Space & Innovation

Faux Fins Could Save 70 Million Sharks

New Wave Foods is developing a bioengineered fin product that could pull the rug out from underneath the shark trade.

Each year, an estimated 70 million sharks are killed for their fins. The brutal shark finning process involves cutting off a live shark's fins and returning the debilitated animal back into the water to die a slow death.

Highly valued in traditional Asian medicine and cuisine, the fins can sell for as much as $300 a pound on the black market.

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What if an artificial shark fin could remove sharks from the equation completely?

New Wave Foods, a San Francisco-based sustainable seafood company, is developing a bioengineered fin product that could pull the rug out from underneath the shark trade.

A combination of algae-derived ingredients and recombinant proteins, the faux shark fin could meet the demand for a highly valued product without exploiting the apex predators from an ecosystem on the brink of collapse.

"Through technology, we are creating seafood that doesn't have to be harvested from this highly vulnerable ecosystem and that is created entirely in our food laboratories. We get inspired by mother nature and recreate what people have been eating for centuries, in a better and more sustainable way," New Wave spokesperson Florian Radke tells Discovery via email.

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The company is also developing a sustainable shrimp product using similar plant-based ingredients. Poorly managed shrimp fisheries can be detrimental to marine ecosystems; shrimp trawling operations often net high levels of non-target species.

Much of that bycatch isn't removed from the trawling net until it's too late, and millions of pounds of dead or dying marine animals are simply thrown back into the ocean.

"Over the past few decades, global production of shrimp has more than tripled, and it's estimated we now eat more than 6 million tons of them each year," Radke adds.

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"The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that for every 1,000 people who stop eating shrimp, we can save more than 5.4 tons of sea life per year."

The shrimp product will be available early next year; a release date has not yet been announced for the shark fin product.

This article originally appeared on DSCOVRD; all rights reserved.

Atlantic Halibut

April 25, 2012 -

Whole Foods, the Texas-based natural foods supermarket, no longer carries fish considered to be unsustainable. The Whole Foods ban includes fish that is either overfished or caught in a harmful way, according to their website. The popular Atlantic Halibut made the list, though the company will still sell Atlantic cod that is caught by hook and line or gillnets. "Stewardship of the ocean is so important to our customers and to us," David Pilat, the global seafood buyer for Whole Foods told the New York Times. "We're not necessarily here to tell fishermen how to fish, but on a species like Atlantic cod, we are out there actively saying, 'For Whole Foods Market to buy your cod, the rating has to be favorable.'" Here's a look at the list of fish that the superstore no longer sells and why.

Octopus Whole Foods uses ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The ratings are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.

Imported Wild Shrimp "At Whole Foods Market, we've been saying that our mission is to sell only wild-caught fish that has been responsibly caught. For a few years now, we've used color-coded sustainability ratings, from green (best choice) to red (avoid), to help you make an informed choice. Now we're putting our mackerel where our mouth is: To support greater abundance in our oceans, we're no longer carrying red-rated wild-caught seafood!" the company wrote on its blog.

Tuna (from specific areas and catch methods rated "red") On their website, Whole Foods says that they stopped selling "species that were extremely depleted in the oceans, such as orange roughy, shark and bluefin tuna" years ago. The company uses the sustainability ratings of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Rockfish According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "In recent years, reduced fishing has allowed many rockfish populations to recover from low levels. Gear concerns remain, however -- trawl-caught rockfish should still be avoided."

Swordfish Some of the gear used to fish swordfish "accidentally catches sea turtles, seabirds and sharks," according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Skate Wing Skates are in the overfished category. Most are also caught with bottom trawls, which result in high levels of accidental catch.

Sturgeon According to Monterey Bay Aquarium, "Sturgeon farmed in the U.S. is a good alternative to most wild sturgeon, whose populations have seriously declined due to overfishing for sturgeon eggs (caviar)."

Tautog Also known as black fish, Tautog are considered a "vulnerable" species. They are found close to shore on hard-bottom habitats, occasionally entering brackish water.

Trawl-Caught Atlantic Cod Fishermen often catch cod with bottom trawl, large nets that skim across the seafloor. Trawling, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "damages marine habitats and produces bycatch."

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Turbot A cousin of Pacific halibut, turbot are a right-eyed flatfish -- as they develop, their left eye migrates across the top of the skull toward the other eye on the right side. Turbot are yellowish or grayish-brown on top and paler on their underside.

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Gray Sole Gray sole, a flatfish bottom-dweller, has experienced heavy fishing pressure from domestic and international fleets over the last half-century, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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