Monday, December 7, 2009


I've been saving a lot of blog posts in my bookmarks lately about fish. There is a lot of buzz these days about sustainable fishing, over-fishing, toxins in fish, fish farming and aquaponics. The bottom line of most of these blog posts is that fish are being over-fished at obscene rates and many of them are facing complete eradication. However, most of these blog posts also point out that there are plenty of fish in the sea, so why not just stop eating bluefish tuna and switch to something else?

The way I see it is different. The way corporate fisheries work is that they pretty much hunt fish down to extinction. This is how corporate fishing has always worked, including whale hunters driving many species to extinction (for example, grey whales in the 1700s). Once there is demand for a new type of fish, that type of fish will be over-fished until it too is driven to near extinction. And it's not only different species of fish to worry about. These days with giant trawlers and nets, commercial fishing operations catch more than just fish. Many other marine animals get trapped and killed as well.

Once people decide on a new "sustainable" type of fish, it will be only a matter of time before it's no longer sustainable. If you think about what the word sustainable means (of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged - according to Merriam-Webster), unless people switch to extremely small scale fishing (which isn't going to happen as long as profit can be made from catching huge amounts of fish), the finite amount of fish available will eventually disappear. It happened to the passenger pigeons not so long ago.

And over-fishing isn't the only problem. Methylmercury, DDT and PCBs are prevalent in salmon, carp, trout and tuna those three toxins are only the tip of the iceberg. When pollutants are found in the majority of our lakes, rivers and streams, why would you want to eat any of the creatures that have been absorbing those toxins? (For a great take on which fish contain toxins and why, I recommend Marion Nestle's What to Eat.)

The simple solution seems to be, don't eat fish.

This is why I particularly enjoyed reading The Face on Your Plate by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson this past weekend. There is an entire chapter dedicated to why not to eat fish. Masson takes not only an animal-rights standpoint in why people should give up fish, but also tackles the notion of fish farming as well. With all of the problems with factory farming of cows, pigs and chicken, why do we think the farming of fish will be any different? And it turns out it's not. Fish farming leads to pollution, the fish are given feed that a wild fish would never eat as well as mountains of antibiotics, and interbreeding with wild fish is a big problem.

With all of the evidence out there, why continue to eat fish? It just doesn't make any sense, and it's not fair for the fish who are currently being decimated, not to mention future generations who will think that fish exist only within disgusting factory farms.

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