Does Your Meal Have a Fishy History?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Eating fish guilt-free is about as easy as putting a six-legged cat in a bucket of water. And if you think that doesn't sound so hard, try it when the cat has been first rolled in crisco...

Why such a challenge? As of today, we have managed to pretty much fish out most of the world's oceans and fresh waters. Approximately 90% of edible sized fish in the ocean have already been caught and killed. The few that remain have the unlucky assignment of finding each other (puts a cruel twist on that old saying "there are other fish in the sea") and making lots and lots of young 'uns so we can eat them too. So each one that we consume has a risk of being a critical individual with the potential for breeding and keeping the species alive. Some species teeter far too close to the brink, such as orange roughy and Patagonian tootfish (the latter you may know as Chilean sea bass, euphemistically renamed by restaurateurs to increase sales).

If we should happen to go ahead and gulp down the rest of those very important mothers-to-be (can we help it if they taste like heaven when they are battered and fried??), not only will the local fire department fish fry be a bygone, but economy chunks worldwide that depend on commercial and recreational fishing (exports alone account for about US$71.5 BILLION in 2004 -- for comparison, the US exports about $3 billion and imports $12 billion) would collapse.

On top of the damage done by simply directly overfishing species by taking out too many animals or removing them before they have a chance to reproduce, we also endorse rapacious damage to worldwide habitats by the methods used to collect and/or grow seafood. Take shrimp for example: if you eat shrimp that come from Asia, it was grown on a shrimp farm that was constructed by destroying native mangrove forests, which was once nursery habitat to other aquatic life and feeding grounds for birds, mammals, and other fish. If, on the other hand, you chant "Go USA!" while downing shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, you are eating animals collected with the extremely destructive process of bottom trawling, which tears up vital bottom habitat on which the health of the entire gulf depends (we'll save the benthic ecology lesson for another day).

Above is a satellite image of trails left on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by trawling vessels....seen from space.

So, now you are quivering in the corner, afraid to even cast an ashamed glance at the fish counter in the supermarket despite your mother's insistence that you must eat seafood to fully develop your brain!! Not wanting to live as a mentally stunted adult, you desperately seek a solution -- but now, you may halt your quest for I have the grail you seek (but I want.........a shrubbery! *I couldn't stop myself*)!

Pick up your cell phone and send a text message to 30644. All you have to type is the word "fish" and then the species you want information about, say "eel." In a few moments, you will receive a message back telling you the conservation status of this species and the probability that you can sleep guilt-free after eating this particular animal (if whomever you have bought it from has it labeled correctly -- BUT another discussion for another day!). RED means don't buy, YELLOW means proceed with caution and probably best to give it a miss, GREEN means ok. Messages have NO additional charge on top of your cell phone plan.

For example, I can text "fish eel" before I order my favourite sushi. I promptly learn that eel has a "RED" status and is high on the list of heavily impacted species. Despite its tastiness, I should give it a miss so I do not assist in pushing this species closer to the brink of extinction.

Some species have different categories depending on where they are from. If you type in "fish shrimp" for example, you will receive three different ratings, one each for imported shrimp (RED), gulf of mexico shrimp (YELLOW), and northern/pink/farmed/Canadian shrimp (GREEN).

So, let your fingers wander -- no longer must you dine and shop uninformed! And as a result, Happy Shrimp is happy (this is actually the logo for a eco-friendly shrimp farming venture in the Netherlands)!
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On January 21, 2009 at 3:50 PM , lifeshighway said...

Too late, you have left me quivering in my virtual corner.

On January 21, 2009 at 4:16 PM , eventer79 said...

It's ok, the texts are really quick (within 30 seconds) -- I tried it last night with eel, catfish (which is GREEN btw), shrimp and tuna. I'm so dorky it actually entertained me.

On January 22, 2009 at 11:07 AM , lifeshighway said...

The satellite trails look like a fish love offering to me.