Last week I was having a meeting in Washington DC with some staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they passed on this handy tip for finding out whether the fish on your plate is healthy and from sustainable stocks.
Simply use your mobile phone to text "Fish sea bass" (or whatever your fish of choice) to number 30644.
My "sea bass" enquiry brought this response:
"Black Sea Bass (GREEN) few env concerns. Chilean Sea Bass (RED) HEALTH ADVISORY: High mercury. Try striped bass or pacific halibut instead."
Click here to find out more details about Chilean Sea Bass from a recent National Geographic article)
Be warned: It does take a little while (several minutes) for the response to arrive, so you may not be popular if you start texting the entire fish menu from the restaurant, especially if your companions are hungry...
(Sorry, but this only works in the US. There may well be something similar in the UK - if anybody knows of such a service, let me know and I will publish details here.)
[photo: the Chilean Sea Bass. Eaten for its flavour rather than its handsome good looks]
I am now be geographically a long way from the Pacific, but the ocean remains very much on my mind - especially as I learn more every day about the scale of the plastic pollution problem.
Here is the latest "Pollution Postcard" to come to my attention: a video showing what was trawled up by Captain Charles Moore on a recent trip to the North Pacific Gyre, and some disturbing expert commentary on the implications for human health.
I am becoming more and more aware that there is no "away" - as in "throw it away". Nothing leaves the planet. All our waste has to go somewhere, and the Earth cannot indefinitely absorb our garbage. Increasingly the waste products that we have carelessly disposed of are coming back to haunt us.
Thanks to Carol Mone, a Woodside friend, for sending me this link.
Looking at the recent comments on my blogs, I will say that it was nice to be missed. And I'd like to tell a story of missing something much bigger than me - Australia.
On July 12 last year, while I was enjoying a launch event at San Francisco's Presidio Yacht Club, a solo male ocean rower was departing the California coast. At his third attempt, Erden Eruc finally managed to break contact with land and row out into the Pacific. He was planning to row nonstop to Australia.
Nine months later, the equatorial currents have had their wicked way with him, and he has missed Australia - not, I should stress, due to any lack of navigational ability. He knew exactly where he wanted to go. But the currents had other ideas.
After bobbling around in the ITCZ for what seems like an eternity, Erden is currently about 1000 miles north of his originally intended landfall, having failed to get south of the Equator. He is now hoping to reach the Philippines.
Selfishly, I was grateful last year that Erden had demonstrated the difficulty of getting away safely from the California coast, the most dangerous part of the crossing. And now I can't help but appreciate him showing how hard it can be to get to where you want to go when your chosen means of transport is an ocean rowboat.
I do hope that at last the ocean gods will smile on him, and allow him to safely reach dry land.
You can read more about Erden's adventure at his website.
[photo: me with Erden and his boat in front of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge last summer]
HUGE apologies for not having blogged for so long. I am still alive and kicking and last sighted in Washington DC, via a hectic weekend in New York.
I attended 4 Oxford University events in as many days, in both New York and DC - networking with the great and the good and rustling up some funding.
I am now in DC for a series of meetings with various environmental organizations. There's lots of really good stuff happening, but all slightly speculative at the moment - I will tell all as things become definite.
I am just now dashing off to a "Seaweed Session" - a social occasion organized by the nonprofit that I row for, the Blue Frontier Campaign. Must run, but will write again soon!