DEATH IS A MESSY BUSINESS
In the words of Alex Atalla, death is all around us in the kitchen, eating really is a life and death situation. There is rarely a plate on the dinner table that didn’t start with death, but at what point did we forget our meal was once alive?
With this in mind imagine if live stock were caught and wasted in a similar manner to commercial fishing. Fish die very un-dramatic deaths, I suppose that’s why we place little value on their lives? Fish have eyes, mouths and basic organs, but other than this bear little resemblance to us mammals, making a wasteful death much easier to accept.
What if fish were livestock? What a mess, just imagine gutting thousands of cattle alive on a small ship. Imagine all the body parts, the fur the massive amount of blood and those terrible screams as each animal dies. I’m not another vegan telling you you to stop eating beef or fish, this is a conversation about death and how we feel about it. We prefer to slaughter animals who don’t cause any fuss when dying, it’s important we can feel guilt free about the killing.
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
Why don’t people ask where their fish comes from or how it was caught? Are we all aware that in 60 years there may be no more edible fish in the ocean? The ocean is foreign to humans, so destroying something we don’t understand is easier to digest after it’s actually gone. There was nothing we could do, right?
People go fishing to catch dinner as we have done for years, there is something very pleasant about the process. You can even bring your children along for the experience as it’s an acceptable, easy death. But next time you go for a burger or a steak will you teach your kids to slaughter and hang the beef? Will you hold the meat in your hands while posing for pictures with the family? This is not the style of death we prefer for family affairs, we like animals that are silent and convenient when dying. We will visit the fish market, but never the slaughter house.
LET THE HUNT BEGIN
Imagine we hunted animals on land like we do in the oceans. Running huge kilometre long nets over the landscape, dragging it across the ground and sky, so nothing can escape, catching everything in its path. After this we open our nets to discard the dead and dying animals, keeping only what we want and wasting the rest.
Actually, this method of hunting sounds very effective, so why don’t we start hunting like this? You know why – it’s way too messy, dramatic and too close to home, we don’t want to actually see what’s happening.
The world’s total catch is going up on a yearly basis while fish numbers decline as populations can not recover from the sheer volume of fish we are removing. This is also only the recorded catch, many developing countries have no fishing legislation or infrastructure to measure their annual catch or what species have been caught.
The main issue with fishing is that we have become too good at it. It’s not a matter of “will we catch anything today”, it’s a matter of how much will we catch. The fish and oceans literally don’t stand a chance against our technology. 40% of the worlds total commercial fish is Bycatch (wasted), discarded and thrown back into the ocean before reaching shore. This is around 50 billion pounds every year of wasted fish, but wait, this is starting to sound very dramatic…we don’t like this.
ITS OK TO ASK QUESTIONS
Start asking where your fish comes from, how was it caught and who was catching it. Look for restaurants that support sustainable and small scale fishing. Be very suspicious of a fish monger who can’t tell you exactly where his fish is from and how it was caught.
Seek fresh and packaged seafood that has a strong eco label such as MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council), BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice) or an Organic certification. Fresh seafood will usually carry an eco tag and packaged seafood will clearly display the logo.
Look for pole caught fish and avoid net caught, trawling and long line fishing methods. Eat local species of fish you have never heard of, stop demanding the usual suspects. If buying imported species of fish look for countries that have strong fishing legislation such as – USA, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Holland. Avoid seafood from developing countries unless the product carries strong eco labels, especially south east Asia.
Avoid tuna all together if possible, it’s only a matter of time until it’s gone. Stay away from farmed Atlantic Salmon, being farmed has nothing to do with being sustainable. Eat organic farmed oysters, scallops and mussels. As a general rule farmed bivalve stocks only increase the water quality of where they are farmed, without affecting the natural wild population.
The very best thing you could do for the ocean right now is to start eating less seafood in general and focus on more plant based proteins.