensive study that is greatly expanding the number of known venomous fish. In the extended version of our interview, he explains that venom traits evolved in fish not just once but possibly as many as 14 times. He expects that when they are done, fish will represent two-thirds of all venomous creatures. Listen below:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483727-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Fish%20venom%20extended%20interview.mp3">&nbsp;</audio><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Leo Smith holding a Pelican Eel in the way it would likely be seen in the wild (" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-21/WEB%20eel-ish%20thing.png" title="Leo Smith holding a Pelican Eel in the way it would likely be seen in the wild (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" height="341" width="500"></p><p>In addition to the venomous specimens in the lab, Smith also showed off some of the other interesting sea life in the collection. Above, he holds up a <a href="http://www.fishbase.us/summary/speciessummary.php?id=4526">Pelican Eel</a>. These guys live more than a half mile deep in the oceans where it is extremely cold and dark. They have two very neat features: the large pelican-like mouth you can see pretty clearly above and a <a href="http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/biolumiscence.html">bioluminescent</a> organ in the tail that glows in the dark to attract prey. &nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Smith displays the Coelacanth, a living fossil (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-21/WEB%20big%20fish%20tank.png" title="Smith displays the Coelacanth, a living fossil (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" height="367" width="500"></p><p>The specimen in that big vat is a <a href="http://www.fishbase.us/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=2063&amp;AT=coelacanth">Coelacanth</a>. It was thought to have gone extinct 80 million years ago, until a researcher discovered one in 1938. The Coelacanth is considered a “missing link” between fish and amphibians. Smith says that they are more closely related to amphibians and to us than they are to other fishes. They are interesting from an evolutionary standpoint because they have lobed fins. This means that they basically have a shoulder and are “on their way” to having arms and legs.</p></p> Wed, 21 Sep 2011 21:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-09-21/meet-most-venomous-fish-and-some-other-cool-critters-92301 Electric barrier, last line against invasive species http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/electric-barrier-last-line-against-invasive-species-88123 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-21/88123/P1020240.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In connecting the Great Lake Michigan to the Mighty Mississippi, Chicago left the back door open to some unwelcome visitors. Asian Carp are the latest threat and our last line of defense spans the Sanitary and Ship Canal,&nbsp;about 30 miles southwest of the city. WBEZ’s Gabriel Spitzer visited the electric barriers there.&nbsp; In this report he explains how engineers are trying to hold the line against the fish.</p></p> Tue, 21 Jun 2011 15:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/electric-barrier-last-line-against-invasive-species-88123 Dear Chicago: Let’s clean up the Chicago River http://www.wbez.org/story/dear-chicago-let%E2%80%99s-clean-chicago-river-passionate-fisherman%E2%80%99s-appeal-next-mayor <p><br> <div id="PictoBrowser120123135820">&nbsp;</div><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "500", "648", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Dear Chicago: Let's clean up the Chicago River"); so.addVariable("userName", "chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157628998802785"); so.addVariable("titles", "off"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "always"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "mid"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "-16"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "65"); so.write("PictoBrowser120123135820"); </script><p>To say that fishing is the central passion of Don Dubin’s life might be an understatement. The Chicago native spent his boyhood fishing in public parks on the city’s West Side. As an adult, he was inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. Now Dubin is in his 70s and you can still find him casting his reel along the lakefront or on the banks of the Chicago River.</p><p>Dubin worries about the health of Chicago’s waterways, especially as the conversation about re-reversing the Chicago River <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/home-page-top-stories/change-rivers-flow-considered-stop-carp">gets more attention</a>. The river was severely polluted long before former Mayor Richard J. Daley proposed the goal of making it swimmable and fishable in the 1970s. In June the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/local/daley-epa-go-swim-potomac">made the same recommendation</a> in a letter sent to the state. The current Mayor Daley reacted angrily to the suggestion, telling federal officials to “go swim in the Potomac.”</p><p>Chicago’s lakefront has 26 miles of parkland with many points of public access, but the city’s riverfront is mostly undeveloped. Dubin hopes Chicago’s next mayor will tend to the health of the Chicago River, and help turn the central waterway from an undervalued resource into a clean, accessible public amenity.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Dear Chicago,<br> I’ve been fishing ever since I was a little boy. I started out when my grandfather used to take me to Chicago parks like Douglas Park and Garfield Park. And I was just fascinated to see the little fish swimming around. And I thought, jeez, if I could catch one that would be great. And then one day I did catch one! It was a minnow. I put my hand in the water and tried to corral him. I got a little piece of string with a little hook and used Wonder Bread for bait. And I did get that little minnow and I put him in a little Dixie cup and took him home and put him in a little glass fish bowl and watched him for quite a while. That’s how I started.<br> &nbsp;<br> I try to get out at least twice a week. Sometimes I get out to the Chicago lakefront just to see what’s happening. On the North Side, just east of Von Steuben High School, I go fishing in Ronan Park. It’s where the North Branch of the river converges with the North Shore Channel. There’s a little waterfall there and it’s a great place for fishing. You have a lot of oxygen there and a little current and the fish congregate there.<br> &nbsp;<br> There are all kinds of fish in the river: bass, northern pike, croppies, blue gills, sun fish, carp, and catfish. I’ve even seen trout and salmon in the river. When I was a kid I used to go to Ronan Park because I lived in Albany Park, and there was nothing there. It was just terrible. And now there are fish there and there are people fishing there. There’s no question that it’s absolutely, positively, much, much better.<br> &nbsp;<br> So it’s better but not good enough. I would not eat the fish. It’s strictly a catch and release fishery. It could be cleaned up so it’s a much better environment.<br> &nbsp;<br> To improve the quality of the river the first thing you’d have to do is improve the quality of the waste water going into the river. When the original Mayor Daley made his statement about wanting the river to be swimmable and fishable, at the time it wasn’t even thinkable that you could be fishing in an area like the Chicago River. It was an open sewer. The sewer water would go into the sewage treatment plant and get dumped into the river.<br> &nbsp;<br> You got to realize that if you asked me what the most valuable resource in the entire world is, it’s got to be fresh, clean water. But the sewage treatment plants that we have do not do as good a job of cleaning up the water as they could be. All across the world and the country there are sewage plants that clean the water and the final stage is very clean. So it could be cleaned up and it should be cleaned up. It’s not as dirty as it was; we have made improvements on the river. But I’d like to see us go two steps further and make it the jewel of the Chicagoland area.<br> &nbsp;<br> If the next mayor wants to re-reverse the Chicago River, I would support it if they cleaned up the water where it’s clean enough there are no harmful pathogens in the water. If they did a dredging job on the existing muck on the bottom of there, and made park land and accessibility, I would definitely support it.<br> &nbsp;<br> There are not too many places to fish along the river until you get downtown. When they dug the river there was no access on either side. It was just like a channel. And the banks on either side of the river are very steep and covered with all kinds of vegetation. I’d like to see the shoreline improved so there’s accessibility. More public parking and more parks along the way, maybe we can even have boat access for canoes and small boats. And really make it into a first class fishery, and a place where people can enjoy the river like I do.<br> &nbsp;<br> Access is the key to fishing the Chicago River. It’s almost like it hasn’t been discovered, and I sure would like to see it be discovered and made into something valuable. Just think if that area was developed into park land. It would improve property values and give people a place to go to see wildlife, the birds and the animals that enjoy the river. Right now there are plans to improve the lakefront at Northerly Island, to make it into a wildlife sanctuary. The same could be done to the Chicago River! It runs right through where people are living. It could be done. It would improve Chicago for all the people.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>Dear Chicago</em> is a project of WBEZ’s Partnership Program. Don Dubin was nominated for the series by <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/index.html">Metropolitan Planning Council</a>.</p></p> Mon, 17 Jan 2011 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/dear-chicago-let%E2%80%99s-clean-chicago-river-passionate-fisherman%E2%80%99s-appeal-next-mayor Podcast interview with the author of "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food" http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/podcast-interview-author-four-fish-future-last-wild-food <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="597" width="400" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-October/2010-10-29/Four Fish Cover.jpg" title="" alt="" /></p><p>Paul Greenberg has spent much of his life around fish. &nbsp;A lifelong, avid fisherman himself, his latest book is, in some respects, going to do for seafood what Michael Pollan's &quot;Omnivore's Dilemma&quot; did for factory-raised cows and corn: it will illuminate and educate diners about what is really going on in our food supply system.</p><p>I met Greenberg for a drink at Old Town Social last week, shortly before he was to give a talk to diners at North Pond, where a sustainably-raised seafood dinner was on the agenda. Among other things, we talked about the state of fisheries in the Great Lakes - something he's been studying lately.</p></p> Wed, 03 Nov 2010 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/podcast-interview-author-four-fish-future-last-wild-food