Many years ago in the 1980’s, the oceans we look at in wonder were filled with life. Fish were abundant throughout the seas, and life took course as it flowed naturally. But since then, things have found change. The waters run scarce, and many fishers have been put out of business. The cause of this has often been pointed to climate changes or pollutants being found in the water making it difficult for anything to find life below the surface. As this is a very major cause, nothing has had more of an affect on this than over fishing within wide regions of the world.
Many of the species we dine on and once thought as popular within the vast waters of the sea are now disappearing. Even the sharks that hunted the waters triumphantly have decreased by over 90% since the early 1980’s. Because of the lack of sharks, the stingrays in which they feed on have increased in numbers too greatly and have destroyed the shellfish beds of other animals, making the claming industry struggle greatly.
Sharks are not the only ones to struggle. The scientists of “Science” magazine claim that two thirds of the entire fish population have decreased since the early 1980’s, and they predict that the waters we once knew to be filled with life may become empty or scarce by the year of 2050.
Though sea life is continuing to make its way to extinction, it has shown promise as many of the big name companies and chefs have attempted to regain ocean stability. Many chefs have taken the pledge to both stop eating and serving fish on the Seafood Watch’s red “avoid” list include Emril, Alton Brown, Rick Bayless, and Barton Seaver among others. Also Wal-Mart (who spends about $259 billion dollars on seafood each year) has recently declared that they will only be purchasing wild-caught fish from MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified fisheries for the US by the year of 2011. They will also work with the ACC and the Global Aquarium Alliance to certify that shrimp fishers abide by the “Best Aquaculture Practice” standards. Hopefully, this will set an example and other large seafood industries will put in effort as well.
Is it working? Well, it did in the 1990’s when the swordfish hit an all-time low and almost went extinct. Many environmental groups and well known chefs and companies promoted a ban on eating it, which helped to slowly raise the swordfish population steadily. A lawsuit was even won by a few environmental groups to close fishing areas where swordfish breed and thrive. Swordfish levels have gone up by more than 150% since then and may soon be stable once again if we keep it up.
So what can you do to promote the cause? Well the best thing to do would be to know your facts. Knowing what fish are safe to eat and which are not can be a big step in helping to reduce over-fishing. Your best bet to both help the fishing industries and your health would be to follow this tip by the popular magazine “Eating Well” in their April issue: If a whole fish is small enough to fit on your plate, it is probably a good choice for both the environment and your own health”. Further research into this statement has revealed to me that this has a lot of truth to it.
Most animals we eat, we kill and eat at a young age (chickens at about 6 weeks), as apposed to the bigger, carnivorous fish that take a very long time to mature( blue-fined tuna at about 10 years..) Because they both mature late and live long, they intake more of the toxins and pollutants in the water such as mercury and pesticides that have washed into the water and become the even more toxic methyl-mercury than the smaller sea life such mackerel and sardines. Instead, we fish out the smaller fish and turn them into something called fishmeal. Fishmeal is later fed to farmed fish where the five pounds of meat nutrient in vitamin-D and omega-3s that could have easily been eaten by us, have been used to produce one pound of toxin and mercury filled meat.
So know what you are eating. Farmed tilapia and catfish are fed a plant-based diet and are still rich in the nutrients our bodies need. Even better would be to eat farmed shellfish such as oysters, clams, or mussels. These bottom feeders both clean the waters and keep plankton from over populating and then crashing which could devastate oxygen availability and kill many other creatures. So by following these simple guidelines and by knowing your facts, you could both help the environment and your health as well.
-Andrew D. Morrison-