Monday, June 23, 2008

The strange case of the 20,000 fish

Ok - World stocks of fish are in a pretty bad way. If we treated the land the same way we treated the oceans we’d hunt chickens by dragging huge nets through entire forests, decimating the entire area and then throw back dead everything but the chickens.

And as a result, fish stocks are collapsing all over the world… if nothing’s done, cod, haddock and tuna will soon be extinct. The rest of the ocean’s life will quickly follow.

Apparently, eating farmed fish is just as bad – as it’s usually fed on the mulched up remains of… yep, you’ve guessed it… wild fish. It takes 3kg of wild fish to make 1kg of farmed salmon.

And I eat a lot of them. I don’t eat meat, so I pretty much replace that part of my diet with fish.

What’s worse, I’ve no intention of stopping. I’ve estimated that if I take fish, shellfish and everything into account, I’ll probably eat the equivalent of about 20,000 fish in my lifetime. And that’s a big dent in the world’s resources.

OK – I do try to buy sustainably fished varieties. line caught seabas, mackerel, sardines are all good – and I’ve all but stopped eating cod (swapping for coley or Pollock when I can). Apparently there’s only one type of tuna that’s not overfished, and there are a few sustainable fish farms – but there’s very little labelling to tell you which ones they are.

The problem with the oceans as opposed to the land is that they’re violent places – whereas on land most of the animals are vegetarian, in the oceans almost everything is carnivorous and that means that for every fish I eat, I’m taking out of the sea the nutrient from everything that fish has ever eaten too… People are just starting to farm plant eating varieties (look out for barramundi – a good replacement for white fish – it’s a staple in Australia and just beginning to be farmed over here)

Marks and Spencers and Waitrose are apparently good sources of sustainable fish.

But I’m not here to moan about the end of the world. I’m here to put a stop to it…Or at least to negate my own contribution to it.

So if I’m to fulfil my aim of making my effect on the world at least neutral, the search is on for a way to add 20,000 fish to the world’s aquatic population.

And as it turns out, this is more difficult than it looks… more difficult in fact than any of the other projects I’ve taken on in the last couple of weeks.

I can offset my carbon emissions. I can make up for my contribution to the exploitation of third world workers. I can even create more land to make up for the land used to fund my excessively normal lifestyle. But this is another kettle of … um…. Fish.

My online search has turned up nothing in the way of concrete practical ways to re-introduce fish to the oceans, and no groups singularly involved in projects to encourage the growth of marine ecosystems.

All the big organisations (friends of the earth, Greenpeace, WWW etc.) are putting all their efforts into bringing about political change.. it appears that the one thing everyone agrees is that this of all problems is just too big for them to make a dent in. the only way to allow fish stocks to recover is to stop overfishing.

Ok – there are a couple of angling associations re-stocking rivers with salmon and trout – but only so they can fish them. And there are a few organisations trying to create artificial reefs to replace those that are being lost, but it’s not the reef fish that are being overfished – it’s the open water fish).

It would appear I’ve hit a dead end. The Cod, the Tuna, the haddock are only going to survive if the EU acts to reduce fishing and set up safe zones and if the man in the street stops buying overfished varieties.

I just can’t put back my 20,000 fish whatever I try to do. They’re gone.

And that’s a bit of a blow. I know there are no magical one-pill solutions to the problems of the world, but it has to be possible to undo the damage you do on a personal level at least…

But how?

This is going to take a bit more research...

No comments: