Heroes

5 fish got different names, and now they're so expensive it hurts.

A dark side of winning the seafood version of a popularity contest? A human feeding frenzy.

5 fish got different names, and now they're so expensive it hurts.
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Waitt Foundation

What's in a name?

For fish, the stakes of a name are quite high. With a new name, a fish that was once never even considered edible by society becomes THE fish to eat.


Sure it's delicious ... but what's its NAME? Image via Evan Blaser/Flickr.

Renamed fish can get more expensive and wind up becoming endangered faster.

Take ... lobster, for example!

Even lobster has been a victim of rebranding.

Image by Claude Covo-Farchi/Wikimedia Commons.

Lobster used to be considered a food for, well, people down on their luck — prisoners, servants, and the like — because they were so plentiful. But around the 19th century, American tourists started traveling to lobster country in New England in search of authenticity, a rustic living experience, and local dishes, and the crustaceans started to be seen as more of a delicacy.

Fast forward to lobster being overfished so much that its prices actually skyrocketed.

Rebranding helps to sell fish, but it winds up shifting things really far out of balance.

Turns out this rebranding and renaming is nothing new. Many fish have been renamed out of their hilariously gross names and gross reputations, leading to high demand, high cost, and high negative human impact.

When deep sea fishing companies see piles and piles of money in their future, many of the fishing boats that get into the game are funded illegally — and because the high seas has a problem with law enforcement, illegal fishing is not only profitable, it's feasible.

And because these fishing boats are working largely outside the law, there's a much higher occurrence of human rights and labor abuses on illegal fishing boats. Unsustainably fished seafood, especially in the case of deep sea fishing, has a real human impact.

So in the interest of wisdom, here's a short list of rebranded fish that marketers are schooling you on:

1. Toothfish (aka "Chilean sea bass")

Chilean sea bass are a perfect example of this rebranding problem.

Yum. Image via Pcziko/Wikimedia Commons.

They were once known as the toothfish: ugly, oily, bottom dwelling, frozen in the Antarctic water, toothy fish.

But great with a miso marinade, apparently! Image via Foobaz/Wikimedia Commons.

At the beginning of their meteoric rise to unsustainable populations, Chilean sea bass were $8 per pound. Now? Good luck finding them for under $25.

Even though Chilean sea bass are no longer considered "endangered" or "threatened," they're still "at risk for overfishing."

2. Whore's eggs (aka "Maine sea urchins")

Yikes, North Atlantic fisherman! Harsh words!

Image via Hannah K R/Wikimedia Commons.

That ball of green spines used to be called that interestingly colorful name above by Maine lobstermen. Renamed "Maine sea urchins," it found new life in sushi restaurants under the Japanese name "uni"!

According to the New York Times, "an ambitious diver [for Maine sea urchins] can earn as much as $2,500 a week harvesting sea urchins, depending on the diver and the catch."

3. Mud crabs (aka "peekytoe crab")


These guys are also known as rock crabs or sand crabs. Tasty! Image via Pseudopanax/Wikimedia Commons.

As a New York Times report mentions, the peekytoe crab is seeing a price jump since it went from trash to treasure with a rebrand.

" This little crab is so beloved at Restaurant Daniel, Jean Georges, the French Laundry, Spago and other famous eating establishments that the chefs pay $12 to $14 a pound for something that has long been routinely discarded."


4. Goosefish (aka "monkfish")



Image via NOAA's Fisheries Collection/Wikimedia Commons

According to a report from the Washington Post, harvests of this fish increased five-fold (five!) from the mid-1980s to the late-1990s after rebranding.

5. Slimehead (aka orange roughy)

Image via Mark Lewis, CSIRO/Wikimedia Commons

And the roughy still has it pretty rough. It's still so at risk that some grocers, such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Safeway, placed a ban on selling it.

With just a little more awareness and technology (like apps that let you search to make sure the fish you're eating isn't created by human suffering and contributing to a sad ocean), we can drive down the literal price of the fish and, particularly in the case of deep sea fish like the Patagonian Toothfish, we can drive down the HUMAN cost (aka human trafficking and labor problems).

It starts with awareness. It ends with a happier ocean, happier people, and a stronger world for generations to come.

Rah-rah!

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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