I’m talking about fish. Does that make the above a misleading headline? Personally I don’t think so. You’re free to disagree but we treat fish in monstrous ways and kill millions of them with barely a backward glance. We should take that backward glance though, uncomfortable as it is. A friend of mine is a chef in a local restaurant. He’s (as the job requires) passionate about food, and is rather brilliant at his job. I’m not a foodie in any way, and I’m a vegetarian. We come at food from different angles but he’s looked into fishing and while he still cooks fish occasionally where we do agree more and more is our feelings about overfishing.
He and I have long discussions about ‘sustainability’ and over the last few months he’s completely reversed his position on ‘sustainable fishing’ because he just doesn’t believe what he’s being told by the various wholesalers and trade bodies he deals with any more (and, believe me, he’s researched long and hard). Neither do I, and besides the fact that if we keep killing shoals of fish one day there will be virtually none left, my argument repeatedly comes down to two facts: 1) we are pulling vast, almost unimaginable, amounts of animals from the sea and letting them die in a very cruel way (if we treated birds like we do fish there’d be an international outcry), and 2) as I keep saying – and he now agrees with – it’s not even like we have the excuse of actually eating these fish ourselves – well, not directly anyway.
By way of explanation read this article below from the Fish Information and Services (FIS) website, which looks at the anchovy fishing industry. Note the incredibly high tonnage allowed to be caught (an anchovy weighs about 1/2oz or about 14g so we’re talking A LOT of fish taken that might normally be eaten by other fish, seabirds, dolphins etc) and that the euphemism ‘indirect human consumption’ is used, which in reality means ‘caught to be used as animal feed (including for fish feed in aquaculture)’. Yep, tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of fish are pulled out of the ocean to be ground up and fed to livestock so that they can be ground up and fed to us.
Yet another example of ‘Why when people ask me why I’m a vegetarian, I ask them why they’re not’…
Anchovy catch limit for indirect human consumption defined, Analia Murias, FIS 26 Jan 12
- The Ministry of Production (PRODUCE) authorized the start of the first
fishing season of anchovy (Engraulis ringens) and longnose anchovy
(Anchoa nasus) in the area between 16°00’00″ south latitude and the
southern end of country’s maritime domain.
The maximum total allowable catch (TAC) set amounts to 400,000 tonnes of
anchovy for indirect human consumption (IHC).
Fishing in this region can be done until that limit is reached or,
failing that, until 30 June this year.
Fishing vessels registered and licensed to develop mining activities
during the season are entitled to participate, in accordance with the
maximum catch allowable per boat in the south zone (South TAC) to be
Vessels may fish only until they complete their assigned quota.
Catching and processing of anchovy and longnose anchovy specimens with
sizes less than 12 inches in length are banned, allowing a maximum
tolerance of 10 per cent in number of specimens.
Meanwhile, Instituto del Mar del Peru (IMARPE) presented the Report on
the Development of the Anchovy Fishery in the Southern Region of Peru
during July-December 2011 and the Outlook for 2012 First Fishing Season,
in which it indicates that during 2011 about 662,000 tonnes of anchovy
According to data provided by the Institute during the second fishing
season last year 279,167 tonnes of the pelagic resource was caught. Of
that total, 267,154 tonnes (96 per cent) were caught by industrial fleet
and 12,013 tonnes (4 per cent) by industrial wooden fleet.
According to PRODUCE statistics, from January to November 2011,
5,291,500 tonnes of anchovy were fished, that is to say, 66 per cent
over the same period in 2010 (3,188,200 tonnes).
And these figures are most likely not even accurate. The actual take is far higher: fish quotas around the world are routinely broken making remaining fish stocks almost impossible to measure – which is one of the reasons my chef friend now feels that ‘sustainability’ is a massively over-abused term that in relation to the number of fish in the ocean is at best optimistic and at worse just downright deceitful…
Peru’s vanishing fish: ICIJ / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via IWatchNews.org. 25 January, 2012
- ICIJ’s investigation found that in Peru, at least 630,000 tons of anchoveta “vanished” between the holds of boats and factory scales in two and a half years. The fish were simply not counted. This fraud allows companies to evade taxes and overfish their quotas.
Here’s how the system works:
Cheating the Scales at: http://www.iwatchnews.org/
And just to make this post really long and cataclysmic, how about considering the fact that our ever-increasing demand for salmon – the vast majority of which is farmed – is actually partly responsible for threatening other fish species with extinction. Impossible? Not at all. Consider this excerpt from a short blog post on the NY Times website:
Mort Rosenblum, ICIJ / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via
http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/a-fish-tale-with-disasterous-global-implications/, 25 January, 2012:
- With a team from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, I just finished a seven-month, four-continent reportage on vanishing jack mackerel, decimated in two decades by free-for-all overfishing in the southern Pacific down toward Antarctica at the bottom of the world. After fishing out other oceans, the world’s largest fishing vessels now head south.
“These are the last buffalo,” oceanographer Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia told us. “When they’re gone, everything will be gone. This is the closing of the frontier.”
Rich in oily protein, the fish could be manna to a hungry planet. Africans love it. But most of us eat it indirectly and unaware. Much of it is boiled down into meal for fish farms. Every bite of salmon can be as much as 10 bites of jack mackerel.