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Does your house cat like fish? The average American kitty loves fish. Thirty pounds a year, in fact. Twice as much as you eat, if you're an average consumer. Fish they catch off the coast of Thailand. Sadly, the men who work those boats, whose job it is to feed your Fluffy, labor in conditions far worse than medieval servitude.

A harrowing series about life aboard these fishing boats ran last week in the NY Times; it will curl your hair. But it probably won't change your mind about fish.

It's not that Americans don't like fish, don't go fishing, don't catch fish and don't eat fish. We do, but that last part, eating fish, we do most of that in restaurants. And restaurants serve mainly four fish: tuna, salmon, bass, and cod. Four fish whose popularity puts their very survival at risk.

We humans have developed a preference for big animals (cows, pigs). American humans, at least, prefer beef to bunnies, even though rabbits, easy to raise and a fine source of protein, are devoured by families across the globe.

Paul Greenberg's 2011 book, "Four Fish," called attention to this paradox; he recommends eating smaller species like herring, mackerel, and butterfish. Restaurant chefs might think they can't sell "trash" fish, but now there's a new impetus to change the Americans consume the world's resources of shellfish and fin-fish by appealing to the chefs themselves.

Paul Allen, the Seattle mogul who co-founded Microsoft, who owns the Seahawks, and whose real estate company, Vulcan, has developed South Lake Union, has a keen interest in environmental stewardship, specifically sustainable seafood. Now Vulcan's philanthropic arm has launched a program called Smart Catch to encourage restaurants to serve more sustainable seafood, and this is the first day of Sustainable Seafood Week. (A list of participating restaurants is here:

As for you, the restaurant customer, you may not be able to do anything directly about the lives of the fishermen aboard the boats in the waters off Thailand, but there is a way to put your money where your mouth is. New York City held a Sustainable Seafood Week in June; San Francisco and Washington, DC, will follow in September. Slowly, slowly, one plate at a time, one fork at a time, Allen and Vulcan hope to change the way we eat and the way we treat the ocean. And ff we can do it in Seattle, Smart Catch will expand nationwide.

The Deadliest Catch? Nah.

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By now you've heard of Smart Catch, Paul Allen's effort to save the oceans by getting us all to eat more sustainably caught fish. Another Allen initiative worth mentioning in this context: he wants to save sharks. Yes, sharks, the most feared predators of the ocean.

Movies like "Jaws" aside, sharks pose considerably less danger to humans (10 victims a year) than jellyfish (100), water buffalo (200), lions (200), hippos (300), elephants (500), crocs (2,000), scorpions (5,000), snakes (50,000), and mosquitoes (500,000). But hunting sharks (for sport, for their fins, for their skin) creates havoc with life the ocean. As a top-level predator, sharks are needed to maintain a balanced marine ecosystem; the research funded by Allen, under the umbrella of a nonprofit called, is sending teams of scientists into the water to gather more data.

"We don't have the data we need to accurately assess the current population status for almost half of shark and ray species," said Dune Ives, head of philanthropy for Vulcan.
And it's not just fish being impacted by the disappearance of sharks. "Global FinPrint will help us better understand one of the ocean's great mysteries: What is happening with fragile marine ecosystems when sharks are removed?" said Dr. Demian Chapman of Stony Brook University, lead scientist on the project.

Take, for instance, coral reefs, which provide shelter for small fish, protection against shoreline erosion, and can be important tourist attractions as well. "Are coral reefs healthier or faster to recover from disturbances like coral bleaching or hurricanes because they have sharks? These are hugely important questions," Dr. Chapman said.

Almost, but not quite

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Madrona Ale House bye bye.jpg"You spend $250,000 and 20 years of your life, and you get back maybe $10,000." That was Burke Shethar's reaction Tuesday after an auction of furnishings and fixtures at the Madrona Ale House. The decorative tap handles, a kitchen mixer, the hood, the walk-in. "Pennies on the dollar," he lamented, shaking his head.

In the turbulent days preceding the auction, it appeared that a Madrona couple, Peter and Adrianna Johnson, would be taking over the business. The Johnsons own three other taverns, in the U District, Capitol Hill and Madison Park, but they did not purchase the Madrona Ale House itself, or its name, or the website. Certainly not the liquor license.

Instead, they simply signed a new lease with the landlord. But they cannot operate the business without a new name, new permits, and, most critically, a new liquor license. Worst case, 90 days; best case 45 days. Meantime, the Ale House is closed for good.


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