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Food & Environment 2

2012 June 6
by Katie Love

Being a “fan” of seafood is an understatement when it comes to my love and obsession with eating marine life of all kinds in any way that it is presented to me.  With that being said I was overjoyed to explore Michael S. Bruner and Jason D. Meek’s analysis of the industry that provides $20 Billion in the United States alone in their article “A Critical Crisis rhetoric of Seafood.”  While I was expecting an analysis of my favorite sea foods, what I read was a bit more complicated yet incredibly interesting.  Through an examination of the current public discourse in all avenues of seafood discussion (environment, health and as a tasty dish) the reader gains a better understanding of the relationships between these public communication environments where seafood is under attack and is challenged by the authors to critique the seafood industry and make a change based on the rhetoric and fact they have presented.

Bruner and Meek explore the current communication occurring around the subject of seafood before it becomes obvious to the reader their own (the authors) take on the matter.  These two lay out the format, discussing literature that surrounds the subject first, then delve into the problems occurring within the seafood industry, how these problems are presented to the public then offer a few solutions to not only how these problems are presented but how to solve the problems themselves.

Seafood’s greatest enemy is the vocabulary used in reference to its very being.  The authors present a silly, yet interesting point at the very root of the subjects existence; that we as a society do not refer to fish as the individual creatures that they are, but as one great subject meant to be eaten: seaFOOD.  A little intense but when was the last time you referred to somewhere as a “Tuna, Grouper, Salmon and Tilapia Restaurant” instead of the general “Seafood Restaurant”?

The problem of “overfishing” is discussed as an issue, which it is safe to say that we may be catching a few too many fish but Bruner and Meek counter the presentation of this issue with the cultural matter of some nations not even realizing they are overfishing.  And perhaps this amount of fish is needed for their survival?  They shine light on seafood’s rhetorical enemy of vocabulary once again by questioning the phrase itself – over fishing – over what?  Does this phrase move the consumer toward a negative feeling without them even realizing it?

Other problems presented include:

  • “By Catch” in which creatures such as dolphins are caught when fishing for tuna and lead the consumer to question the importance of a dolphin versus a tuna
  • “Fish Farming” a phenomenon that feeds many but is not the most ethical (and it’s not presented that way, either) and fresh.  While fish farms feed the world, is public discourse presenting it as a “dirty” way to raise fish quickly, harmfully to the both the creatures and consumers eating it?
  • Environmental Damage that is caused by fishing techniques such as ocean floor trawling to gain numerous fish but does damage to the ocean floor
  • Genetically Modified Seafood a problem that effects my beloved crab (Go MD, Go O’s!) in which it is chemically, genetically forced to molt to meet customer demand of soft crabs being available year-round.

The authors site video examples as well as images in advertisements that harm seafoods reputation even if they are truthful accounts.  They go on to do something very compelling in that they then present a vast amount of information on various solutions to these problems including sustainability, veganism, and the development of watchdog organizations over the processes within the industry.  Through doing all of this, presenting problem then solution, they have shed light on how communication within one arena greatly effects many more – it is healthy to eat fish (food and health), we over fish and hurt the ocean floor (environment) the media presents this to use and we are left in the middle, deciding which route to take.  What is even more fascinating is that Michael S. Bruner and Jason D. Meek do not seem to be subjective at all in this crisis but are urging consumers and readers to look at the evidence, how it is presented and make an ethical decision to be more conscious of their seafood consumption.

I feel this article was incredibly strong in its content and invoked much critical thinking as the information was presented in a way that challenged the reader to question not only how seafood is presented but if it is in fact ethical to eat.  It was successful in shedding light on the ability for discourse in one area to turn affect another but I feel they fell short in being too critical and not remaining unbiased – but perhaps I am biased because I love (and live for) seafood.  What do you guys think?

Go Fish!

  • I want to know if Bruner and Meek were successful in swaying you to be more conscious about your seafood consumption.  Their reasoning was too technical to overthrow my cravings for soft-crabs and sushi.  
  • Was their examining of rhetorical crisis and actual crisis within the seafood industry a successful way to showcase a format for communication research papers and studies?  Would you use this problem-solution format about an unrelated subject to write something communication related?
  • Can you think of an example you have seen recently (or ever) of a negative way seafood was advertised (overfishing, harming the environment, etc) or one that seemed naive and farfetched (presenting the ocean as blue, endless and full of abundance)?
  • Do you think seafood is getting an unnecessary bad rep?
12 Responses leave one →
  1. tamulida permalink
    June 6, 2012

    Bruner and Meek explore the current communication occurring around the subject of seafood. They both demonstrate a problem solution format, discussing literature that surrounds the subject first, and then mention the problems occurring within the seafood industry and how these problems are presented to the public. They conclude by offering solutions to these problems.
    Brunner and Meek provided some strong informational content that did persuade me not to eat certain types of seafood. Although, I thoroughly enjoy eating salmon, scallops and shrimp. I tend to eat more poultry than I do seafood because it can get to be expensive, but I will now be more considerate as to how much seafood I consume. I found the reading to be challenging and very technical. It made me think critically about seafood. Brunner and Meek make some good arguments but I think I will continue to eat some seafood. I cannot think of many seafood advertisements that I have recently seen but I have seen one advertisement a while back for Legal Sea Food Restaurant. As we all know, Legal Seafood is popular chain seafood restaurant in our area. The producers make it seem like all seafood comes from the fresh, crystal blue water like in the advertisement. I think seafood gets a bad rap at times. For example, I was working a Civil Engineering Conference and one of our guests thought he got food poisoning, it turns out he was just not hung over, but reference was made to the Oysters he had eaten the night before at a seafood restaurant in Pentagon City. There was the assumption there, that the oysters caused him to feel sick, when in fact he was just hung over.
    Their examining of rhetorical crisis and actual crisis within the seafood industry seems to be a successful way to showcase a format for communication research studies. I found their problem solution format to be helpful and effective. I now have a better understanding of the relationships between these public communication environments relating to the seafood industry.

    • Rachael Brubaker permalink
      June 6, 2012

      I agree with tamulida that Bruner and Meek weren’t really successful about changing my seafood eating, although they provided a thoroughly studied and well-researched case for it. I have known a lot about the issues taking place, such as overfishing and trawling, for a long time now (living in places overseas and with my father being Peskatarian) but those things I can hardly prevent, just by reading a label or changing my limited already seafood diet. But what I am interested in is keeping the reefs beautiful and how I can help that way, and Bruner and Meek weren’t pushing for that as much. But the article did a great job of reminding me that all things come with a price and we can’t just keep taking. The Earth can only provide so much.

      • gilliakl permalink
        June 7, 2012

        In response Rachael Brubaker:

        When I read your post about overfishing I immediately though of those shows that come on television about fishermen. They travel all across the Atlantic to make a great catch. However, they use large nets all the time and the catch a great amount of fish but they also catch many items that they do not use. So I think that overfishing is a major problem. Especially, when we catch animals and they die and we do not use them for consumption.

      • Katie Love permalink
        June 7, 2012

        In response to Rachel Brubaker, also:

        I couldn’t agree more with your comment about using our efforts a little more on saving the and preserving the coral reef (I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!), instead of all of this energy into a cause that, as anyone can see here has mixed support. Bruner and Meek barely, if at all touched on this issue and as a more concentrated, slightly smaller cause coral reef preservation might use this support in more effective ways.

  2. Seana McCroddan permalink
    June 6, 2012

    I thought Bruner and Meek did a really thorough job covering seafood production through the use of rhetoric. Aquaculture, and what goes on behind the catching (or farming) of fish, has many similarities to agriculture, some of which I had not previously thought about. We are not just overproducing and consuming on land, but also taking advantages of resources found at sea.
    At JMU, I took an oceanography class a few semesters ago where I learned a lot about what types of fish I should and shouldn’t eat, and this essay reminded me of that. Much like FishWatch, I know our local Harris Teeter has very clear signage and pamphlets in their seafood section that you can look at to help you make your decisions on what to buy. Wild-caught fish are more expensive, but they look and taste better, and are better for the environment.
    What they said about “Blue Talk,” is what stuck out most to me in this essay. The earth is mostly water, so it would only make sense that one of the most important parts of the environmental movement be the protection of our oceans, but it isn’t. And it does need more emphasis in public discourse. I really think if a new logo with both “green” and “blue” iconic symbols were put together, and more information was given to the public about parts of fishing that are out of reach of the public eye, it would be a very popular shift in the movement.

    • Maya Smith permalink
      June 7, 2012

      I think that a blue and green logo idea is very innovative and would be effective! Already, many people equate green with environmentalism and blue with recycling. Though preserving the ocean may not directly be linked with recycling, the blue will remind people of not only the ocean, but doing something good, like recycling. I also think that if a mainstream documentary was to be made about fishing and seafood production, like Food Inc with land farming, it may draw more attention to the issue. Maybe there is already one made and I am just in the dark…But I think that would generate the most media and press on the subject.

    • Katie Love permalink
      June 7, 2012

      Seana & Maya – Two great comments! Obvious facts like that of the ocean covering most of our Earth’s surface is often overlooked and taken advantage of by people including myself. Seana, your highlighting of this fact makes the point Bruner and Meek are trying to communicate much more clear to me – they should have used it! The greatest mass on Earth does need our help and support.

      Oceans need more attention in the media and care. Not only for reasons of protecting the fish and other wildlife but our oceans as an environmental whole. The green and blue logo idea is phenomenal because it could also be used to relate our GREEN Earth and environment to our oceans – showcasing them with equal importance thus needing equal care.

    • Introduction- Danielle Tamulis permalink
      June 7, 2012

      In response to Seana,

      I enjoyed readings about your oceanography class. That sounds like it would be interesting to study oceanography. I also shop at Harris Teeter. I will pay more attention to their Seafood pamphlet when I shop there. I think all supermarkets should have one.

  3. Maya Smith permalink
    June 7, 2012

    I too agree that Bruner and Meek did a very good job exploring the world of seafood consumption and mass production. Though I must say that seafood is one thing that I cannot give up, I think that many people are left in the dark about how seafood is caught and the affects that it has on our environment. There has been so much hype recently about “free-range chicken” and organic ingredients, however we do not think about fish and other sea creatures in that way. I never actually think of shrimp as an animal, which is horrible to say. Instead, it is more of a food to me, just like a tomato or a banana. I forget that these creatures are still animals.

    It is also amazing that seafood is so expensive for the small portion of meat you get. This goes to show you how valuable they really are. For instance, I am a born and raised New England-er (GO SOX, katie…), and we love us some lobster. But it has become a delicacy that is only indulged on special occasions because it is so expensive. Lobsters used to be considered “poor mans food” back in the day because of the large population, but when they are not in season, they are few and far between. It is our responsibility as consumers to be conscious about how and where our food is caught and that we do not over demand our earths supply. We also need to be aware of what other parts of our environment are paying the price for our appetite.

    • Josie Warren permalink
      June 25, 2012

      In response to Maya’s comment, I agree with you in that seafood is something I could not give up either! That’s why in my project for this semester, I end up arriving at the conclusion that pescatarianism (vegetarians who eat seafood) was the best way to go because I did everything in my power to find research that proves such. You should consider trying canned salmon or frozen shrimp instead if you’re concerned about prices. Buying seafood this way is cheaper and easier to make! Also, salmon is low in mercury content, so it’s probably the healthiest fish for you anyway. I agree with you that “it is our responsibility as consumers to be conscious about how and where our food is caught” and to make sure we are not over using our earth’s supply. Before watching Food Inc., I had no idea that not only are we over using our earth’s supply on land, but we are also overusing the animals in the water.

  4. gilliakl permalink
    June 7, 2012

    Like others, I think that Bruner and Meek did a great job of using rhetoric to explain their topic. However, I felt that it was really technical and hard to follow at times. This article really made me think critically about the foods that I eat. I am currently transiting into becoming a vegetarian and right now, the only meats that I consume are fish and chicken. Also, for another class I am doing a paper on PETA and I think that this article made me think even more about if it is even ethical to consume fish. I think that they did a great job of persuading me about my beliefs about seafood. However, I will continue to eat it for some time now. Especially, since I will be leaving for Seattle soon, the seafood there is so fresh, and I love it!

  5. Josie Warren permalink
    June 25, 2012

    Yes, I do think seafood is getting an unnecessary bad reputation. Through all my research on my vegetarian project this semester, I have actually found that being a pescatarian, a vegetarian that eats fish, is the healthiest way to go. The concern with fish is that it is high in mercury, but if you find fish with lower levels of mercury, you’re fine. Except when you’re pregnant, ladies! Don’t eat any fish what so ever if you’re pregnant. What was hard for me was not being able to eat my usual tuna fish sandwich everyday because tuna is extremely high in mercury. But as I researched further, I found that salmon has significantly lower levels of mercury than tuna does. I was still frustrated though because salmon is hard to cook and isn’t as convenient as canned tuna. What I did not know is that that they actually sell canned salmon. I thought salmon was only store bought as frozen or sold at restaurants. Canned salmon changes everything and is a simple and satisfying solution to my diet change. Switching to canned salmon is the right choice because it is low in contaminants, sustainably caught, and high in heart-healthy omega-3s. This information should be more well-known by the average American because it could save them, but as you said in your response, seafood just gets an unnecessary bad reputation.

    Look at this website for further information: http://www.edf.org/oceans/mercury-alert-canned-tuna-safe-eat

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