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More food will come from the ocean, speaker says

Published with permission from the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal

ST. ANDREWS - Growing population will force humanity to get more food from the ocean, a scientist said in St. Andrews on Tuesday.

The seas currently provide only one per cent of the world's food, Barry Costa-Pierce from the University of New England, in Maine, said at the opening panel at of the annual Seafood Forum, part of the Bay of Fundy Seafood Week program underway this week.

If this number does not increase, the demand for more and better food threatens to destroy the terrestrial environment, he said in the afternoon session in the Fundy Discovery Aquarium Theatre at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre.

Both aquaculture and traditional fisheries must do a better job marketing their products in terms of health benefits and environmental stewardship, Costa-Pierce and the other two speakers - food toxicology professor Charles R. Santerre from Purdue University in Indiana and global food analyst Patty Johnson with Mintel Food and Drink in Boise, Idaho - agreed.

Santerre cited research that pregnant women who eat omega 3-rich fatty fish, including Atlantic salmon, will more likely carry their babies to full term.

Doctors worried about mercury should stop telling pregnant women to not eat fish, "which is very bad advice," Santerre said.

Educated consumers who select their fish carefully will get benefits outweighing the possible threat of mercury or other contamination, he said.

Old people should eat more fish, too, Santerre said.

"It's not just about living longer, it's about diaper spread," he said - increasing the stretch from when a person stops using a diaper to when he or she needs one again.

If everybody ate one to two servings of fish per week, the coronary death rate would drop 36 per cent, Santerre said, saving 120,000 lives in the United States alone. This one benefit outweighs the risk of pollutants from a rich seafood diet, he said.

Many people feel they should eat more fish to live longer and feel better, but they still want their "indulgences," Johnson said.

"Fish is part of a healthy diet, maybe not in Boise, Idaho," she said. "I believe there is more room for 'healthier' positioning."

However, Johnson said, "We are in love with bacon ... this is about trying to get our treats."

All three speakers said the seafood industry must convince people that seafood is good and good for them, as well as being environmentally responsible.

"We know that consumers are going to balance indulgence with healthy behaviour," Johnson said. "I think we can help consumers really develop a love for things that are healthy."

And, learn how to cook it, Santerre said.

"They're scared to prepare it," he responded to a question from the audience. "That's one reason it's so popular in restaurants."

The forum continues Wednesday morning at the Biological Station with a discussion on developments in marine science. Industry tours will follow in the afternoon. A Gala Chef's Dinner at the Algonquin Resort Golf Club will wrap up the day.

© 2013 Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick)