Guest Blog: “NZ: On to the next fish species”


New Zealand environmental group Forest and Bird has unveiled the results of its latest best fish consumer guide based on a thorough ecological assessment as opposed to fish numbers. The group determined that blue cod, rock lobster and kahawai are good meal choices while popular species such as snapper, orange roughy and hoki rate poorly. Is ‘ranking’ fish like this the best way to approach wildlife on the planet though…Jamie Newlin discusses the report from another viewpoint:



NZ: On to the next fish species

Guest Blog, by vegan and activist Jamie Newlin

“Yet another sustainable fish eating guide comes out, this time from New Zealand.

While the guide is sure to draw ire from the fishing establishment, and to do so by pointing out unsustainability in the fishing industry, the fact remains that “Good Fish” guides are simply aiming humanity’s long track record of overkill at new victims. Eat some of these, we haven’t
depleted them yet.

Imagine yourself a fish population that had been under-abused until now, and along comes a fish “sustainability” activist, finds your hiding place, and starts pointing at you and yelling: “Hey! HEY everybody! Over HERE!! These one’s haven’t been eaten enough yet!”

Besides the individual suffering involved, would you really trust these abuse-apologists-with-calculators to abuse you sustainably as a group?

Fish of the world, you shouldn’t trust them. Sustainable fish guides exist because of past failures, and their “success” is dependent upon creating the same desires in the very same target audiences and marketers that depleted your more desirable/accessable relatives before you.

So in reality, a “sustainable” fish eating guide is simply the beginning of a cycle of unsustainability. But because there are “enough” fish at the start of the cycle of consumption, it is called sustainable…simply because the new target populations haven’t been reduced yet.

This is akin to going to a restaurant, paying, sitting down to a huge dinner and claiming to be on a diet, because you hadn’t started eating yet. While people might laugh in derision at an individual who did this in the time it takes to eat a dinner, it is not so apparent (if you don’t care to see it) when this same behavior occurs over a space of the twenty years or so it might take to deplete a new suite of target species.

Yes, apologists might say, but the intentions are good, even if the results aren’t always perfect. Who can be perfect?

I think the idea that we have good intentions is false, or at least it’s too much false to be constructive. It is in itself a fig-leaf. What we are doing is pretending to have good intentions. We have a habit of calling it good intentions when actually it is simply a way of enabling the same old destructive addictions and vested interests. But we don’t like to see ourselves as conniving addicts that are also too chickenshit to stand up against the neighbors and corporations and unions that will try to ruin us if we tell the truth. We don’t like to see ourselves as pathetic lying slaves to our bosses the appetites. So we go ahead and pretend that we believe that more consumption of new target groups of victims is a positive change. Making people think fish consumption is OK increases fish consumption.

How many members would a vegan environmental group get? Perhaps not many, at first.

How much biodiversity is a “Hey, here’s a new fish you zombies can eat!!!” environmental group going to save? In the long run, nothing. Absolutely nothing that wouldn’t have survived anyway. Because you can’t do long term conservation by deriving your conservation from an increase in the habits that are depleting our world in the first place. It isn’t the equivalent of judo, using the energy of appetite “against” itself. It’s more like a feedback loop – excuse fish eating (“We can eat’em, they come offa the “Green” list”) and you get more fish eating.

Again, apologists might attempt to point out that this is the best you can hope for in the “real” world.

Which is the same as saying, given that addictions are self expanding, and that trespasses against others, including against fellow creatures, are either repented or repeated and then institutionalized (expanded), that “conservation consumption” will lead to more and more consumption…which was the problem conservation consumption was pretending to solve in the first place.

So what is so “real world” about pretending that what causes the problem will solve the problem? You can’t “vaccinate” against an addiction or a trespass against others…it works the opposite way when it comes to addictions and trespasses. Introduce a little bit, and the problem grows. The so-called “vaccination” (eat a “responsible” amount of these new species) is more like planting an invasive weed seed.

No, the bleak unconfrontable truth is that you cannot abuse your way to sustainablility (by coddling an appetite for the flesh of others) and you can’t trespass-lite your way to sustainability (because trespasses against others demand repetition, expansion, recruitment and
institutionalization in order to make themselves appear “right”), unless you want to pay the price for this particular form of sustainability.

This particular form of sustainability, the Good Fish List kind of sustainability, is sustainability in which you are not responsible for the adjustment back to sustainability. You aren’t responsible because you lied to yourself from the start (“I’m all sorts of green because I’ eat from the Green Fish List”) about exactly how (not) sustainable what your are doing is. And the price for that is, since you lied to yourself about the nature of what you were doing, the price is that Mother Nature steps in to make you sustainable.

In other words, you will or your children will suffer the same fate that a deer herd suffers when it overpopulates its range, eco-certification notwithstanding. Predators, famine, disease, resource depletion leading to consumer-population crash are your destiny. Wars over resources and war over elbow room, or the solutions of police states enforcing strata of haves versus have-nots, which is another form of war over resources, are your destiny. People only call this progression sustainable because they think they personally will not live to see the end of the cycle. They have sinned against the future quality of life via ignoring the mechanics of cumulative impact.

To all of this a Good-Fish-to-Eat apologist might now say OK, but we have to buy some time with Good Fish lists and such while we wait for the time when people are that “good” (impossibly good, they secretly think) to all be vegans and such. But actions, as the saying goes, speak louder than words. The Good Fish listers are not vegans. They have no intention of ever becoming vegans. They are concentrating on the continuation of fishing, not its eventual demise. The want fishing forever, not no fishing later. You get what you work for. Especially when you are mucking about with addictive substances (flesh) and addictive acts (trespasses against fellow creatures) that demand repetition and expansion to justify themselves.

In other words, it takes a change of mind, a change of mind to the point where appetite no longer enforces green-justification-of-abuse and green-busy-work-in-place-of-abolishing-what-needs-to-be-abolished, to get to a place where a truly positive, win-win form of sustainability is possible. Self discipline informed by compassion, in other words.

Otherwise, Mother Nature is there in the background, waiting for you, waiting with a big heavy two by four.

When she gets you, sure, go ahead, pretend your predicament isn’t any of your doing.

The Buddha said: “All that you are is a result of what you have thought.”

Christ said: “Go and sin no more”.

Interesting how a lack of attention to either of these very related observations results in things like Best Fish to Abuse Next Lists. And then in unpleasant visits from Mother Nature.

Jamie Newlin”



Fish Information and Services, 07 Feb 12: New sustainable fish guide draws controversy.

  • Environmental group Forest and Bird has unveiled the results of its latest best fish consumer guide based on a thorough ecological assessment as opposed to fish numbers. The group determined that blue
    cod, rock lobster and kahawai are good meal choices while popular species such as snapper, orange roughy and hoki rate poorly.

    To be released this week, the Best Fish Guide rates the sustainability of 78 commercial fisheries.
    The Seafood Industry Council has criticised the findings. It opined that the guide was really designed to make consumers feel guilty and that in truth all fish species mentioned in the guide are caught sustainably.

    “The updated guide, to be released this week, is expected to say that there are very few New Zealand fish species that we can eat with a clear conscience. Not only is this wrong, but it is also an affront to the commonsense of the New Zealand consumer”, said Peter Bodeker, chief executive of the Council.

    The industry also argues that all commonly eaten species are part of the Quota Management System, which employs independent scientific data to manage fish stocks.

    “The proper guide to what fish can be eaten is what fish is available in any reputable fish shop, because all commonly eaten species are part of the government-managed Quota Management System which uses independent scientific data to manage fish stocks. If stocks are depleted the total allowable catch (TAC) is reduced, sometimes to zero if that’s necessary”, he asserted.

    But Katrina Subedar, Forest and Bird’s conservation advocate, claims that the guide is meant to give a broader picture of the situation.

    She noted that even though the level of fish stocks is important, the assessment for the guide also considers wider ecological impacts such as the levels and species involved in bycatch and the management of the fishery.

    Forest and Bird hopes its guide will push New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry to give up the use of ecologically harmful practices and help protect endangered species such as Maui’s dolphin.

    The group contends that 42 per cent of the species on its guide are overfished or showing “substantial decline” in stocks, Fairfax NZ News reports.


Jamie Newlin is an American vegan and commentator with a unique perspective on many of today’s most important wildlife/animal welfare issues. He provides commentary to Talking Naturally on an unpaid and ad hoc basis.


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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores


  1. kk says:

    please please please stop exotic fishing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    please give them life
    its very hard to think about future please stop fishing

  2. Charlie Moores says:

    Thanks for your comment. I can’t put it any better: please stop fishing animal species into extinction. Thanks again.

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