The Oakland Zoo, working in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is committed to raising public awareness of marine conservation issues. While Africa's bushmeat crisis involves chimps, gorillas, and forest antelopes, North America's very own bushmeat crisis is gathering momentum in the form of overfishing and unsustainable ocean harvests. Fish represent the last group of wild animals that is still hunted on a large, commercial scale in North America, and many fish populations are feeling the pressures of unregulated or underregulated commercial fishing.
Some fish species that were once plentiful, such as cod, orange roughy, and swordfish, are dwindling in numbers due to their popularity. Fish such as bluefin tuna and rockfish can live to be over 75 years old and are slow to mature, making it difficult for them to replenish their numbers quickly when heavily fished. Other species are harvested in sustainable quantities, but the techniques employed in their capture inadvertently threaten other species such as sea turtles, crustaceans, marine plants, and more. For example, many wild-caught shrimp are caught in nets that scrape across the ocean's bottom, catching not only tiny shrimp but many other seafloor denizens of all shapes and sizes.
Not all fish species are in trouble, but it's difficult to know which ones are sustainably harvested and which aren't. To make this information readily available to Zoo guests, the Conservation and Education department distributes "Seafood Watch" cards free to the public. Developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in conjunction with marine scientists and representatives of the fishing industry, the Seafood Watch card is a wallet-size guide that ranks popular seafood choices in categories such as "Best Choices", "Good Alternatives", or "Avoid". This simple, straightforward format makes it easy for consumers to utilize the card when ordering seafood in a restaurant or purchasing seafood at the market.
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